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April 6
Church settles with four in suit

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Priest was a potential witness

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Spotlight Report

Judge: No gag order for alleged victim

By Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 4/5/2002

Middlesex Superior Court judge yesterday cleared the way for the possible public release of internal Catholic Church documents that may contain evidence about whether Cardinal Bernard F. Law and other church officials knew about the sexual molestation of minors by Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

Judge Leila R. Kern refused to impose a gag order on Gregory Ford, a 24-year-old man who was allegedly sexually abused by Shanley at a Newton parish in the 1980s, ruling that Ford and his family are free to talk about or distribute documents they will receive today.

The Archdiocese of Boston had requested that Gregory Ford and his family not be allowed to talk about the documents until another hearing is held on April 17 on a motion filed by news organizations asking the court to make the records public.

In a ruling, Kern said placing restrictions on the Fords would impinge on both the plaintiffs' and the press's right of free speech.

Kern said that for the court to gag the plaintiffs, even until the hearing on April 17, the archdiocese would have to make specific detailed findings "that a compelling interest is seriously threatened." She noted that the archdiocese did not file a memo or brief about the matter.

"I'm very glad I can speak out because I've been silent for so long," said Ford, who first told his family of the abuse in February.

The lawsuit charges that Shanley was a child molester who was knowingly allowed by Law to remain as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton until 1989.

Attorneys for The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and WBZ-TV had filed briefs arguing that Ford and his family should be allowed to speak about the records. Church lawyers agreed at a hearing on Wednesday to turn over the documents. Previously, the church attorneys argued that the documents did not have to be turned over because the church's First Amendment protections protect it from civil liability in such cases.

Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said there would be no appeal, to avoid a court battle and "out of respect for the plainfiff and his family." Roderick MacLeish Jr., Ford's attorney, said that he did not know when or if the Fords would make the documents public.

Shanley, who left the state for California in 1989, was a street priest in the 1970s when, according to later allegations that were settled by the archdiocese, he sexually molested teenage boys. After he was reassigned to Newton, Shanley allegedly molested Ford.

Matt Carroll can be e-mailed at mcarroll@globe.com.

This story ran on page A20 of the Boston Globe on 4/5/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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