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Mass. Criticizes Boston Archdiocese

Jul 16, 2002 | AP

The state attorney general on Monday criticized the Boston Archdiocese, saying church officials have been slow to implement new policies aimed at protecting children from pedophile priests.

"The words are there, but the action hasn't matched those words, and that causes us concern," Attorney General Tom Reilly said.

In a letter to the archdiocese's Commission for the Protection of Children, Assistant Attorney General Alice Moore said church officials haven't trained priests about the state's new mandatory reporting requirements or educated children and parents on warning signs.

"We continue to be frustrated by the archdiocese's slow pace of progress toward implementing the essential components of a comprehensive program," Moore wrote.

Moore sent the letter to commission chairwoman Maureen Batemen as input on its policy recommendations. The commission, formed by Cardinal Bernard Law, last month released a draft of the recommendations and plans to finalized them in September.

Reilly's office proposed that a "transition team" implement interim reforms while the commission hammers out the final recommendations.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said they only became aware of the letter after calls from the media and were reviewing it.

"In the past six months, the Archdiocese of Boston has made substantial progress in regards to policy reform to protect children.," Morrissey said in a statement.

The attorney general's office praised the commission, but questioned if Law would guarantee implementation of the panel's recommendations.

"Without such assurances, the archdiocese cannot represent to the public that it is doing all it can to protect children from the future risk of sexual abuse," Moore wrote.

Law formed the commission after court documents showed church leaders knew of allegations of abuse by defrocked priest John Geoghan, but still transferred him from parish to parish.

Law announced a zero-tolerance policy, removed more than a dozen active priests, and forwarded to authorities the names of all priests accused of abuse over the past 40 years.

The state attorney general's office credited the archdiocese with adopting some recommendations, such as a hotline for abuse victims, and the creation of a victims' advocacy center.

But Moore said "significant implementation issues remain."

The archdiocese hasn't complied with a request from the attorney general to send to parents tips for recognizing and reporting sexual abuse, Moore said.

Moore also said the archdiocese sent priests packets of information regarding the state's new mandatory reporting requirement, but has failed to train them about the contents. Clergy were previously exempt from state law requiring doctors, teachers, and others to report abuse to authorities.

That information doesn't make clear to priests that church policy also requires abuse reporting to archdiocese officials, she said.

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