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Spotlight Report

Lawyer to ask judge to resume Law's testimony

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 12/21/2002

A week ago Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for clergy abuse victims, agreed to put off two days of pretrial testimony by Cardinal Bernard F. Law, saying he wanted to give the prelate time to come to terms with his unprecedented resignation as archbishop of Boston.

But MacLeish's accommodating spirit ran out yesterday, after lawyers for the archdiocese attempted to delay all but one day of Law's deposition in cases involving the Rev. Paul R. Shanley until February.

MacLeish said that he will ask Judge Constance M. Sweeney to order Law to resume his pretrial testimony, no matter how many days it takes, on Jan. 21, insisting his clients are entitled to proceed to trial without further delay.

''We were respectful of the office of the cardinal and the fact that there's a human being there who has probably been through some trauma, but at the same time we have got to prepare for trial,'' MacLeish said.

But J. Owen Todd, Law's personal attorney, noted that Law has already given six days of pretrial testimony in the Shanley cases, and must now prepare for a Feb. 25 appearance before a grand jury investigating possible criminal charges over his supervision of sexually abusive priests. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has subpoenaed Law and six other bishops to testify.

''We're trying to accommodate Mr. MacLeish's focused concern on his case with the attorney general's concern about completing his grand jury investigation, along with the limitations of the cardinal's time and strength and his counsel's resources,'' Todd said. ''Mr. MacLeish has had a good deal of the cardinal's time in preparing his cases, he's reviewed a great many documents, and we think things in that area can wait while we address the attorney general's concerns and the grand jury's concerns. There's only so much we can do.''

Todd said that MacLeish and attorneys for the archdiocese have agreed that Law will resume testimony in the Shanley cases in late January. But MacLeish wants Law to continue the deposition day-by-day until it is completed. Church lawyers have said Law will not be available again until February.

As Law prepares to resume his deposition and give his grand jury testimony, he and his attorneys will review more than 11,000 pages of church documents on priests accused of sexual abuse of minors that have been aired over the last month, and the records of a total of 111 accused priests whose files have been released during the last year.

Four of those files were made public yesterday, producing yet more evidence of sexually abusive clergy working in the Boston Archdiocese. The records, as have so many released in recent weeks, contained evidence of abusive priests who were allowed to remain in some form of ministry after church officials heard complaints against them.

One priest, the Rev. Edward T. Kelley, was allowed to continue working as a priest even after a 1977 incident in which Nahant police informed chancery officials that they had discovered Kelley in a state of undress with a 19-year-old man in his car.

Kelley was later treated for alcohol and drug abuse. In 1993, he was placed on administrative leave after chancery officials received two complaints that he had molested boys in the 1970s.

One of his alleged victims wrote, ''My greatest horror came two years ago when I saw this priest at a Red Sox game wth a young child in his company. This triggered all sorts of emotions in me and in my mind it is inexcusable. We don't need any more unwitting victims.''

In another case, the records show that chancery officials assigned the Rev. David C. Murphy to a hospital chaplaincy in 1998, despite two sexual abuse allegations, including one from a victim who had received a $20,000 settlement.

Murphy's behavior raised serious questions as early as 1982, when auxiliary Bishop Thomas V. Daily asked Murphy about rumors that the rooms in the basement of St. Peter and St. Paul Church in South Boston, where he was assigned, were known as ''Murphy's whorehouse.''

Murphy denied that anything untoward happened in the rooms. But church records show that in 1986 a homeless man accused Murphy of paying him $200 for sadomasochistic sex.

In 1996, another man told church officials that Murphy lured him to his bedroom in the rectory of St. Peter and Paul Church sometime in 1978 or 1979 and molested him. Murphy denied the allegations, but failed a lie detector test, the records say.

Church officials placed Murphy on administrative leave in February of this year, and later received another allegation that he had molested a boy years earlier.

The Rev. Raymond C. Plourde, church records show, admitted in 1992 that he initiated a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old boy in 1976 that lasted about two years. In 1990, Plourde reached a private settlement with the alleged victims that remained hidden from church officials for several years.

After treatment he was permitted to work as a chaplain at a Methuen convent and, in February of this year, retired.

Church records released yesterday also included a file on the Rev. John K. Connell. Law placed Connell on administrative leave in 1995 after chancery officials received allegations that he had molested boys at a Cape Cod home owned by a family member.

Yesterday was also the day that attorneys for some 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse were to tell attorneys for the archdiocese how much they believe the church should pay to compensate them for their suffering.

Each of some two dozen lawyers who represent victims drafted summaries of their claims.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com. Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 12/21/2002.
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