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Church Abuse Case Motion to Be Heard

May 14, 2002 | AP

The first phase of Cardinal Bernard Law's testimony on his handling of a now-defrocked pedophile priest has ended, but the Archdiocese of Boston's legal battles continue.

Middlesex Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders planned to hold a hearing Tuesday on whether the psychiatric and medical records of the Rev. Paul Shanley can be made public.

On Monday, Sanders ruled that the archdiocese must immediately turn over the documents to the family of Gregory Ford, 24, who claims Shanley repeatedly raped him when he was a boy.

Sanders ruled that Shanley waived any right to keep his personnel records private when he turned them over to the archdiocese.

Ford has filed a civil lawsuit against Law, accusing the cardinal of negligence in failing to protect Ford.

"All of these documents are clearly relevant to show the relationship between the (archdiocese) and Shanley, and the defendant's knowledge of Shanley's activities and his state of health," Sanders ruled.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey declined comment.

Shanley, 71, is a central figure in the sex abuse scandal that has led to calls for Law's resignation. Documents released earlier this year showed that archdiocese officials knew as early as 1967 that he had been accused of sexually abusing children but did little more than move him from parish to parish.

Shanley also faces criminal charges that he raped another boy when he served in Newton.

Meanwhile, Law faced off with attorneys Monday for the third day of his deposition in civil lawsuits filed by 86 alleged sexual abuse victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan.

Two plaintiffs present during the questioning said it was the testiest day of testimony yet.

"There were points in time where Cardinal Law got downright, very upset," Mark Keane, one of the alleged victims, said in a telephone interview.

Keane said the cardinal became angered when he believed one attorney, William Gordon, questioned his honesty during an exchange about whether Law reviewed documents with his lawyers.

"That's when I think he misunderstood that they were implying that he had been coached or something on those lines, and he really kind of wigged out," Keane said, adding that Law "went into a speech about how important the oath was to him, he doesn't take an oath lightly."

Transcripts were not released, following a judge's order that Law be given 30 days to review them for accuracy.

Keane also said Law had acknowledged that he had possessed the authority to establish a victims' trust fund that did not require the approval of the archdiocese's finance council.

Earlier this month, the council overruled Law and pulled out of a settlement agreement worth up to $30 million for Geoghan plaintiffs, saying it couldn't afford it.

Morrissey, the archdiocese spokeswoman, said she would not comment on active litigation. Law's lawyers were not available for comment.

Plaintiffs' attorney Mitchell Garabedian declined to discuss specifics of the testimony but said archdiocese lawyers agreed to allow him to continue questioning Law, though the deposition would likely not continue for another month.

Keane and another alleged victim, Patrick McSorley, also said Law was questioned about a 1989 letter from a Hartford, Conn., center where Geoghan received three months of treatment. A psychiatrist diagnosed him with pedophilia in remission, and said there was a low probability he would abuse children again but could not guarantee it.

The alleged victims said Law focused on portions of a letter from doctors that said he was safe to resume his ministry while downplaying a section indicating he might still be dangerous.

Geoghan, the priest in the suit for which Law is being deposed, is serving a nine- to 10-year prison sentence on a molestation conviction. Law and other church officials are accused of negligence for reassigning Geoghan and ignoring warning signs that he was dangerous to children.

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