Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Bishop grilled about handling of sex abuse allegations in Boston

By J.M. Hirsch
The Associated Press

        MANCHESTER, N.H. — Bishop John B. McCormack ignored requests from his top aide that he warn Boston parishes about several priests who had been accused of molesting children, a lawyer for three alleged victims said Monday.

        The lawyer spoke as Bishop McCormack answered questions during a closed deposition in lawsuits that accuse him of failing to protect three boys from priest molestation.

        Now men, the alleged victims say in their lawsuits they were molested by the Rev. Paul Shanley during the 1980s, when he served as pastor at St. Jean Parish in Newton, Mass.

        Bishop McCormack, 66, was secretary of ministerial personnel for the Archdiocese of Boston from 1984 to 1994 and handled sexual abuse complaints against priests for Cardinal Bernard Law from 1992 to 1995.

        The lawyer for Father Shanley's alleged victims, Roderick MacLeish, confirmed a Boston Herald report Monday that said Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, Bishop McCormack's top aide in Boston, had written memos advising him to contact members of parishes where Father Shanley and other accused priests had served.

        The three accusers, all now in their mid-20s and from Newton, Mass., have filed lawsuits in Massachusetts accusing Father Shanley of molesting them starting when they were about 6.

        Just before the deposition, Bishop McCormack said he was “pleased” for the chance to clarify his role in supervising Father Shanley.

        “I know that it will be a serious and a very deliberate day. It gives me an opportunity to explain my role in Boston and also to talk about my understanding and my perspective of the situation over those years and to help to clarify the understanding of what happened in those days in what is a very difficult and oftentimes a trying situation,” he said.

        Since the clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in Boston in January, former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland is the highest-ranking U.S. cleric to acknowledge settling a sexual misconduct allegation against him.

        At least 225 priests of more than 46,000 across the country have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal began.

        In other developments, the mother of a former altar boy in Omaha, Neb., burst into tears Monday as she told a jury that she had trusted the archdiocese, the church and the Rev. Daniel Herek to be good influences on her son.

        Instead, she said, her son was sexually abused at age 14 and the archdiocese did nothing prevent it. The boy, now in his 20s, and his mother suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and deserve compensation for their injuries and counseling that could be needed for the rest of their lives, said their attorney, Harold Zabin. They asked that their names not be used.

        Omaha archdiocese officials have admitted to negligence in failing to adequately supervise Herek. The trial is to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to the boy and his mother. Zabin has said he would seek at least $1 million in damages.

        Archdiocese attorney Bill Johnson admitted the boy suffered psychological damage, but the extent of necessary treatment and its cost are under dispute.


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