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AG Weighing Possible Charges Against Law, Archdiocese

Dec 13, 2002 | Fitchburg Sentinel Attorney General Thomas Reilly said yesterday he is using every investigative tool at his disposal including a grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, or anyone else in connection with the sexual abuse crisis consuming the Catholic church in greater Boston.

Reports surfaced this week that Reilly has issued subpoenas for Law and at least five of his bishops to testify before the grand jury, but the AG would not discuss details of the proceedings, except to say they were prompted by a lack of cooperation by Archdiocesan officials.

Reilly acknowledged that it would be difficult to bring charges against clerics who supervised priests accused of abuse, even if they knowingly reassigned those priests to other parishes, in large part because of the wording of some Massachusetts laws.

Since the scandal broke nearly a year ago, the legislature has enacted a child-endangerment statute and a mandatory reporting law for clergy members who suspect abuse, both of which, had they been in place when the alleged incidents took place, would have made prosecution easier, Reilly said.

"If those laws had been on the books, particularly the mandated-reporter statute, we'd be in a far different position than we are today," Reilly said. "But we have to operate within the legal parameters that we have. We will go as far as the law allows us to go, but we will go no further."

Reilly said no decisions will be made about criminal prosecution until the grand jury completes its work. As he has done repeatedly over the past year, Reilly yesterday blasted the Archdiocese for failing to protect children over a period of decades.

"This could have stopped a long time ago, but it wasn't. There was a cover-up, an elaborate scheme to keep it away from law enforcement and to keep it quiet," Reilly said. "The leadership of the church felt that it was more important to protect the church than children. As a result of that, needless numbers, countless numbers of children were harmed."

With Law now in Rome meeting with Vatican officials, a growing number of priests and lay Catholics are calling for him to step down. Reilly said he is not concerned with reports that Law will offer his resignation to the pope.

"This goes far beyond one person," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

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