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New Claims Filed Vs. Boston Archdiocese

Jan 30, 2003 | AP Like many alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, Scott Montesano says he was too ashamed to come forward.

"I realize now I was not at fault," said Montesano, who alleges that he was molested as an altar boy in East Boston. "I just fell prey."

The 40-year-old Salem man was among plaintiffs who filed 70 new claims Wednesday against the Archdiocese of Boston. The lawsuits filed by attorney Mitchell Garabedian bring the number of outstanding cases against the archdiocese to about 470. The incidents date from 1941 through the 1980s.

The claims name 13 priests who had not been named before, at least three of whom are still in active ministry.

The new claims also charge negligence against Bishop Daniel A. Hart of Norwich, Conn., and Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn., both former supervisors in Boston who had not been named in previous suits.

Spokeswoman Jacqueline Keller said Hart couldn't comment because he only learned about the suit Wednesday afternoon. A call to a spokesman for Cronin wasn't immediately returned.

The new claims allege three instances in which the same victim was abused by two different priests.

"It just goes on and on," Garabedian said. "It's just very sad, it's shocking and it's senseless."

An archdiocese spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said church officials have just begun reviewing the lawsuits and had no immediate comment.

Also Wednesday, Bishop Richard G. Lennon said he's received permission from a church panel to sell 11 church properties to help pay the mounting claims. He said he expected the sales to raise $10 million to $15 million.

Plaintiffs' lawyers estimate it could cost at least $100 million to settle all the pending suits.

Since being named interim head of the archdiocese Dec. 13, the day the pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, Lennon has said settling the lawsuits is a priority.

He said he hopes victims' lawyers will accept a proposal to suspend action on the lawsuits for 90 days so both sides can focus on settlement talks. Some lawyers have agreed to do so, he said, while others have not.

Lennon also defended the archdiocese's legal maneuvers as it tries to settle the civil lawsuits.

He hired a high-profile First Amendment lawyer to argue the suits should be dismissed because the separation of church and state bars civil courts from a role in supervising priests.

Activists for alleged abuse victims were outraged when church lawyers issued subpoenas to victims' therapists. The move came three months after the archdiocese made a public offer to pay for counseling for any victim who sought it.

Lennon said those were standard legal tactics meant to satisfy the church's insurance carriers, which he hopes would cover at least a portion of any settlement costs.

"I've only made decisions based upon the sincere hope of achieving a comprehensive settlement," Lennon said.

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