A priest in the Archdiocese of Boston who acted as a liaison to Cardinal Bernard Law said he was horrified to discover in the 1990s the scope of the problem of child sexual abuse among priests in the archdiocese.
The Rev. Brian M. Flatley testified in a deposition taken last September and released Monday that he was stunned to discover the existence of dozens of secret files, separate from the priests’ regular personnel files, that were kept under lock and key in the archdiocese under Law, who resigned last month as archbishop of Boston.
“It was very shocking to me,” Flatley told lawyers for alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who faces criminal charges and civil lawsuits for abusing boys in Boston-area parishes.
In 1994, Flatley had the titles of assistant to the secretary of ministerial personnel and delegate of the cardinal for clergy sexual misconduct, taking over the delegate position from the Rev. John M. McCormack, now the bishop of Manchester, N.H.
During his two years in that position, Flatley had access to the personnel files of priests who were accused of misconduct. Flatley, who was put in charge of organizing the “chaotic” file system, recalled that about half of the more than 150 confidential files contained allegations of sexual misconduct.
He discussed his dismay over the scope of the problem with other high-ranking priests. Among them was McCormack, Flatley said, who that “he had been shocked as well, I believe, about the scope of the problem.”
Flatley said that while he discussed priest sexual misconduct with Law, they did not discuss the broad scope of the problem.
Flatley’s questioning in September was part of the civil action against Shanley, who has been accused of molesting boys in the Newton parish where he was pastor. Shanley, 71, also faces criminal charges. He has pleaded innocent to 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery on boys from St. Jean’s parish in Newton between 1979 and 1989.
Flatley also said when he saw Shanley’s file, he did not recall seeing complaints about Shanley’s comments suggesting his support for sexual relationships between children and adults. Flatley did, however, recall that Shanley’s file was “big” and that Shanley “offended many people.”
Plaintiff’s attorneys also released a deposition of Sister Rita McCarthy, who served as an advocate of sexual abuse victims within the archdiocese and was generally the first archdiocese representative to interview alleged victims.
In her deposition, McCarthy described the weekly meetings of a team of priests and others who recommended what to do in the aftermath of an abuse allegation. They would also meet with psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital about allegations, McCarthy said.
McCarthy said that she was also in charge of arranging meetings between abuse victims and Law.
“Many times, whenever a victim asked to see the Cardinal or a family asked, I arranged and set it up and went over with them,” she said.
Plaintiff’s attorneys also released a deposition of Monsignor William H. Helmick, a secretary to Cardinals Humberto Medeiros and Law from 1971 to 1987.