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Interim Church Leader Backs Settlements

Dec 19, 2002 | AP The interim leader of the Boston Archdiocese supported efforts to settle hundreds of lawsuits accusing church officials of turning a blind eye to sexually abusive priests, as more church files were released showing priests allegedly molesting youngsters.

Bishop Richard G. Lennon said Wednesday he would not rule out sending the archdiocese into bankruptcy as the church struggles to find a way to resolve more than 400 lawsuits that claim the church failed to protect children from abusive priests. It was an option that was first weighed by Cardinal Bernard Law before he resigned last week.

In his first news conference since being named Friday as Law's temporary replacement, Lennon said he was hopeful that the church could settle the lawsuits by selling some of its real estate holdings and by using insurance money.

Lennon called on church lawyers and attorneys for alleged victims to suspend all day-to-day activity on the lawsuits except actions mandated by the court so both sides can "actively pursue" settlement of the cases.

"I will support efforts to arrive at a settlement of claims which will be fair and equitable for all the victims of sexual abuse," Lennon said.

Lennon's proposal received a cool reception from victims' lawyers, who said they would continue to participate in ongoing settlement discussions but weren't prepared to suspend the hectic pace of work on the lawsuits.

"Delay at this point is not feasible," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has filed approximately 40 lawsuits and plans to file another 70 within the next month. "Evidence disappears, memories fade and the statute of limitations is a concern.".

Roderick MacLeish Jr., whose firm represents more than 200 alleged victims, said he wants to give Lennon a chance, but said he is not willing to interrupt his lawsuits.

"We want to study and analyze what Bishop Lennon said, but we are not suspending litigation when it's legally necessary to protect our clients' interests," MacLeish said.

Lennon, 55, stressed his desire to help victims of clergy sexual abuse. He offered to sit down with any victims who request a meeting with him.

"Respectfully listening to them, I hope to learn the depth of their suffering. I will extend to each of them my apology on behalf of the church for the abuse which they have suffered," he said.

According to documents released Wednesday, a priest who was removed from parish duties after admitting a sexual relationship with a teenager at his parish was reassigned to work at hospitals and nursing homes.

The Rev. Paul Tivnan worked at seven different parishes in Greater Boston from 1963 to 1985, when he was placed on sick leave following an allegation that he repeatedly molested a 15-year-old boy in 1978 while working at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlboro.

Tivnan admitted the relationship, but said he "didn't realize it was so harmful," according to the documents.

Tivnan's case was outlined in the latest batch of personnel files to be released by lawyers suing the Boston Archdiocese over its handling of child-molesting priests.

Archdiocesan officials quickly removed Tivnan from parish service once the allegation came to light, sending him to a six-month treatment center and banning him from future parish service.

Instead, he was assigned to nursing homes and hospitals.

The documents released Wednesday also showed allegations that the Rev. Peter Kanchong molested two young girls and a boy at St. Margaret's Church in Boston.

Kanchong appeared in Dorchester District Court in August 1984 on charges he molested a 9-year old girl, according to the documents. He was put on probation and ordered to receive psychological treatment.

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