Priest in Grand Jury Probe Critical of Media

The Associated Press, carried in The Providence Journal
June 23, 2004

BOSTON (AP) - A retired Catholic priest at the center of a federal investigation into the possible coverup of sex abuse allegations by leaders in the Boston Archdiocese is lashing out at what he calls the "media condemnation" of his character.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the former archbishop, recently testified before a federal grand jury investigating why the Rev. William J. Scanlan was transferred out of state despite concerns about possible sexual misconduct.

Church officials transferred Scanlan to the Veterans Affairs medical facility in Palo Alto, Calif., where he became a military chaplain in 1998. His personnel records, released under court order two years ago, include unsigned notes about allegations of inappropriate relationships with children.

Church investigators found the allegations had no merit, and Scanlan was never charged, but now he says rumor is ruining his reputation.

"While I am not yet a saint, I am clearly not guilty of the media implications," Scanlan wrote in a letter released to the Boston Herald on Tuesday by his lawyer.

"I am without civil or criminal charges, and yet I have become a media Poster Priest for Church coverup," he wrote. "I am condemned by insinuation, hearsay and circumstantial, uncontextualized implications."

He wrote that he is "resigned to the permanent destruction of my own reputation and credibility. But the good of all - church and state - requires that we remain silent no longer."

Scanlan's attorney said the retired priest is not a target of the federal investigation. Instead, the grand jury is trying to determine whether archdiocesan officials committed crimes by misrepresenting his record.

Scanlan's personnel file contains a federal "investigative request for employment data" signed by Bishop William F. Murphy, who now leads the Rockville Centre diocese on Long Island. Murphy, then vicar general for the Boston Archdiocese, signed the document on May 12, 1999, attesting there was no "adverse information" about Scanlan's employment, including questions about Scanlan's "mental or emotional stability."

Although the investigative report was signed by Murphy, church documents show it was completed by the Rev. Richard Fitzgerald, the clergy personnel director.

Scanlan, who now lives in Rhode Island, wrote that his church file contained "hearsay and opinions without substantiation."

In addition to the notes, Scanlan's church file also contains a letter from his attorney at the time discrediting some of the abuse allegations and pointing out that he passed a polygraph test.

Law resigned in December 2002, at the height of the clergy abuse scandal, under heavy criticism for transferring known child molesters from parish to parish rather than removing them from ministry. Pope John Paul II assigned him last month to a ceremonial post at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.


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