The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church

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Archdiocese rebuts report Law to leave

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 4/27/2002

Even as Cardinal Bernard Law continued to avoid talking directly to the media, his spokeswoman yesterday denied a report that he was likely to leave as head of the Boston Archdiocese to accept a position with the Vatican in Rome.

''Cardinal Law has had no discussions regarding a Vatican post with officials of the Holy See,'' spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said in a statement. A report in yesterday's Boston Herald that Law was likely to leave Boston in June to avoid being deposed on a clergy sexual abuse case was ''without substance, groundless and ... pure uncorrobated speculation.''

Morrissey also said Law ''fully intends'' to attend a June 5 deposition, which would be his first in a clergy sexual abuse case.

In Philadelphia, meanwhile, where Law was attending a scholarship fund-raiser for Catholic University of America, its president said Law told him he was not leaving Boston anytime soon.

''There is no plan whatsoever that he be replaced and be moving to Rome in June or any time in the near future,'' said the Rev. David M. O'Connell. ''And that's directly from the cardinal.''

Despite the throng of media at the fund-raiser, Law stayed out of public view for most of the day. He participated in a Mass with other cardinals during the afternoon and was expected to make a few brief remarks at the $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser, which was closed to the media.

Law is expected to return to Boston today - by car - and is scheduled to celebrate Mass tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End. Although he spoke to the news media briefly while in Rome to attend the meeting of American Cardinals with Pope John Paul II this week, Law has declined repeated requests for interviews and has limited his public appearances in Boston to saying Mass at the cathedral.

Although about two-thirds of the Catholics surveyed in the Boston Archdiocese said Law should resign over his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases, he has issued two statements through his communications office saying he intends to remain in his current position.

Quoting unidentified sources, the Herald reported yesterday that Law would be reassigned to an undetermined position by the Pope to avoid Law's having to appear at a deposition June 5, when he would be questioned about his handling of retired Boston priest Paul V. Shanley.

Law has been sued by Gregory Ford and his parents for negligent supervision of Shanley, who allegedly raped Ford while a pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., the lawyer for the Ford family, said yesterday he had been assured by Wilson Rogers Jr., Law's principal attorney, that the cardinal would appear at the deposition.

Asked about Morrissey's statement, Andrew P. Gully, managing editor for The Herald, said, ''We stand by our reporting, our sources, and our story.''

Meanwhile, the Globe reported yesterday that the Vatican's Congregation of Bishops had begun an informal examination to determine whether Law has lost his capacity to govern the Boston Archdiocese. However, two unnamed sources interviewed said there was no deadline for the informal review process that was being conducted by the Congregation of Bishops, which is one of the most powerful bodies at the Vatican.

Attorneys interviewed yesterday said they were not certain whether Law could avoid a deposition - at which he would be called on to answer questions from MacLeish under oath - by taking a Vatican post. Jeffrey A. Newman, who is handling another alleged sexual abuse case and is seeking to depose Law, said he was recently informed by the State Department that Law would have to be appointed to an ambassdor-level position by the Pope to avoid being mandated to appear.

The issue of whether Law could be compelled to appear at a deposition was raised in another case yesterday, and Superior Court Justice Thomas E. Connolly told Newman, ''If you need to take the deposition of Cardinal Law in this case, you're absolutely, positively entitled to it.''

Stephen Kurkjian can be reached at kurkjian@globe.com. Michael Rezendes of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 4/27/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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