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Spotlight Report

Law discusses abuse cases with clergy

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 2/16/2002

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, under fire for his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases, has begun a series of sessions at which he is listening to the grievances of priests around the archdiocese. Yesterday, at St. Columbkille Church in Brighton, Law spent about two hours with Boston-area priests. The previous day he met with priests from the western suburbs; next week he plans to sit down with priests from the South Shore, the North Shore, and the Merrimack Valley.

Law's spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, declined to allow reporters to attend the meeting and refused to provide any description of the gathering's purpose or content. But, according to priests who attended yesterday's meeting, priests were unusually candid with the cardinal, expressing pain and unhappiness over the way the archdiocese has handled the issue of clergy sexual abuse. Law again apologized for reassigning John J. Geoghan, a pedophile priest, in 1984, based on medical advice.

Law said he understood how priests are feeling, and reiterated his contention that the church will be better for this crisis.

"He was very humble and really sincere, saying, `Here we are; let's see where we can go from here in a positive way,' " said the Rev. Robert J. Carr, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End. "It was a good airing out of concerns."

Some priests told Law they were particularly upset at the cardinal's claim that he knew of no priests working in the archdiocese who had been accused of sexual abuse, when it turned out there were eight such priests. The priests said they felt undermined because they had repeated the cardinal's claim to their parishioners, and Law expressed his chagrin at having relied on information that turned out to be incorrect.

"No one pulled any punches, and, to the cardinal's credit, he provided the forum and made people feel comfortable -- he is attempting to handle this very openly with priests," said the Rev. Robert J. Bowers, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Charlestown.

This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 2/16/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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