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Law raps ex-priest coverage

By Steve Marantz, Globe Staff, 5/24/1992

 In-depth
In 1992, the Rev. James R. Porter case in Fall River brought the problem of clergy abuse into the open.  
Coverage of the Porter case
ardinal Bernard Law, speaking yesterday at an antiviolence march organized by women from Dorchester and Roxbury parishes, deplored news coverage of a former priest who is accused of having molested children in North Attleborough and other Massachusetts parishes in the 1960s.

Cardinal Law, in remarks at St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury, singled out the Globe in particular for overplaying the coverage of accusations that James R. Porter molested between 50 and 100 children while serving as a priest from 1960 to 1967.

"The papers like to focus on the faults of a few. . . . We deplore that," said Cardinal Law. "The good and dedicated people who serve the church deserve better than what they have been getting day in and day out in the media.

"St. Paul spoke of the immeasurable power at work in those who believe. . . . We call down God's power on our business leaders, and political leaders and community leaders. By all means we call down God's power on the media, particularly the Globe.

"We call on the media to tell the good story about Morning Star Baptist Church, to tell the good story about the Catholic parishes in the inner city."

Referring to Jesus' instruction not to hide a lamp under a bushel basket, Cardinal Law said: "It's time we take the bushel basket and the media off the light and let the light shine so all can see it."

Following the hourlong march from St. Patrick's to St. John-St. Hugh Church in Grove Hall, the Boston archbishop described Porter's alleged abuse as "an aberrant act" and declared that he will answer no further questions about the case.

Forty-seven men and women in New England have said Porter sexually abused them when they were children. Roderick MacLeish, a Boston lawyer representing many of the accusers, said recently he is disappointed that the church has not provided money for those who have sought counseling.

The march, put together for the third year by a group of women calling themselves Mothers Against Violence, attracted 800 participants. The marchers represented about 12 parishes, including St. John's in Quincy. The format was multicultural, with prayers in Spanish and Vietnamese.

Trailing behind a statue of Mary crowned with flowers, the group moved slowly up Blue Hill Avenue. As they walked in the 90-degree heat, the marchers prayed aloud and handed out prayer cards.

Residents watched from sidewalks, apartment windows and storefronts.

"We march down Blue Hill Avenue because it is a symbol of all the streets in the city where violence occurs," said Helen Monteiro, one of the organizers. "The message is that we're against violence. We're offering prayer through the Lord's Mother Mary to demonstrate for solidarity and peace. And to remind us that it's up to each one of us to make changes in the neighborhood."

Rev. Walter Waldron of St. Patrick's Church said the marchers were impelled by a strong undercurrent of emotion, arising from two recent acts of violence.

"This march was made more timely because of the Morning Star Baptist Church situation and the killing of Charleston Sarjeant in Uphams Corner," said Father Waldron.

Morning Star church was the scene of a melee in which several young men pursued and stabbed a mourner at a funeral. Sarjeant was killed in an apparently unprovoked beating and stabbing that took place in a takeout restaurant.

Among the marchers were teen-agers from the Girls Youth Group of St. John- St. Hugh Church. Emma Williams, the group's leader, said she hoped that the march left an impression on violence-prone youths who may have watched it.

"Maybe they'll see that there are alternative means to solving problems," said Williams. "Marching is a positive message. It shows that some people are trying to improve the community."

Also among the marchers was Rev. Dominick Sumo of Liberia, who is visually impaired. Sumo, using a cane to find his way down Blue Hill Avenue, said that in his mind's eye Roxbury appeared as a peaceful neighborhood.

"I see everything quiet and well controlled," said Father Sumo. "I see a place of love and tranquillity."

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 5/24/1992.
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