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Law testifies before grand jury weighing criminal charges
By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press, 2/25/03
BOSTON -- Cardinal Bernard Law testified Tuesday before a grand jury weighing criminal charges against church officials involved in the clergy sex abuse scandal in the first known instance of an American cardinal appearing before a grand jury.
Law had no comment as he walked by reporters at the end of a full day of testimony at Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office.
His lawyer, J. Owen Todd, said the grand jury and assistant attorney general Michelle Adelman focused on the evolution the archdiocese's policy with abusive priests during Law's tenure in Boston, which began in 1984 and ended in December, when Law stepped down as archbishop.
Asked if the cardinal was embarrassed to be in what Todd described as an "unprecedented" situation, Todd said, "Not embarrassed. I would say saddened that the situation has developed to where it's necessary for the cardinal and the grand jury to have to investigate what happened."
Todd said he didn't expect the grand jury to indict Law, adding he was unaware of any criminal probe into Law's activities.
"I don't think we're anywhere near concerned about that," he said.
Reilly's office had no comment on Law's appearance or criminal charges against church officials. Reilly, who convened the grand jury last year, has acknowledged that it will be difficult to file criminal charges against any church officials.
Law resigned as archbishop after months of revelations about how he and other church officials moved sexually abusive priests from parish to parish, and hid their crimes from parishioners.
"There was a cover-up. There was an elaborate scheme," Reilly said in December. But "it is very difficult under the criminal laws of this state to hold a superior accountable for the acts of another."
Until recently, church officials were not required to report sexual abuse of children to civil authorities. A new law now makes reckless endangerment of children a crime, and requires church officials to report suspected abuse.
Law was scheduled for just a single day of testimony before the grand jury. He has been deposed several times in suits by alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Also on Tuesday, the church said it's seeking an appeal of a decision by a Superior Court judge who ruled last week that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion does not shield the church from the roughly 400 civil suits against it.
Last Thursday, Judge Constance M. Sweeney said if she granted the church immunity on First Amendment grounds, the archdiocese would enjoy all the protections of secular law without being accountable to provisions that protect the rest of society, particularly children.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for numerous alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, said the church's move was another delay tactic.
"It's their typical strategy of trying to wear down the victims of abuse, wear them out, while saying they want healing," he said.
Wilson Rogers Jr., an attorney for the archdiocese, said "there might be some merit" to concerns that litigation is delaying the healing process for victims.
"If (the plaintiffs) have chosen to put this in a litigious context, which they have, I think it's unreasonable to expect we would not raise all the appropriate issues," Rogers said.
In other developments, the former head of the Boston archdiocese's clergy personnel office, the Rev. James McCarthy said in a deposition released Tuesday that Rev. Paul Shanley was treated differently from other priests. He acknowledged, for example, that Shanley's $1,474 monthly stipend while on sick leave was almost $900 more than the typical stipend.
Shanley is free on $300,000 bail after being charged with 10 counts of child rape following his arrest in California last year. MacLeish said Tuesday he'll use the McCarthy testimony to establish Shanley was given preferential treatment, possibly because he'd threatened to come forward with details about sex abuse in the church.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman, said differences in Shanley's stipend could be explained by cost-of-living adjustments, or differing benefits for priests who entered the archdiocese at different times.
"Father Shanley was never given any preferential treatment," he said.