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Psychiatrist: Church Withheld Key Information About Priests

Jul 14, 2003 | AP A psychiatrist said he was "stupefied" that the Boston archdiocese withheld key information about abusive priests he evaluated, and would have recommended jail for the Rev. Paul Shanley had church officials provided all information about the accused pedophile.

The Rev. Dr. Edwin Cassem, a Jesuit priest and former chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, evaluated dozens of priests accused of sexual misconduct in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In a two-day deposition taken by lawyers representing alleged abuse victims, Cassem strongly criticized former church leaders, particularly Bishop John B. McCormack, a former top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law, for failing to provide him with key information about the priests he evaluated. The deposition became public when it was filed in court Friday.

The list of priests Cassem evaluated includes notorious names, such as the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, who faces criminal charges for allegedly raping young boys.

Cassem evaluated Shanley in 1994. Cassem said he never saw documents suggesting Shanley was involved with a group believed to be a precursor of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, and never learned that Shanley believed that children sexually seduced adults.

Cassem, who generally took a negative view on the chances of rehabilitation, said he recommended that Shanley be kept away from any ministry.

"He was a notorious dangerous pedophile," Cassem said in his deposition. "He was a predator. He was a scumbag castration was too good for him."

Cassem said he would have recommended jailing and laicizing Shanley if he had seen all of the documents the archdiocese had.

In addition, he said church officials reassigned some abusive priests to active ministry after he recommended they should stay away from parish work.

During the deposition, Cassem grew infuriated when he learned that church officials had apparently repeatedly ignored his advice.

He said he recommended that the Rev. James D. Foley, a priest who fathered two children with a married woman who died of a drug overdose, not return to active ministry. During the deposition, he learned that Law had given Foley a new assignment in Salem, at McCormack's urging.

In a separate deposition, Law has testified that he relied on Cassem's advice. Last year, he appointed Cassem to the Cardinal's Commission to Protect Children, a panel that advised the archdiocese on ways to prevent further child sexual abuse by clergy.

The 370-page transcript of Cassem's deposition was released Friday as lawyers for alleged sexual abuse victims and the archdiocese met behind closed doors with mediators to discuss potential settlements of hundreds of civil lawsuits filed against the church.

Joseph L. Doherty Jr., a Boston lawyer who represents McCormack, accused Roderick MacLeish, an attorney for a Boston firm that represents more than 260 alleged victims, of provoking Cassem by withholding documents before the deposition, then presenting information out of con.

"It's tremendously unfair," Doherty said. "It paints a completely inaccurate picture of Cassem's relationship with McCormack."

Through a spokeswoman at MGH, Cassem declined to comment.

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