Victim Hopes for Peace in Sex Abuse Arbitration

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
December 2, 2003

More than a year after the Archdiocese of Boston twice dismissed Paul Edwards' clergy sexual abuse claims, the church has agreed to settle with the man its supporters once derided as a pathological liar.

Edwards, 36, who last year withdrew a suit charging abuse by Monsignor Michael Smith Foster and the late Rev. William Cummings after Foster's supporters labeled him a lifelong liar - accusations later proved unfounded - told his story yesterday to an arbitrator who will decide the settlement amount.

The terms are similar to the separate $85 million deal the church struck with more than 500 other plaintiffs, with the exception that the arbitrator cannot decide to withhold an award to Edwards.

At the conclusion of the three-hour session, the arbitrator said, "I believe you," according to Edwards, his wife Shannon, victims' advocate Susan Gallagher and lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr.

"He was very moved. You could tell," said Edwards.

In the session, MacLeish peppered his client with detailed questions about his alleged rape by Cummings and molestation by Foster.

Though the church has steadfastly denied the Foster allegations, Archbishop Sean O'Malley agreed to extend the settlement offer on the Cummings claim and allow Edwards to tell the arbitrator about the Foster charges.

A church spokesman did not return a call seeking comment on why claims were accepted against the dead priest but not Foster.

The session included refutations of the charges leveled against Edwards by Foster's supporters. "When Eric (MacLeish) would hand him each (newspaper) article and the evidence against (the allegations of lying), you could tell he was stunned," Edwards said. "He just kept shaking his head."

The description of the session was the first public glimpse of the arbitration process, in which plaintiffs are required to tell of their abuse in detail.

"I had the impression it would be like a judge and a robe. That's not how it was," Shannon Edwards said. But, she said, it was every bit as intense, even though at times she had to leave the room.

"There were things that they wanted to keep privileged and it's OK with me," she said. "I don't think I really want to know."

MacLeish said the session stood out among the 43 he has attended so far, noting that the couple, who are expecting their first child, recently moved to Michigan because of the backlash from the claim.

"This is the first step in restoring the reputation of a man who has undergone incredible injustice," he said.


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