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Archdiocese Attorneys To Talk Possible Settlements

Nov 25, 2002 | Neponset Valley Daily News

Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Boston are set to meet today with dozens of attorneys representing alleged clergy sex abuse victims to discuss the possibility of settling the cases, though plaintiffs' lawyers said they expect little from the talks.

The meeting of as many as 40 attorneys the second such gathering in two weeks comes as church lawyers hold out hope a judge will uphold their last-minute motion Friday to seal 11,000 pages of potentially damning documents on 67 alleged abuser priests.

On repeated occasions, archdiocese lawyer Wilson Rogers Jr. and church officials have touted the settlement route, with spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey stating recently, "Our first desire remains to settle all these cases in a fair and equitable manner."

But Carmen Durso, a lawyer with numerous cases against the church, said he doubts even a settlement framework could be worked out in one afternoon.

"It's a big step from wanting to settle to finding a way 400-plus cases can be resolved equitably. I can safely predict we're not going to walk out of there with a resolution to this thing," he said.

Mitchell Garabedian, who represents scores of alleged victims of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, agreed. He also said the church's emergency motion to keep the priests' files sealed was already decided earlier this year.

"Two individual justices of the appellate court on separate occasions have already denied this type of motion," he said. The motion will be contested today by attorneys from the Boston Herald, who won the release of documents in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley case last spring.

While the church seeks to keep the new records secret, Roderick MacLeish Jr., the plaintiffs' attorney in the Shanley civil case, said he believes the archdiocese's archives contain documents on at least 29 more problem priests.

As the jostling over the files continues, Msgr. Michael Smith Foster, the only Boston priest cleared of sexual misconduct allegations in the scandal, celebrated an emotional Mass yesterday at Newton's Sacred Heart Parish, his longtime pastoral home.

"As odd as this next statement may seem to you, I have been very blest by God the past few months," he said of a former Newton altar boy's molestation allegations now dismissed by the church.

"By your concern through letters and calls and action, you welcomed me into your lives when I felt like I had been 'cast into prison,' " he said as five priests stood to support him on the altar and his parents joined parishioners in the pews.

Meanwhile, outside Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the lay group Voice of the Faithful offered homemade bread to abuse victims "with gratitude to the survivors for the lessons we have learned about suffering, pain, healing and love."

Tomorrow, the group will hold a long-anticipated meeting with Law to persuade him to lift his ban on the formation of new chapters at parishes in the archdiocese.

"Cardinal Law needs to understand us better. For that you need a face-to-face meeting. It can't happen otherwise," said VOTF spokeswoman Luise Dittrich.
, though plaintiffs' lawyers said they expect little from the talks.

The meeting of as many as 40 attorneys, the second such gathering in two weeks comes as church lawyers hold out hope a judge will uphold their last-minute motion Friday to seal 11,000 pages of potentially damning documents on 67 alleged abuser priests.

On repeated occasions, archdiocese lawyer Wilson Rogers Jr. and church officials have touted the settlement route, with spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey stating recently, "Our first desire remains to settle all these cases in a fair and equitable manner."

But Carmen Durso, a lawyer with numerous cases against the church, said he doubts even a settlement framework could be worked out in one afternoon.

"It's a big step from wanting to settle to finding a way 400-plus cases can be resolved equitably. I can safely predict we're not going to walk out of there with a resolution to this thing," he said.

Mitchell Garabedian, who represents scores of alleged victims of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, agreed. He also said the church's emergency motion to keep the priests' files sealed was already decided earlier this year.

"Two individual justices of the appellate court on separate occasions have already denied this type of motion," he said. The motion will be contested today by attorneys from the Boston Herald, who won the release of documents in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley case last spring.

While the church seeks to keep the new records secret, Roderick MacLeish Jr., the plaintiffs' attorney in the Shanley civil case, said he believes the archdiocese's archives contain documents on at least 29 more problem priests.

As the jostling over the files continues, Msgr. Michael Smith Foster, the only Boston priest cleared of sexual misconduct allegations in the scandal, celebrated an emotional Mass yesterday at Newton's Sacred Heart Parish, his longtime pastoral home.

"As odd as this next statement may seem to you, I have been very blest by God the past few months," he said of a former Newton altar boy's molestation allegations now dismissed by the church.

"By your concern through letters and calls and action, you welcomed me into your lives when I felt like I had been 'cast into prison,' " he said as five priests stood to support him on the altar and his parents joined parishioners in the pews.

Meanwhile, outside Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the lay group Voice of the Faithful offered homemade bread to abuse victims "with gratitude to the survivors for the lessons we have learned about suffering, pain, healing and love."

Tomorrow, the group will hold a long-anticipated meeting with Law to persuade him to lift his ban on the formation of new chapters at parishes in the archdiocese.

"Cardinal Law needs to understand us better. For that you need a face-to-face meeting. It can't happen otherwise," said VOTF spokeswoman Luise Dittrich.


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