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Cardinal Ordered to Give Deposition

May 7, 2002 | AP

Fearing Boston's top Roman Catholic leader might soon leave for Rome, a judge ordered Cardinal Bernard F. Law to answer questions about the diocese's handling of a pedophile priest whose case helped trigger the recent crisis facing the church.

Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney ordered Law to be deposed Wednesday in the civil litigation against John Geoghan, the now-defrocked priest accused of molesting scores of youngsters.

In other legal proceedings against the Catholic church Monday, a former altar boy sued the Vatican, the Miami Archdiocese and two Catholic priests, saying he was forced to participate in orgies as a teen-ager 30 years ago.

Boston's cardinal had avoided being deposed in the Geoghan case, though he is scheduled to be deposed June 5 in other cases involving the Rev. Paul Shanley, who was expected to be arraigned in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

The judge's quick deposition order is unusual, and shows concern that the Vatican could move Law to Rome to avoid the deposition, said Paul Martinek, editor of Lawyers Weekly USA.

During the hearing, Sweeney referred to that possibility. "His choice of whether he is available for deposition is not entirely belonging to him," she said. "If the pope tells him to go to Rome, he goes."

Sweeney denied an archdiocese request for a seven-day notice before the deposition, as is customary. She also denied a request by plaintiffs' attorney Mitchell Garabedian that Law be required to post a $10 million bond if he leaves the state.

Attorneys for the archdiocese declined to comment as they left the courtroom, and did not say whether they would appeal.

Sweeney ordered the deposition videotaped in a closed courtroom, so it could stand as testimony if Law is not available for a trial. At that time, the tape could be made public. Otherwise, she ordered the deposition to remain confidential.

Garabedian, who represents 86 alleged victims of Geoghan, was pressing on with the litigation after the archdiocese decided Friday to back out of a settlement in the case. The rejected deal would have paid plaintiffs between $15 million and $30 million.

In the Florida lawsuit, Jose Albino Currais Jr. said the Revs. Ricardo Castellanos and Alvaro Guichard held orgies at the Church of the Little Flower in Miami in which they had sex with numerous teen-age boys.

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Miami archdiocese, said Monday she could not comment on the allegations because the archdiocese had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.

Guichard, pastor of St. Francis de Sales parish in Miami Beach, denies the charges, said his attorney, Manuel Garcia-Linares. Castellanos was not available for comment, according to a person who answered the phone at San Isidro Church in Pompano Beach, where he serves as pastor.

In developments elsewhere:

An attorney for more than a dozen Louisville, Ky., parishioners who allege sexual abuse by the same priest asked a judge for access to records under the care of Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly. The plaintiffs claim they were sexually abused by the Rev. Louis E. Miller between 1960 and 1977 and allege the diocese was made aware of the abuse, but did nothing about the complaints. Miller continues to deny the allegations.

Pennsylvania's Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has agreed to let a four-person panel review future allegations of child sex abuse by priests. Bishop Joseph Adamec promised not to overrule the committee, which has the power to hand over credible allegations against priests to law enforcement officials.

A woman who claims she was abused by a priest nearly 30 years ago filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., alleging a priest molested her over several months when she was 7. And a $3.8 million sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against the Portland archdiocese by a former altar boy at Ascension parish who claims he was sexually abused by a now-dead priest for two years beginning in 1961.

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