Archbishop to Reopen Disputed Abuse Claim

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
September 25, 2003

A man vilified as a "pathological liar" when his clergy abuse claim was thrown out by the Archdiocese of Boston last year will have his case reopened, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley said in a letter to a victims advocacy group.

"I recently ordered a full review of the case and of the findings of the Archdiocesan Review Board," O'Malley wrote the Coalition of Catholics & Survivors. The coalition had demanded the church reinvestigate sexual abuse claims by Winchendon's Paul R. Edwards.

In August 2002, Edwards filed suit claiming abuse by Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, Boston's chief canon lawyer, and the late Rev. William Cummings. He withdrew it after Foster's supporters launched a media campaign, priimarily in The Boston Globe, branding Edwards a lifelong liar.

Amid the controversy, a priest-psychiatrist, Dr. Edwin "Ned" Cassem wrote a medical opinion calling Edwards a "pathological liar."

But Cassem later admitted he never met Edwards, and the allegations against Edwards' veracity by Foster's other supporters could not be substantiated - prompting victims' groups to demand that the church reopen the case.

Edwards' new lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr., called O'Malley's decision "excellent." But he disagreed with the prelate's written assertion that "no new facts have surfaced" since a church review board found against Edwards.

"We did a thorough investigation of Edwards' claim," MacLeish said. "We have an additional polygraph examination the archdiocese is not aware of."

He said that since the review board's decision, a second accuser, who remains anonymous, surfaced against Cummings. That claimant is believed to be among those sharing in the recent $85 million settlement. That pool included Edwards until church lawyers removed him, MacLeish said.

He added he is in "a collegial dialogue with the archdiocese" about reinstating Edwards.

A church spokesman declined to comment on Edwards' inclusion in the deal.

The coalition's Susan Gallagher, to whom O'Malley addressed his letter, applauded the prelate's decision. "I am so glad they're finally going to do a thorough review. Paul will get the hearing he deserves," she said.

Edwards was reserved, saying just Tuesday the church's abuse investigator, the Rev. Sean M. Conner, told him the case remained closed. "I appreciate everything being done by the coalition, but I need to see a formal letter to me telling me this is happening," he said.

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