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LI, B'klyn Bishops Subpoenaed In Boston Priest Scandal

Dec 13, 2002 | Newsday

Cardinal Bernard Law and seven of his current and former bishops, including Bishops William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, have been subpoenaed to testify in front of a criminal grand jury investigating the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, Massachusetts law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Law, under intense fire in a church sex abuse scandal, resigned Friday as Boston archbishop, the Vatican announced. Law offered to resign in April over the growing scandal, but the pope declined.

Massachusetts officials said the state may ask the grand jury to charge Law, Murphy, Daily and other bishops who are now in Wisconsin, Louisiana and New Hampshire with obstruction of justice, conspiracy or accessory to sexual assault.

They cautioned that, while they are still debating whether to seek an indictment, state law regarding those charges would require proof that the bishops intended for priests to molest children.

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has forced the church to provide thousands of pages of documents, and requested the subpoenas to establish whether there is proof of intent, officials said.

Reilly said the cardinal's resignation would have no effect on the state's campaign to end what he called a half-century of cover-ups of child molestation and sexual misconduct by more than 80 priests involving hundreds of victims in this mostly Catholic city and its suburbs.

"It's far beyond one person,†Reilly said in a news conference Thursday at his Beacon Hill office overlooking the gold-domed State House, where lawmakers for decades refused to enact mandatory child-abuse reporting legislation holding accountable the influential archdiocese. Reilly has been criticized publicly for declining, so far, to prosecute church officials.

"It was a cover-up. It was an elaborate scheme to keep it away from law enforcement, to keep it quiet,†Reilly said. "The church cared more about itself than about kids. And that's wrong.â€

The grand jury has the power to compel Murphy, Daily and other out-of-state church officials to come to Boston to testify, said Kurt Schwartz, chief of Reilly's criminal division. Law enforcement officials declined to say when Daily and Murphy have been asked to appear.

Daily's subpoena arrived Wednesday, said his spokesman, Frank DeRosa. "The bishop did receive the subpoena by mail Thursday and he will cooperate with legal authorities in conjunction with his attorneys,†DeRosa said.

While Murphy had yet to receive his subpoena Thursday afternoon, he will honor it, said Joanne Novarro, spokeswoman for the diocese. "He said he intends to cooperate fully if he is subpoenaed by the grand jury,†she said.

Law and Daily have given depositions in civil cases brought by some of those who have accused priests of sexual abuse.

In Boston, Murphy was vicar general and moderator of the curia, making him second-in-command and head of the diocesan bureaucracy from 1993 until he came to Long Island in 2001.

In October, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota invited Murphy to appear before the grand jury investigating the Diocese of Rockville Centre, but the bishop declined.

Massachusetts is considering whether to charge Law and the bishops individually, or to charge the church as a corporation and hold it responsible for the acts of its employees, one law enforcement official said.

The subpoenas were delivered Friday, at Reilly's request, to the homes of Law, in Boston, and Bishop John B. McCormack in Manchester, N.H., and they were sent by mail the same day to Daily and Murphy, and to Bishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, and Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., officials said.

Other lower-ranking officials, including one nun who was a liaison between the archdiocese and the victims, were also subpoenaed and already have testified, providing information about their supervisors, a law enforcement source said. "It's been very methodical,†the official said.

In recent days a slew of previously secret files on sexual misconduct have been released, with anger against Law continuing to grow.

Protesters gather each Sunday morning to denounce the archbishop at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where Law celebrates Mass. The Boston-based Catholic lay organization Voice of the Faithful, which claims 25,000 members, on Wednesday called for Law's resignation. And 58 of the archdiocese's priests already have signed a letter calling for him to step down, while another group of 250 priests has signaled that it plans to do the same.

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