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Spotlight Report

Church settles case with another alleged victim of clergy abuse

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 12/3/2003

The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to settle a sexual abuse claim brought by Paul R. Edwards, a Winchendon man who has alleged that he was abused by a priest who is now dead, according to a lawyer and a church spokesman.

Additional allegations that Edwards was molested by the archdiocese's top canon law specialist were not part of the settlement.

Edwards's case against the late Rev. William Cummings and the Rev. Michael Foster were originally dismissed by the archdiocese and by Foster's supporters, who attacked Edwards's credibility. After voluntarily withdrawing his civil court claims in September, Edwards was excluded from the $85 million settlement reached between the archdiocese and 540 alleged victims of abuse.

Later that month, however, a church spokesman said that Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley had ordered an internal review of the church's investigation into Edwards's allegations against Cummings to determine whether they had been thoroughly reviewed. O'Malley disclosed the review in a letter to Edwards's supporters, who argued that the attacks on his credibility were part of a smear campaign.

Three weeks ago, a lawyer for the church concluded that Edwards's claims against Cummings were at least as credible as the claims of other alleged victims who had been allowed to participate in the settlement, said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman.

''After a review, a decision was made to allow him to participate in arbitration,'' Coyne said.

The settlement with Edwards, 36, was reached only on his contention that he was raped by Cummings in 1982 during a trip to New York City with a Newton-based Catholic youth group, Coyne said. His claims against Foster, who was cleared by the church of wrongdoing, were not reviewed, Coyne said.

While separate from the $85 million settlement, Edward's damage award will be in the same $80,000 to $300,000 range as other victims. The exact award will be determined by an arbitrator, who heard Edward's abuse allegations Monday during a three-hour hearing.

Edwards's lawyer said the settlement is vindication for his client, who insisted that he be allowed to tell the arbitrator about his alleged abuse at the hands of both Cummings and Foster.

''We are not done yet in restoring Paul's name,'' Boston lawyer Roderick MacLeish said. ''The bottom line is that I don't think that the archdiocese would be giving money to people who were pathological liars.''


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