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High-ranking priest asks to go on leave
By Ron DePasquale, Associated Press, 08/17/02
BOSTON -- A high-ranking official in the Boston Archdiocese has asked for and been granted leave while he fights charges that he sexually abused a minor.
Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the presiding judge of the archdiocese's Metropolitan Tribunal, which handles annulments and canon law issues, issued a statement Sunday denying the charges.
"I deny all of the allegations of sexual misconduct and any other wrongful conduct and I am devastated by these false accusations," Foster said. "I pray that the truth will be revealed as quickly as possible."
Paul Edwards, a former Newton altar boy who now lives in Winchendon, sued Foster and the archdiocese last week, alleging that Foster molested him repeatedly in the 1980s when he was a teenager.
Edwards, 35, says in his lawsuit that Foster, 47, fondled him several times while he was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Church from 1980 to 1985.
The lawsuit seeks at least $25,000 in damages. It also says church officials were negligent in their supervision of Foster and another priest, the late Rev. William Cummings.
The alleged victim says Cummings raped him during an overnight trip to New York City, organized by the Catholic Youth Organization in December 1982. Edwards was then a 15-year-old student at Newton Catholic High School.
Edwards has said that when he told Foster, the priest told him not to tell anyone about the incident with Cummings and that he didn't "want to hear about" it.
In the suit, Edwards says Foster recruited him to be an altar boy, often invited him to the church rectory and asked him to enter his bedroom with only his underwear. Edwards says Foster removed his own clothes and the two would sleep together.
Edwards alleges Foster fondled him while they were in bed.
A call to Edwards' attorney, Eric J. Parker, was not immediately returned Sunday night. Edwards has an unlisted number and could not be reached for comment.
A 1993 hockey injury left Edwards a paraplegic. The Boston Bruins helped raise money for him, and he took up sled hockey and skiing, competing with the U.S. Paralympic ski team in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
Foster is an authority on annulments. He wrote the book "Annulment: The Wedding That Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null," published in 1999.
Edwards says in his lawsuit that he visited Foster in 1988 at St. Jean's Parish in Newton -- where Foster was then assigned as a priest -- and told him he had been raped by Cummings six years earlier. He said Foster told him not to tell anyone else.
Edwards says that Foster's warning left him emotionally incapable of speaking with anyone about the incidents until the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke. He then told his wife of the abuse in April.