Judge and Jury

Providence Journal-Bulletin (Rhode Island)
October 1, 2002

The decision of Bristol County Dist. Atty. Paul Walsh to release the names of 20 former Roman Catholic priests, some deceased, who have never been charged with any crime is troubling.

Mr. Walsh, at a self-promotional news conference last week, told us about what he would do to priests who are dead and others whose alleged crimes are beyond the statute of limitations -- in other words, people he would never be required to take to a court of law, where he would be forced to put up or shut up.

Mr. Walsh also disingenuously attacked departing Diocese of Fall River Bishop Sean O'Malley. Ten years ago, during the furor over former priest James Porter and his serial sexual molestation of young children, Bishop O'Malley put the Rev. Paul Connolly on administrative leave, after allegations of sexual misconduct had been lodged against him. The diocese confirmed the information in a press release. But after interviewing an alleged victim in September 1992, Mr. Walsh declined to prosecute.

Asked at the time why his office refused to initiate a full-scale investigation of Father Connolly, Mr. Walsh said, "Going into detail would be a breach of confidentiality in such cases." And your actions last week were not a breach of confidentiality, Mr. Walsh?

Mr. Walsh's hypocrisy and disingenuousness become most evident when we see Father Connolly's name on the list that Mr. Walsh released last week, and when he insisted that these were names that had been kept secret by Bishop O'Malley. In fact, it was the bishop who brought the names to Mr. Walsh's attention months ago.

If we were to request of Mr. Walsh the names of men and women suspected of using or distributing illegal drugs, would he send that list for us to publish? And if not, why not? Are the rules different for cocaine users and clergy? How about a monthly look at the grand-jury list? Would you be willing to send that along, Mr. Walsh, so we could print the name of anyone suspected of a crime of any sort?

At least Mr. Walsh has found no support for his hot-dogging tactics with other district attorneys around Massachusetts.


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