Sex Abuse Lawyer Evaluates 2 Former Dioscesan Leaders

By Ron Hayes
Palm Beach Post
October 21, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH -- The Boston attorney who has successfully represented more than 300 plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits against the Roman Catholic Church offered his blunt opinion Monday of two former bishops in the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Roderick MacLeish Jr. couldn't have had higher praise for Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, who left the Palm Beach Diocese earlier this year, after only eight months, to lead the scandal-ridden Archdiocese of Boston.

"I'd like him to be a cardinal," MacLeish told The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches during a noon luncheon at the Marriott Hotel. "He's a wonderful man, a truly compassionate person."

MacLeish said he came to know O'Malley well during negotiations in 1992, when O'Malley was the bishop of the Fall River, Mass., Diocese, and he was representing scores of plaintiffs allegedly abused by the Rev. James Porter during the 1960s.

"We settled for a lot of money," MacLeish recalled, "but he also helped create a state-of-the-art policy on sexual abuse for the Fall River Diocese. It was a model program, and it remains a model program."

Of Bishop Thomas Daily, who founded the Diocese of Palm Beach in 1984 and served as its bishop for six years, MacLeish had harsh words.

"He was the 'fixer,' " he said of Daily, who had served as Boston's vicar general before coming to Palm Beach. "He got them (abusive priests) out of jail and made the criminal charges go away."

To prove his point, MacLeish distributed an excerpt from a 2001 deposition in which Daily admitted to having knowingly assigned the Rev. Paul Shanley to work with children after learning he had publicly defended sex with underage boys at a forum sponsored by the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

In his remarks, MacLeish was careful to distinguish between the church and the churchmen who betrayed it.

"It's a good church," he said. "There's nothing wrong with its faith, but there's been some bad men that have been leading it."

During a question and answer period, MacLeish discounted efforts to blame the scandal on either homosexuals in the clergy or the rule of celibacy.

"This is not about sexual orientation," he said. "It's about power and control. It has nothing to be with homosexuality, in my opinion."

While the number of Catholics has been growing, MacLeish theorized, the number of priests has diminished, moving the church to accept candidates who should have been rejected.

"It's not about celibacy," he said. "It's about accepting very, very marginal people who shouldn't have a position of trust anywhere."


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