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Lawyer Criticizes Archdiocese Motion

Jan 12, 2003 | AP

A lawyer for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse is blasting a motion by the Boston Archdiocese, citing the First Amendment, to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits filed against the church by alleged victims of clergy sex abuse.

Roderick MacLeish, who represents hundreds of alleged victims, was critical of the archdiocese for arguments they made in a filing arguing that civil law does not apply to how religious organizations supervise their personnel.

"Their position is that they have no accountability to anyone, it is simply nobody's business what they do with priests, even priests who are known to have molested children, even priests who might have pleaded guilty to molesting children," MacLeish said on Friday.

The archdiocese has said the legal move was necessary to satisfy its insurance carriers in hopes at least a portion of any settlement costs, estimated at millions of dollars, will be covered.

Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney is expected to hear arguments on the motion Jan. 17.

MacLeish's response came one day after the release of Cardinal Bernard Law's appointment calendar showing he had numerous meetings during his tenure as archbishop of Boston with priests accused of sexually abusing minors, despite his claims that his role in supervising accused priests was minimal.

More than 800 pages of Law's calendar, released publicly Thursday, show Law had scheduled meetings with at least 20 priests who were either then or later accused of sexually abusing minors. Law resigned as archbishop last month.

The calendar entries do not indicate the subject of the meetings or whether the priests Law met with had already been accused of sexually abusing minors. The records also do not indicate if Law kept each appointment.

But lawyers for alleged victims who are now suing the Boston archdiocese for the failure of Law and other church supervisors to remove abusive priests say the records show a pattern of Law supervising those priests. In pretrial depositions in the civil cases over the last year, Law repeatedly claimed that he left the supervision of priests to his subordinates.

In other developments Friday:

Attorneys announced that 15 alleged victims of sex abuse had reached settlements totaling $5.8 million with a religious order that runs schools in Boston and Portland, Maine.

"People were very, very good and very respectful and I think it made the process a little bit easier," said James Higgins, one of 14 alleged victims of the Rev. James Talbot, a former teacher and coach at Jesuit-run Boston College High School. The other alleged victim said he was abused by the Rev. Francis J. McManus.

Talbot was removed in 1998 after a 16th alleged victim, Cheverus graduate Michael Doherty, filed a lawsuit in Maine. That case was settled in 2001.

The settlements ranged from $1.5 million to $70,000, said MacLeish.

A retired priest living in Canada facing sex abuse charges in Massachusetts waived his right to an extradition hearing on Friday, then was released pending a final appeal.

The Rev. Paul Desilets, 78, has 30 days to submit an appeal to Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who then has 90 days to make a decision on whether to extradite him, Desilets' lawyer said.

Under terms of his conditional release, Desilets must remain in Quebec and stay away from minors, said the lawyer, Guylaine Lavigne.

Desilets, who lives in a Montreal area nursing home, was arrested in October at the request of U.S. authorities. A Massachusetts grand jury indicted him last year on charges of sexually abusing 18 altar boys between 1978 and 1984 at Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Bellingham. Desilets faces no charges in Canada.

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