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Spotlight Report

DAs given names of 49 more priests

Cardinal says records are being combed

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 2/9/2002

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The Boston Archdiocese late Thursday turned over to authorities the names of 49 priests it says have been accused of sexual abuse of children, bringing the number of priests whom the church has named to as many as 87, in referrals to prosecutors in the past eight days.

Officials at the six district attorneys' offices in the archdiocese said that they had received the second group of names from the Rogers Law Firm, which represents the archdiocese. In its first mailing to the prosecutors on Jan. 30, the firm provided the names of 38 priests against whom allegations had been lodged, officials at the district attorneys' offices said.

The archdiocese made no public announcement Thursday of its release to prosecutors of the names of the second group of priests. Donna M. Morrissey, the archdiocese's spokeswoman, did not return phone calls yesterday seeking clarification on why the church did not release the information earlier, or on how the lists were prepared.

Prosecutors said last week that the names of some priests may have been given to more than one district attorney's office, which could eventually make the total number of accused priests fewer than 87.

On his return yesterday from a weeklong visit to the Vatican, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, speaking with reporters at Logan International Airport, made reference to the process that the archdiocese used to identify the priests, as well as to its removal of eight priests from active duty in the past week.

''I'm aware of the ongoing review of our records and saddened by the fact that there's some individuals that needed to be removed that had not been,'' Law said. The cardinal added that the records go back 40 years and said they are being ''combed and combed again.''

The two sets of letters represent the first time that the archdiocese has notified authorities of allegations of sexual abuse by priests. In the past, the allegations had been handled privately; if the charges were found to be legitimate, the victim received a cash settlement from the church and the offending priest was sent for counseling or placed on sick leave.

However, Law changed that reporting policy last month after the Globe Spotlight Team reported that he had assigned a priest, John J. Geoghan, to a parish, knowing Geoghan had molested children in the past. In a later report, the newspaper reported that the archdiocese had settled sexual molestation claims against at least 70 priests during the past 10 years.

It is not known how many priests whose names have been provided to authorities had settlements against them. However, one individual who assisted the archdiocese in preparing the letters said the names of the eight priests who were removed recently from parishes are among the names on the letters sent to the prosecutors.

Since the lists do not include the names of the victims of the alleged assaults, officials in the six prosecutors' offices said they have asked the archdiocese for more information on the cases.

Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said in an interview Thursday night that she was awaiting further information, before launching an investigation into any of the cases. Since many of the abuses allegedly occurred more than 10 years ago, which is the statute of limitations for rape of an individual who was under 16, bringing an indictment will be difficult, Coakley said.

Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 2/9/2002.
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