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Spotlight Report

Church seeks to depose kin of alleged Shanley victim

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 8/13/2002

On the eve of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's continued deposition in the case of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley and the public release of two days of his prior pretrial testimony, the Boston Archdiocese yesterday foreshadowed a period of intensified legal battling by seeking to depose the mother of one of Shanley's alleged victims.

''This is clearly a sign that the archdiocese is starting to gear up its legal machinery to go after victims and their families,'' said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer representing 200 alleged victims of sexual abuse by Shanley and other priests. ''It's clearly a signal that the archdiocese no longer has any interest in settling the cases.''

J. Owen Todd, Law's personal lawyer, noted that MacLeish and other attorneys at the firm of Greenberg Traurig, who are representing Shanley's alleged victims, have filed legal notices to depose approximately 50 other church officials, and he acknowledged that ''the cases will probably be litigated a little more intensely than they have been.'' But Todd also said the archdiocese has not ruled out a settlement. ''Lawyers always find time to talk on the side,'' he said.

The two sides had agreed to a 30-day truce on June 19 and attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement through a two-week extension. During this period, Law's deposition was suspended. Last month, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney appeared to run out of patience with the parties and ordered that the lawsuits be pushed forward and that Law resume his pretrial testimony.

Law's deposition will be given as transcripts and videotapes of testimony, taken in June, are filed with the Middlesex County Superior Court and released to the public. Although portions of Law's deposition in lawsuits filed by alleged victims of former priest John J. Geoghan have been released, today will mark the first time Law's videotaped testimony is aired. The video will be shown in full, as it becomes available, on New England Cable News and will also be posted on the Boston.com Web site.

Law's deposition is being taken in the case of alleged victims and their families who have sued the cardinal for negligent supervision of Shanley, a celebrated Boston ''street priest'' during the 1970s.

Shanley pleaded not guilty last month to criminal charges that he raped four boys while working at the now-closed St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton. Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said the alleged victims ranged in age from 6 to 10 when the attacks on them began.

Lawyers for the archdiocese yesterday filed a legal notice to depose Paula Ford, the mother of Gregory Ford, who has said that a Globe story about Shanley triggered memories that he was abused by Shanley as a young boy. The church also filed notice yesterday that it plans to depose a 13-year-old victim of church youth worker Christopher Reardon and the child's mother.

The civil suits accusing Law of negligent supervision of Shanley were filed by the Ford family; Paul Busa, who also attended St. John's as a child; and a third party who has not been identified.

Law promoted Shanley to pastor of St. John's shortly after being named archbishop of Boston in 1984, and he approved Shanley's transfer as a priest in good standing to the San Bernardino, Calif., Diocese in 1990.

As part of the suits against Law regarding Shanley, lawyers for the plaintiffs have won the release of 1,000 pages of church records covering the careers of 10 additional priests accused of sexually molesting minors.

Neither church officials nor those representing Shanley's alleged victims have commented on Law's previous pretrial testimony, given on June 5 and June 7. But Paula Ford and her husband, Rodney, attended the depositions and spoke publicly about what they considered its highlights.

For instance, Paula Ford said on June 7 that Law attributed some of the decisions he made about Shanley to poor record keeping. In April, archdiocesan officials acting under a court order released 1,600 pages of church documents showing that the archdiocese had received complaints about Shanley's sexual conduct as early as 1966. They also indicated Law had reviewed a complaint that Shanley had publicly endorsed sex between adults and children.

In recent months, Law has publicly attributed Shanley's continued ministry to faulty record keeping. On May 19, for instance, he distributed a letter to parishes throughout the archdiocese in which he said he was unaware of any allegation of sexual misconduct against Shanley until 1993, when the archdiocese revoked his authorization to work as a part-time priest in California.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com.

This story ran on page A8 of the Boston Globe on 8/13/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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