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Banks Among Seven Bishops Subpoenaed in Boston

He Says He Will Comply With An Investigation Into Possible Criminal Violations By Church Officials

Dec 13, 2002 | AP

Bishop Robert J. Banks says he will comply with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Boston investigating possible criminal acts by church officials in their supervision of priests accused of sexual abuse, the Green Bay Catholic Diocese announced Thursday.

The two-sentence statement read:
"Bishop Robert J. Banks of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay said he received in this morning's mail a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Massachusetts. He added that he intends to fully cooperate with authorities."

A diocesan spokeswoman said there would be no further statement.

Banks and six other bishops face questions about their supervision of priests. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston was also subpoenaed, a source told the Associated Press.

Banks was the vicar of administration in the Boston Archdiocese until 1990, when he came to Green Bay. He was previously linked to the case of a priest, Paul Shanley, and testified in a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed Shanley had abused him.

Banks vehemently denied last month that he knew anything about allegations of sexual abuse against Shanley before he allowed Shanley to mediate a meeting between another priest and that priest's alleged victim.

And on Tuesday, papers released by the Boston Archdiocese tied Banks to the case of Father Robert Meffan. A 1986 handwritten document from Banks recorded allegations that Meffan was engaged in sexual acts with girls as young as 15 who were preparing to become nuns.

Law is visiting the Vatican, where he was meeting with church leaders Thursday. Law's trip to the Vatican came amid speculation the cardinal may resign or get approval to declare bankruptcy in a bid to spare the archdiocese from financial ruin. He has met with Vatican officials who would be involved in handling a resignation; however, only the pope would receive a resignation from a cardinal and decide whether to accept it.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Thursday that Law was expected to meet with the pope today. Any resignation would not come before such a meeting, he said.

John Paul reportedly rejected Law's first offer to resign in April. At that time, the 82-year-old pope told Law to persevere and to work to repair the damage done by a crisis still tearing at the fabric of the Catholic Church in the United States.

A state grand jury investigating accusations that archdiocese officials mishandled alleged molestation cases involving clergy has been meeting for months, but so far has only demanded church records. Prosecutors have acknowledged they have yet to find grounds to bring criminal charges against Law or anyone else for the scandal that erupted a year ago.

Dozens of priests endorsed a letter this week calling for Law's resignation, and separately, the 300-member Boston Priests Forum may issue its own resolution urging Law's resignation at a meeting today.

The latest call for Law to step down came Wednesday from the influential Roman Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful.

"There is a state of spiritual and moral crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston," said Jim Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, which claims a national membership of 25,000. "In my judgment, the Archdiocese of Boston has effectively been without a bishop."

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