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Law Blasted Over Warnings: Woman Says She Told Cardinal of Sex Abuse in '80s

May 21, 2002 | The Boston Herald

A woman who says she twice told Bernard Cardinal Law that the Rev. Paul Shanley was molesting boys blasted the cardinal yesterday for saying he didn't recall the conversations.

``Why are you doing this? Why are you protecting yourself and the priests,'' a furious Jacqueline Gauvreau asked during a news conference at the downtown Boston office of Eric MacLeish, a lawyer handling cases against Law and the archdiocese.

Gauvreau said she told Law about Shanley in the 1980s, so was stunned to hear that the cardinal wrote in a letter distributed to the faithful Sunday that he had not learned of allegations against Shanley until 1993.

``Before God, I can assure you that my first knowledge of an allegation of sexual abuse against this priest was in 1993,'' Law wrote in part.

His spokeswoman declined to respond directly to Gauvreau, instead pointing to the Sunday letter.

The letter refers to claims that Law was told about Shanley after a Mass in the 1980s, but does not single out Gauvreau as the purported messenger. Law does, however, go on to say that if he was told he would have acted on such an allegation. He notes that there are no records of such conversations anywhere.

While Gauvreau rushed yesterday to defend what she perceived as an attack on her integrity, she is only the latest of many people blamed by archdiocesan officials - including Law - for having contributed to the scandal. Those others, for the most part, are not in positions to defend themselves. Some are clergy members bound by obedience rules; others are dead.

Law has admitted to making mistakes, but nearly always in the context of heeding bad advice from medical experts. He has said he considered pedophilia to be a treatable disease.

``My modus operandi was to rely upon those whom I considered, and would have reason to consider, to have an expertise that I lacked in assessing this pathology, on assessing what it is that this person could safely do or not do,'' he said during a recent deposition in a civil case.

Or he has blamed unidentified record-keepers. In the Sunday letter, he wrote: ``I often have made decisions based on the best information available to me at the time, only to find that new details later became available which some may argue I should have had previously.''

Law's letter also puts some responsibility for the scandal on his predecessors.

``When I arrived in Boston in 1984, I assumed that priests in place had been appropriately appointed,'' he wrote.

When Law's handpicked Finance Council refused on May 3 to pay for a settlement he'd agreed to with victims of former priest John J. Geoghan, Law said it was their decision rather than his.

He later said it was a choice made with the best interests of the archdiocese at heart, but he nevertheless clearly laid the responsibility for killing the deal on them.

During a May 8 civil deposition, Law answered questions about the handling of allegations by listing the colleagues to whom he'd assigned cases.

At one point, he said allegations would have been handled by the Rev. Thomas V. Daily, a former official in the archdiocese who is now bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Elsewhere in the deposition, Law said allegations were being handled by the Rev. Robert Banks, a former archdiocesan official who is now a bishop in Wisconsin.

When a complaint was made, he said, ``I would have expected him to have handled the case appropriately.''

He said he did not personally see files of priests in trouble - not even Geoghan's file. Instead, he said, ``I relied on those who assisted me in this matter to do all that was appropriate.''

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was hit yesterday with a suit claiming civil violations of anti-racketeering statutes. Jeffrey Andersen, a leading lawyer in sexual molestation cases, argues that the church and its leaders created a criminal enterprise by covering up abuse, wire services reported.

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