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Boston Archdiocese Asks For Suits To Be Tossed

Dec 24, 2002 | AP

The Boston Archdiocese asked a judge Monday to dismiss the hundreds of sexual-abuse lawsuits against the church on freedom-of-religion grounds. But the archdiocese said it is still committed to reaching a settlement.

The archdiocese said it made the dismissal request to satisfy its insurers that it has employed all possible legal defenses.

''Failure to do this could very well result in the insurance companies walking away from us, saying that we have not exercised all of our avenues of defense,'' said Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who was named interim head of the fourth-largest U.S. archdiocese on Dec. 13.

In court papers, the archdiocese argued that under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, civil law does not apply to how religious organizations supervise their personnel.

Meanwhile, in Concord, N.H., New Hampshire's bishop, questioned under oath about the church abuse scandal, suggested that it is less serious for a priest to have sex with someone from outside the parish than with a parishioner.

In depositions this fall, Bishop John B. McCormack said he knew the Rev. Roland Cote had had sex with a teenage boy but noted that the boy was not a parishioner.

''You know, one is an activity where you have a trusted relationship with a parishioner. The other is an activity where you're away from the parish and you're off on your own,'' McCormack said in depositions obtained Monday by the Associated Press. ''I'm very concerned about that; he was a young person. But it's quite different from being with a parishioner.''

McCormack spokesman Patrick McGee said Monday that a priest having sex with a parishioner involves exploitation.

''Even if it's consensual, with a parishioner, there's probably an exploitation of the office there,'' McGee said.

Questioned in connection with lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, McCormack also acknowledged Cote paid for the sex. Cote resigned last month.

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