Lawyer Set to Hit Cardinal with '93 Letter about Abuse

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
June 4, 2002

A lawyer set to depose Bernard Cardinal Law twice this week will confront him with a 24-page legal memo mailed to Law's counsel in 1993 that detailed the alleged abuses of 15 now-notorious priests and urged the church to "establish explicit pastoral outreach" to their numerous likely parish victims.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said he wrote the memo, a copy of which was made available yesterday, after laboriously piecing together the stories of dozens of alleged victims of clerical molesters who sought him out in the wake of the Rev. James R. Porter scandal.

"It is clear these cases together reflect a systemic pattern of abuse in the (Boston) archdiocese and an alarming pattern of institutional negligence on a disturbingly large scale," he wrote.

"Most church hierarchies defend the problem of clerical sexual abuse by contending it represents the problem of a few errant priests who go astray. That defense would certainly be clearly inapplicable in this case."

At least seven priests identified by MacLeish in his disturbing and detailed letter were quickly pulled from parish duties - among them the Revs. Paul R. Shanley, Bernard J. Lane, Paul J. Mahan, C. Melvin Surette and Ernest E. Tourigney.

But despite MacLeish's pleas, Law and his counsel, Wilson D. Rogers Jr., made no effort to alert parishioners that such men had been in their midst for years.

Instead, MacLeish said yesterday, Law and his personnel aides - chief among them Bishop John B. McCormack, now of Manchester, N.H. - hewed to an overarching policy of secrecy, shuffling the named priests to new posts.

MacLeish also said at a news conference he alerted the Herald and the Globe in the fall of 1993, and that both papers "ran one-day stories" citing MacLeish's troubling revelations.

On Dec. 8, 1993, the Herald reported on Page 1 that Law "has suspended several priests" amid "shocking new accusations that 20 priests sexually abused" minors.

None of the names was released by the church at the time, even though two of the priests - Shanley and Rev. Ronald H. Paquin - have since been indicted amid the wave of revelations involving the Catholic Church.

"Those were times when lawyers like me and Mitchell Garabedian were not too popular in a lot of circles," MacLeish said. "There was enormous pressure to put the lid on this, and no media interest.

"The church demanded secrecy as a condition for moving the men out of parishes," he said. "The priority for me and my clients became getting these molesters away from churches with children."

MacLeish has made the absence of pastoral outreach by Law, McCormack and other church figures a central issue in his current lawsuits. He is suing on behalf of the Fords, a Newton family who only learned in February that Shanley was known by the church to be a molester, yet who allege their son, Greg, was his victim in the 1980s.

In 1992, MacLeish said, a national bishops' group ruled that communications with parishioners ought to be frank and immediate if a clerical molester is identified.

In his 1993 letter, MacLeish wrote that ahead of any financial claims, his "clients want to know whether any of these (priests) continue to function in positions which give them access to youth."


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