Second Miss. Priest Eyed in Abuse
Both Clerics Served While Law Was Vicar
By Robin Washington
June 7, 2002
Jackson, Miss. — A day after Bernard Cardinal Law's admission that he allowed a priest accused of child sexual abuse to remain at a parish here 30 years ago, a second Mississippi priest has been identified as an alleged molester whose activities also went unchecked by Law.
The Rev. Thomas Boyce molested children at St. Peter's Parish in the early 1970s, lawyers handling cases against the priest and the Catholic Church said yesterday.
Boyce served alongside the Rev. George L. Broussard, another alleged abuser whom Law was warned about but did not immediately remove from St. Peter's, the cardinal admitted during a deposition on Wednesday, according to attendees at the sworn interrogation. The witnesses to the deposition also said Law acknowledged having information about a second Mississippi priest accused of molestation during Law's tenure as the vicar general, or top lieutenant, in the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson.
"He was the vicar general while these things were going on," said Anthony R. Simon, an attorney representing the family of Billy Phillips, which alleges child sexual abuse of family members at the hands of both Boyce and Broussard. "It's really shocking how (Law) was looking the other way while these two men ruined so many families and so many lives."
During a deposition conducted by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. in a case against the Archdiocese of Boston and the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, Law was confronted with the affidavit of Kenneth P. Morrison, a 37-year-old ex-Mississippi man who alleges he and siblings were abused repeatedly by Broussard as a boy in the early 1970s.
"My father (Dr. Francis Morrison) later indicated to me that he had discussed (the abuse) with Bernard Law," Morrison said in his affidavit. "However, Broussard remained at the church for many more months after the church was notified about his abusive behavior and continued to abuse me."
Law admitted at the session that he recalled both Broussard and the Morrison family's allegations, the Herald reported yesterday, citing witnesses at the deposition. It is the earliest indication Law looked the other way when brought information on abusers in the clergy.
Records from the Josephinium seminary in Columbus, Ohio, where Law and Broussard were ordained, show they were classmates from the late 1950s until 1961, according to a seminary spokesman. Both sought assignment to the Natchez Diocese after ordination. And according to a classmate of both men, Bill Riley of Newton, the two were "very close friends" at the seminary.
Simon, who is also co-counsel representing the Morrison family, said Law eventually transferred Broussard to a parish in Waveland, Miss., but did not tell either the parishioners there or the state's church hierarchy of the reason.
"The kids there had no idea what Broussard had done," Simon said. Law left Mississippi to become Bishop of Springfield-Cape Giradeau, Mo., in December 1973.
Broussard, who left the priesthood soon after his transfer and is now living in Houma, La., declined comment on the accusations.
Boyce remains in ministry at another parish in Mississippi, where the phone went unanswered last night. The Diocese of Jackson also could not be reached for comment, but the Rev. Michael Flannery told the Associated Press last week that one priest had been suspended in Mississippi this year but did not identify him.
In an undated photo at the time of the alleged abuse of the Phillips child, Boyce is seen wearing street clothes reflecting the counter-culture atmosphere of the era.
Boyce "was very appealing to kids," Simon said. "They thought he was cool. He'd dress in bell-bottoms and drive a Datsun 280, telling them, 'I'm one of you.' " Though Law acknowledged warnings about Broussard and a "second priest" at his deposition Wednesday, Simon conceded he cannot definitively say the second accused cleric recalled by Law was Boyce. But, he said: "He knew or should have known. This is Jackson, Miss., in 1972. This is not Boston or New York. Everyone knew everything about everybody here."
Sharon Garner of Maxey, Wann, Fyke & Hawkins, co-counsel in the Morrison case, added Law's inaction on Broussard contributed to Boyce's continued abuse spree.
"If (Law) had sent someone to St. Peter's about Broussard, they would have found out about Boyce," Garner said.
Simon said he has no doubt there are dozens of victims of Broussard and Boyce.
"We suspect there are many others out there who haven't come forward yet," he said. "We hope our clients having the courage to stand up and speak out will encourage others."
Tom Mashberg contributed to this report.
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