Cardinal Bernard Law said he did not consult church files before promoting a now-indicted Boston priest even though they contained complaints alleging sexual abuse that dated back 35 years, according to transcripts of testimony released Tuesday.
Law, who leads the Boston Archdiocese, testified in a deposition that a later review of the files of the Rev. Paul Shanley showed a 1966 allegation that Shanley had molested a boy and a 1985 letter from a woman who heard Shanley say in a speech that children are to blame for seducing adults.
”I was not aware of those materials,” Law said. ”You must realize that this man, in 1985, was not under suspicion or I would not have appointed him to pastor. He was not under suspicion.”
Shanley, 71, is a pivotal figure in a sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic Church in accusations that senior church officials covered up abuse by priests.
Shanley is in jail awaiting trial on charges he abused boys from 1979 to 1989 while he was a pastor in the Boston suburb of Newton. He is one of at least four Boston-area priests facing criminal charges in the abuse scandal. Four U.S. bishops and about 250 priests have stepped down in the abuse scandal, which has spread to other countries.
The transcript and videotape of seven hours of Law’s testimony were released Tuesday under court order. The deposition was taken over two days in June by lawyers for families who are suing Shanley, the Boston Archdiocese, Law and other church officials over alleged sex abuse by Shanley.
About 1,600 pages of church records that document complaints about Shanley and other priests have become part of the lawsuit.
In his testimony, Law said he had transferred and promoted several sexually abusive priests but had received assurances that they were safe to minister. He explained that he had relied on subordinates and others for guidance. But he also testified that before he was a cardinal, he believed the responsibility for assigning priests rested with his superiors.
Among the documents in Shanley’s file were letters from Catholics alleging that Shanley had publicly advocated sex between men and boys and was present at a founding meeting of the North American Man/Boy Love Association.
Law’s deposition resumed Tuesday and will continue today. Wilson Rogers, Law’s lawyer, described the deposition proceedings as courteous and professional, although he declined to detail Tuesday’s session.
But Jeffrey Newman, a plaintiff attorney, said any hope for a settlement has evaporated. He said his firm has hired a private investigator.
”Now we’re in full-blown litigation,” he said. ”We’re going to dig in and uncover the real extent and nature of pedophilia, lurid behavior and coverup.”