Catholic Officials Take Offense at Galvin Comments

By Kevin Rothstein and Eric Convey
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
May 27, 2004

Church officials reacted angrily to Secretary of State William Galvin's comments that the Archdiocese of Boston is continuing to "exploit" children yesterday, saying comparing parochial school closings to sexual abuse by priests is wrong.

"We've seen through this entire crisis that they've had a long history of exploiting children and they're doing it again," Galvin told WBZ (1030 AM).

While Galvin denied he was comparing schools closing to the priest abuse scandal, the archdiocese lashed back.

"I would never be so insensitive as to equate the horror of child sexual abuse and its aftermath and wreckage on children and families with problems that pale in comparison - having to move from one Catholic school to another," said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman.

Galvin later said he wasn't referring to the priest sexual-abuse scandal but was talking about the church's abrupt school closings from one and two years ago.

"I don't like seeing little kids crying in the hallways when their schools are being closed, and I think that's exploiting children," he told the Herald.

Last year, St. Augustine's School in South Boston closed abruptly at the end of the year. Some of those parents, Galvin said, sent their children to St. Peter School in South Boston only to see that school marked for closure this week.

The archdiocese announced it would close three Catholic schools in Boston. Sister Kathleen Carr, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said there is room for all displaced children in other archdiocese classrooms.

Ann Webb, New England co-coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called comparisons to exploiting children "a little bit over the top."

"But it does speak to the fact that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, at least here in Boston, and I think in most places, really devalues children and women," she said.

Galvin's comments came as he described a bill he is prepared to file as early as tomorrow that would require all private and charter schools to give parents 100 days notice of closings or if grades are going to be dropped.

"It's time to put something on the statutes. I don't think we can count on their good will," Galvin said.

Failure to issue enough notice would let a parent seek triple damages against a school in court.