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Boston Diocese Ordered To Release Papers

Nov 26, 2002 | AP

Handing advocates for victims of priest abuse two victories, a judge has ordered the Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese to release thousands of documents about how it handled clergy accused of molestation.

The two rulings Monday by Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney came as lawyers for alleged victims and the church met to try to settle more than 400 lawsuits.

Last week, the church complied with a court order to hand over about 11,000 internal church documents related to 65 priests accused of molesting children over the past three decades.

But the church asked that the documents be sealed from public view until at least January. Sweeney rejected the request and chastised the church.

``The court simply will not be toyed with,'' she wrote.

The judge also ruled in favor of victims' lawyers seeking the release of psychiatric records of the Rev. Bernard Lane.

The documents were sought by lawyers for a man who claims he was repeatedly raped by the Rev. Paul Shanley. Attorneys hope the documents show the archdiocese had a habit of transferring priests to other parishes even after accusations of child abuse.

In her ruling, Sweeney criticized the church's decision to allow Lane to celebrate Mass at a parish in the late 1990s, even after church officials had psychiatric reports showing he had a history of molesting boys.

Sweeney said the records ``raise significant questions of whether the archdiocese was really exercising the care they claimed to use in assigning offending priests.''

Lane's attorney, Gerard Lane, the priest's nephew, said he didn't think Lane's psychiatric records showed a history of molestation. He said they included contradictory diagnoses from two institutions, but added that ``overall, they support his position.''

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey declined to comment.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen lawyers representing hundreds of alleged victims met with lawyers for the archdiocese to begin settlement talks.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for about 250 alleged victims, said after the meeting that it was too soon to tell whether settlements are possible, calling the talks ``very preliminary.''

In other developments:

Six men have sued three priests and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, accusing the priests of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s and the archdiocese of turning a blind eye.

Authorities in Los Angeles said Monday that two former priests have been charged with molesting children who attended Catholic high schools and churches where the men worked decades ago.

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