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58 Priests Call for Cardinal Law to Quit

Dec 10, 2002 | AP

The Boston Archdiocese released a new round of personnel records on sexually abusive priests on the same day 58 clerics submitted a letter formally calling for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.

The most recent release of files Monday shows church leaders took some allegations of sex abuse by priests more seriously after a formal policy on abuse was instituted in 1993.

In one case, the Rev. Paul Manning was removed from his ministry in Woburn even after he was acquitted of indecent assault and battery of a minor during a 1993 incident. Church officials also ordered him to desist after hearing he was continuing to celebrate Mass.

Yet in another case, the Rev. William Scanlan was described by one church official in 1987 as someone who "fools around with kids" but was still assigned to parish work.

The Scanlan case was in line with thousands of pages released last week revealing lurid details of one priest trading cocaine for sex with boys, another having sex with teenage girls studying to become nuns and yet another fathering at least two children and abandoning his lover as she overdosed.

The new documents came as Law's sudden trip to Rome was confirmed, though not explained, fueling speculation he might resign or seek permission to send the archdiocese into bankruptcy. At the same time, 58 Boston-area priests signed a letter calling for Law's resignation.

"The events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston," according to the letter.

The documents' release is the third such disclosure in a week, prompted by a state judge's ruling ordering the archdiocese to hand over the files to lawyers representing hundreds of alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy. The lawyers hope the documents prove that the archdiocese routinely reassigned alleged pedophile priests to cover up the scandal.

Of the records related to seven priests released Monday, only one concerning Scanlan appeared to fit a now-familiar pattern.

Scanlan was assigned to several parishes after some sex abuse allegations arose in 1987, and later was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

Notes written in July 1987 by an unidentified church official say, "He is going to cause me a problem. He fools around with kids. He is in difficulty."

Four days later, the official wrote "his reactions of innocence were appropriate and I said matter was ended unless I had back up to the charges."

Scanlan was later assigned to a prison ministry, then returned to parishes.

A decade later, Scanlan was accused of raping a troubled 12-year-old girl he had been advising at St. James in Stoughton, allegedly telling her when she resisted that "God wanted him to."

Scanlan was ordered into therapy, but vigorously denied the accusations, saying she was infatuated with him and that she had dreamed he attacked her. He also passed a polygraph test, according to the documents.

In October 2000, an archdiocese official wrote to Scanlan that after "lengthy and serious discussions we cannot conclude the alleged incident(s) more likely than not occurred," and reinstated him.

Scanlan eventually was assigned to a Veterans' Administration hospital in San Jose, Calif., under the condition that his superiors know about the allegations, that another priest be involved in his psychotherapy, and that he be evaluated quarterly.

Scanlan's phone number has been disconnected and he could not immediately be reached for comment.

Other files included papers showing harsher punishment, including a priest dismissed by Law in 1995 for kissing a 19-year-old seminarian, and a priest removed from the ministry in May, two months after the archdiocese received a letter from a woman claiming her brother had been raped by the cleric in the early 1960s.

Meanwhile, Raymond L. Flynn, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a former Boston mayor, said Monday a quick decision is unlikely from the Vatican on how to handle a scandal that has battered the archdiocese for about a year.

"The Vatican will weigh and contemplate the issue," Flynn said.

Morrissey said Monday night that Law was still in Rome.

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