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Records Show Law Ignored Priest's Past

Dec 12, 2002 | USA Today

Cardinal Bernard Law recommended a priest to a military chaplain's post in 1996 even though he knew of allegations of child sexual abuse against him, including a $200,000 settlement to his alleged victim, say court documents released Wednesday.

''I am unaware of anything in his background that would render him unsuitable to work with minor children,'' Law wrote in a January 1996 letter to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, endorsing the Rev. Redmond Raux for a position as chaplain with the Air Force.

The latest revelations about Law's actions in dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse came as the embattled cardinal continued meetings with Vatican officials in Rome.

Law flew to Rome unexpectedly over the weekend. There was no word on if he was there to discuss resigning. The talks are believed to involve the possibility that the archdiocese will seek bankruptcy protection due to 450 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese over alleged child sexual abuse. Vatican officials said Law was to meet with Pope John Paul II on Friday.

Calls for Law's resignation have grown louder in the wake of the bankruptcy issue and release of court records showing he kept priests in public ministry despite allegations and evidence they had sexually abused children.

This week, 58 priests in the archdiocese released a petition calling for Law to resign. Officials with Voice of the Faithful, a group of Catholic laity that formed this year to demand that parishioners have more of a say in church matters, also called on Law to resign.

In a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll out today, 70% of Catholics surveyed said the pope should remove Law, virtually unchanged from an April poll in which 68% said he should go.

Wednesday's news that Law failed to warn officials about allegations against priests is the latest in a series of revelations as plaintiffs' attorneys rush to file records in court before the cases are frozen by bankruptcy action.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish, who released church records on 11 priests Wednesday, said the Raux case was disturbing because Law had endorsed the priest despite accusations in 1992 of abuse of a 12-year-old boy. According to archdiocese records, Raux denied the allegations, but was sent for two psychiatric evaluations and removed from ministry for a time. He was returned to active ministry, then was part of a $200,000 settlement in 1995.

Raux is currently on active duty at Warren Air Force Base, near Cheyenne, Wyo. A Pentagon statement issued late Wednesday said Raux had been investigated and that ''allegations were unsubstantiated.''

An Air Force spokeswoman could not say when the inquiry took place. She said Raux was in the process of ''a normal permanent change of duty'' to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

Meanwhile, a retired priest at the center of the Boston scandal was released on $300,000 bond Wednesday to demonstrators' jeers. The Rev. Paul Shanley, 71, had been in jail since May awaiting trial on charges of raping boys from 1979 to 1989. MacLeish, who represents 20 of Shanley's alleged victims, said his clients were ''devastated'' by the priest's release. He said he hoped Shanley was ''in a safe place and returns for his trial.''

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