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Lawyers Maneuvering As Law Apologizes

Nov 17, 2002 | AP Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation and apology yesterday afternoon isn't slowing the legal maneuvering in more than 400 lawsuits filed against the Boston Archdiocese in the clergy abuse scandal.

As Law apologized yesterday, an attorney representing alleged victims said he expects to file several dozen more lawsuits.

"There's no moratorium whatsoever," said Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents more than 200 alleged victims.

The files of 10 more priests who are alleged to have abused children were released yesterday, including allegations against Brother Kevin Ghastin, who was listed in church files as being a permanent deacon at St. Ann's in Marlborough at the time of the allegations.

The allegations against Ghastin did not occur in Marlborough, and a person who answered the phone at St. Ann's yesterday told the Associated Press Ghastin did not work there and he had never heard the name.

At his press conference, Law said yesterday he would take a brief vacation with fellow priests after Christmas and retreat to a monastery. He said he would live outside the archdiocese, which covers eastern Massachusetts. He did not say where.

He took no questions, but tapped a binder holding his statement and said, "I'm just going to let it go."

But the church will not be able to do the same, as Mitchell Garabedian, another attorney for alleged victims, said he plans to file an additional 60 to 70 lawsuits against the archdiocese within the next month.

Garabedian said those suits will allege sexual abuse of minors by about 20 priests. He already has about 30 lawsuits pending.

Garabedian said a mediator appointed to try to oversee negotiations aimed at settling the cases called him on Friday, the day Law resigned, to say that the archdiocese's lawyers "have expressed a desire to once again sit down and discuss settlement."

But Garabedian said even Law's departure and the naming of Auxiliary Bishop Richard Lennon as the interim head of the archdiocese does not make him more likely to settle.

"I simply don't trust the leaders of the Archdiocese of Boston," Garabedian said. "Don't forget, this is an organization that has allowed the sexual molestation of children for decades."

In Rome yesterday, the Vatican gave its approval to a revised U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' policy to combat sex abuse in the clergy. The Vatican declared the need to restore the image of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

The policy allows bishops to conduct a confidential, preliminary inquiry when a molestation claim is made to determine whether it is plausible. If it is, the accused priest is to be put on leave, then must go before a clerical tribunal to determine his guilt or innocence.

The old policy that the U.S. bishops approved five months ago allowed church leaders to pull priests out of their jobs as soon as they were accused. Vatican officials expressed concern the approach denied priests due process.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests have criticized the revised rules, saying they give too much discretion to bishops, whose negligence caused the molestation crisis.

MacLeish, who yesterday sounded more hopeful than Garabedian about the prospect of a settlement between alleged victims and the Boston archdiocese, said he had "significant discussions" Friday with a mediator. The talks continued over the weekend, he said.

"The atmospherics have changed dramatically since Friday. ... It's much more conciliatory (on the part of the archdiocese)," MacLeish said.

But MacLeish insisted that his law firm is continuing to take depositions and review priest personnel files - and release batches of them periodically to the public as names of alleged victims are removed from the paperwork.

"There's no general stand-down with the Archdiocese of Boston," MacLeish said.

However, MacLeish agreed to postpone his planned depositions of Law and Bishop John McCormack, of Manchester, N.H., in the case of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is accused of abusing boys at a Newton church from 1979 to 1989.

Both Law and McCormack had been scheduled to be questioned by lawyers this week. Their depositions were postponed until after the holidays.

Meanwhile, another batch of archdiocese personnel files was released yesterday, detailing allegations against 10 members of the clergy. The files contained allegations of disturbing behavior, including one victim's claims that he was abused by three priests who worked together at St. Mary's in Hull.

An alleged victim claimed in 1993 he was molested in 1967 and 1968 by the Revs. Robert Barrett, John A. Dunn and Leo Dwyer. Dunn and Dwyer would abuse him together, the man claimed in papers released as part of Dunn's file.

"It is our understanding that Father Dwyer is deceased, and that Father Dunn has been laicized," the alleged victim's attorney, Matthew J. McNamara, wrote to the archdiocese in 1993.

"However, we would like to know the permanent status of Father Barrett so that we can feel comfortable that other children will not be placed at risk."

Barrett was placed on disability leave in 1995. Allegations against him had already emerged when his file was released last week.

Another file details allegations against Brother Ghastin, who was accused of abusing two brothers at the now-closed Christopher Columbus High School in Boston. The archdiocese paid for therapy for the alleged victims and the case was settled for $30,000. Ghastin denied the allegations.

"It really sounds like it was one of the classic cases as we've all come to learn," the family's attorney, Robert Gluck, said yesterday.

"There was a father who passed away, a mother with two young boys in Dorchester, a priest who befriended the mother and who told her he'd help bring up the boys."

At the time of the allegation, Ghastin was a permanent deacon at St. Ann's in Marlborough, but a man who answered the phone there yesterday said Ghastin didn't work there and he'd never heard the name.

The files indicate the family of the alleged victims went to "a DA in Boston." David Procopio, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, said he could not immediately determine whether his office had ever prosecuted Ghastin.

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