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Spotlight Report

Law apologizes to Calif. bishop

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 6/14/2002

DALLAS - As a new allegation of abuse arose yesterday in California against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, Cardinal Bernard F. Law apologized to the bishop of San Bernardino, saying that if he had been aware of the alleged abusive priest's personnel file he would have blocked Shanley's move to the West Coast.

As the two prelates met in a conference room, they apparently were unaware of a fresh accusation that had been lodged in San Bernardino against Shanley, the former priest from Boston.

A spokesman for San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said the diocese was in the early stage of investigating the latest allegation of clergy sexual abuse.

''I received a phone call this morning from the diocese, saying that a male, I'm not clear about his age, had said that he was victimized, that's his word, by Father Shanley,'' said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, Barnes's spokesman. ''We have contacted him and are meeting with him this afternoon [yesterday]. We're trying to find out exactly what the alleged circumstances were. All I know is that he came forward yesterday to a person who works in our diocese and said that he had been victimized by Father Shanley and he wanted our diocese to know.''

Barnes had initiated a meeting with Law. Both men are here for a meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, working on a proposed national policy to curb clergy sexual abuse.

Lincoln said the meeting lasted no more than 10 minutes, and that Barnes accepted Law's apology and deemed it genuine.

''The cardinal issued what the bishop feels is a very sincere and heartfelt and deep apology for what transpired concerning Father Shanley and the Diocese of San Bernardino,'' Lincoln said. ''He also told the bishop that he was not aware of Father Shanley's personnel file. He had not reviewed it when Father Shanley was asked to be transferred to our diocese.''

Law plans to issue a written apology to the people of the San Bernardino Diocese within weeks, Lincoln said.

When Barnes was told a few hours after his meeting with Law about the accusation in California against Shanley, his spokesman said he was angry.

''He felt deceived. We were very disappointed that we were not given the full truth about Father Shanley. But this apology of Cardinal Law has certainly dissipated much of that anger. And our bishop felt that Cardinal Law was very sincere in that apology. All he told the bishop was that he did not know the contents of Father Shanley's file. I think implicit in that is that if he had known, Shanley would not have been sent to San Bernardino.''

Shanley worked as an associate pastor for three years at St. Anne's parish in San Bernardino after being transferred to the diocese in 1990. The transfer was arranged on the basis of a letter sent by Bishop Robert J. Banks, Law's top deputy at the Boston archdiocese at the time, telling the San Bernardino diocese that Shanley had experienced no problems while a priest in Boston.

At the time, the Boston archdiocese had been notified that Shanley had spoken uncritically at a conference about sexual relations between men and boys, and Law himself had been told by a Newton, Mass., woman that Shanley had attempted to molest one youth at a church there. Shanley was indicted in May for allegedly raping a youth while assigned as pastor at the now-closed St. John The Evangelist Church in Newton, and has been named in a civil suit for allegedly molesting another youth, Gregory Ford, at the church over a six-year period in the 1980s.

Donna M. Morrissey, Law's spokeswoman, said the cardinal wanted to express his apologies to the people of San Bernardino for the difficult time they are going through.

''When he learned of the latest allegation against Shanley,'' Morrissey said, Law reacted with dismay and sorrow.

''Obviously, this information is very disturbing but it's an example of why there was a need for the bishops to come together to develop a national policy to protect children,'' she said.

Morrissey said Law was deeply touched by the emotional presentation of four victims, whose testimony the bishops heard during yesterday's session. ''By doing so, it helped Cardinal Law, and I'm sure the other bishops, better understand not only what they endured, what they suffered, but also what the consequences are of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy,'' Morrissey said.

''Clearly we have a policy in place. Cardinal Law is bringing forth the experiences, the tragedies, and the sorrows that we've had and, first and foremost, the victims of abuse in Boston have suffered, and he's going to share his experiences,'' she said.

Stephen Kurkjian of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

This story ran on page A42 of the Boston Globe on 6/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing LLC.


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