Why Isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in Jail? Part 1
By Chris Suellentrop Posted Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002, at 6:13 PM
According to local polls, nearly half of Boston Catholics want Cardinal Bernard Law to resign in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving pedophile priests. Cardinal Law admits assigning a priest to a new parish despite knowing that the priest had molested children. (Click here to read the Boston Globe‘s investigative reports on the scandal.) One family has targeted Law in a civil suit that accuses him of negligence and of intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress. But why isn’t Cardinal Law facing criminal charges?
Because what he did isn’t illegal in Massachusetts. Only 18 states require all persons to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse. Massachusetts isn’t one of them. The other 32 states (including Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia require only persons designated as mandatory reporters to report child abuse.
Mandatory reporters are generally designated by profession: health-care workers, education and child-care workers, social workers, law enforcement officers, etc. Ten states specifically list “clergy” among their mandatory reporters. But Massachusetts isn’t one of those states, either. (Seven of the 10 states requiring clergy to report child abuse also recognize the clergy-penitent privilege, which exempts clergy who become aware of abuse through their capacity as a spiritual adviser, such as through confessions in the Catholic tradition.)
There is a movement afoot in the Massachusetts legislature, however, to add clergy to the state’s list of mandatory reporters. The Massachusetts Senate has already passed a bill that would add both clergy and lay leaders of any church to the list. The law would recognize the clergy-penitent privilege, and it would be retroactive, requiring knowledge of past abuse to be reported within 30 days after the bill becomes law. The bill is expected to pass the Massachusetts House soon, and the governor is expected to sign it.
But even if Massachusetts adds clergy to its list of mandatory reporters, Cardinal Law won’t be going to jail. Under Massachusetts’ mandatory-reporter statute, each instance of failing to report child abuse carries a maximum penalty of a civil fine of $1,000. (Failure to report is a misdemeanor in 34 states. In some of those states, it can lead to imprisonment of up to six months.)
Bishop John McCormack files: Bishop: Church brass hid sex scandal
By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg Boston (MA) Herald June 4, 2002
Manchester, N.H. — A bishop who served as Bernard Cardinal Law’s top personnel aide for a decade testified yesterday that Archdiocese of Boston leaders kept a wave of clergy abuse allegations secret because telling the faithful in the affected parishes might have created “a scandal.”
Bishop John B. McCormack, 67, now head of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., gave the explanation under oath in a deposition in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley abuse case, witnesses to his questioning said.
“He said he didn’t want to create a scandal,’ ” said a visibly incensed Rodney Ford, whose son, Greg, now 24, is suing Law, McCormack, Shanley and the Catholic Church for numerous rapes alleged to have occurred in the 1980s at St. Jean’s Parish in Newton.
“Well, this is a scandal at its highest,” Ford said. “It’s a disgrace what we have had to go through.”
McCormack, emerging from 5 1/2 hours of questioning by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., declined to discuss his testimony in detail or answer questions from reporters. “I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to begin answering the questions that people have, that lawyers have,” said the embattled bishop, who has been urged to resign by The Manchester Union-Leader and numerous others. “I tried to answer them as completely, as thoroughly, as honestly as I could. Thank you for your interest. God bless you.”
The Herald reported yesterday that one document produced as a result of subpoenas in the Shanley case indicates a high-ranking archdiocese nun urged McCormack and others in 1994 that parishes be alerted after their pastors were credibly accused of molestation. Time and again, church documents show, the nun was overruled in favor of secrecy. McCormack admitted yesterday he ignored the nun, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin, preferring to stifle the flow of any information to churchgoers.
At one point yesterday, according to Paula Ford, Greg’s mother, who was also at the deposition, McCormack acknowledged that he usually took the word of priests over parishioners when confronted with allegations of child abuse. “In every incident of every alleged victim, he took the word of the priest over the word of the victim,” she said. “When he found out after the fact that the victim was telling the truth, he never took the time to go back to these people and validate their claims.
“This was one of the most painful days of my life,” she said yesterday. “The truth is so painful.”
MacLeish, who is to depose Law tomorrow and Friday, said the testimony also shows that McCormack and his colleagues at the chancery in Brighton ignored Mulkerrin’s advice in violation of a 1992 directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that lay Catholics should be kept informed of sexual abuse reports. The conference is expected to issue new guidelines on the reporting of abuse by clergy today.
“Had Bishop McCormack taken the advice of Sister Mulkerrin, and gone to the parishes where Paul Shanley and some of these priests had served, and spoken to them and informed the parishioners of what was going on, I don’t think we would be here today,” he said.
MacLeish confirmed a Herald report yesterday that one of Mulkerrin’s memos read: “I know I sound like a broken record. But we need to put in church bulletins `It has come to our attention a priest stationed here between 19XX and 19XX may have molested children – please contact. . .”
MacLeish said his recent deposition of the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, the current archdiocese personnel chief, showed that Boston officials have discussed abuse at just three of the 200 parishes known to have been served by alleged abusers.
The tone of the session was cordial, said Peter Hutchins, a New Hampshire lawyer who also attended because he has cases involving the church. Written and audio-visual transcripts of the deposition could be made available as soon as this afternoon, pending a ruling by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Raymond J. Brassard.
Testimony also included discussions of priests who have not previously been implicated in abuse cases, MacLeish said.
“This is a case about a pattern,” he said. “There were many, many priests who were mentioned today.”
Some questions focused on how the archdiocese handled allegations involving the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin, who is in jail awaiting trial for abuse. Others pertained to a group of priests who attended St. John’s Seminary in Brighton with McCormack in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
They include Revs. Joseph Birmingham, John Geoghan, Bernard Lane and Shanley, all of whom have faced multiple lawsuits.
MacLeish and his law partner, Robert A. Sherman, said soon-to-be released documents include information that could strengthen cases against three or four more priests. They said they planned to make files on 10 more abusive priests public as soon as today.
MacLeish and Sherman stated in court last week that church lawyers were blocking witnesses from cooperating during depositions. There were no such problems with McCormack, MacLeish said.
The Fords said McCormack apologized to them over Shanley. Rodney Ford said he did not take the bishop seriously. Paula Ford said she expects future sessions to produce more troubling details about the church’s handling of the issue.
“I can see the writing on the wall,” she said. “It’s not pretty.”
Bishop John McCormack files: Bishop offers apology to parents of a Shanley accuser
By Matt Carroll Boston (MA) Globe June 4, 2002
Manchester, N.H. — Bishop John B. McCormack apologized yesterday to the parents of a Newton man who allegedly was abused by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, a onetime Newton pastor who was investigated by McCormack for making past statements endorsing sex between men and boys.
Paula and Rodney Ford, the parents of Gregory Ford, said at a news conference that McCormack spoke to them directly at his deposition here, delivering an apology they described as “awkward” and unconvincing. “He apologized and said he was sorry for what happened,” said Paula Ford.
McCormack, who was a top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law before being named bishop of the Manchester Diocese three years ago, made a brief statement after nearly six hours of sworn pretrial testimony in a lawsuit filed by the Fords.
“I tried to answer as thoroughly, as completely, and as honestly as I could,” said McCormack, who declined to take questions from reporters.
Shanley was arrested last month, accused of raping Paul Busa during the 1980s, when Busa was a child attending religion classes at the now-closed St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton. Shanley has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Roderick MacLeish Jr., the attorney for the Fords in their civil suit against Shanley and Law, is today expected to release copies of approximately 1,000 pages of church documents concerning alleged sexual abuse by 11 priests. MacLeish gained access to the documents through the lawsuit in an attempt to show a pattern of negligent supervision of priests accused of sexual misconduct.
MacLeish is also scheduled to take pretrial testimony from Law in the Ford case tomorrow and again on Friday.
Meanwhile, Bishop Robert J. Banks, another former Law deputy who is now bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc., will be deposed today by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is representing 86 alleged victims of convicted pedophile and former priest John J. Geoghan.
Yesterday, Rodney Ford said he found it difficult to sit through McCormack’s deposition.
“It was one of the most painful days of my life,” said Ford, adding that it was particularly difficult to hear McCormack say that in some cases he never informed alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse that he had discovered they were telling the truth.
McCormack wrote to Shanley about a letter from a New York woman who said Shanley had advocated man-boy love, and asked the priest for an explanation. The Fords also said that during his deposition McCormack said he did not have access to documents in what the bishop called a “secret archive” at the archdiocese.
A transcript of McCormack’s deposition will be made public after a Middlesex Superior Court judge holds a hearing to determine when the transcript should be filed.
At the news conference with the Fords, MacLeish, who has repeatedly condemned the archdiocese this year for hiding the extent of sexual abuse among priests, also criticized a Globe report yesterday that said he and other lawyers secretly settled claims against many priests during the 1990s, all of them individual settlements that had the cumulative effect of masking the extent of the problem. “The last thing we were doing was keeping anything quiet,” said MacLeish.
In an interview last night, MacLeish said he brought the extent of the problem to the attention of Boston news organizations almost a decade ago, but insisted that reporters were uninterested in pursuing the issue.
In December 1993, the Boston Herald and then the Globe quoted MacLeish saying he had brought sexual abuse claims involving 20 priests and 28 alleged victims to the Boston Archdiocese.
In the articles, MacLeish praised the archdiocese for removing the unnamed priests from service, saying the church had done a “commendable job” of handling the issue.
In a letter to the archdiocese’s lawyer less than three months earlier, MacLeish raised complaints against 17 priests, and said that just two of them may have had “potentially hundreds of other” victims.
“It is clear that these cases together reflect a systemic pattern of abuse within the archdiocese and an alarming pattern of institutional negligence on a disturbingly large scale,” MacLeish wrote in the Sept. 27, 1993, letter to Wilson Rogers Jr., the church’s attorney.
The 24-page letter contains extensive details about the specifics of the sexual abuse by the priests. Many of their names, and the allegations, did not become public until this year. MacLeish made the letter public yesterday, he said, because it shows that he and his clients, in addition to seeking monetary settlements, also wanted the archdiocese to ensure that the priests would no longer have access to children. In the letter, MacLeish told Rogers he wanted to have the claims mediated, which was done in private.
Asked last night why he did not make the letter public in 1993, or file lawsuits to get the matter before the public, MacLeish said he did not take those steps because of a need to protect the victims, and because caps on liability for charities like the church made lawsuits less attractive than negotiated settlements.
When the Globe reported on Jan. 31 this year that the Boston Archdiocese had secretly settled claims involving more than 70 priests in the last decade, MacLeish disclosed that his law firm accounted for more than 50 priests.
Philip Saviano, a victim of clergy sexual abuse who hired MacLeish to represent him in the early 1990s, said the lawyer did not go far enough a decade ago to expose the problem.
“What I’m saying is, whether [MacLeish] sees it this way or not, he was part of the big web of secrecy,” said Saviano, who is director of the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Maybe he thinks he took steps to protect kids, but ultimately I’d say he didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.”
MacLeish, who represented more than 100 victims of former priest James R. Porter in the Fall River Diocese 1992, said the attention to that case and the subsequent private claims he filed against the Boston Archdiocese forced the church to create new policies and remove priests.
Bishop John McCormack files: Church covered up 4 decades of abuse
By Tom Mashberg and Jack Sullivan Boston (MA) Herald June 5, 2002
Documents on 10 suspended clerics released yesterday put Bernard Cardinal Law, three subordinates and even the late Richard Cardinal Cushing at the center of a broad effort to hide the truth about clergy abuse from parishioners, victims and the public.
The damaging new documents on the suspended clerics also reflect unfavorably on the oversight of priests under the long-lionized Cushing as well as Law’s predecessor, the late Humberto Cardinal Medeiros.
“What we now have before us is a four-decade-long pattern of protecting, harboring and covering up for known child molesters,” said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who released the files and is to depose Law today. “To claim any more that these are isolated cases is absurd.”
The Rev. Christopher R. Coyne, spokesman for Law, conceded yesterday that the latest batch of documents was damaging to his besieged archdiocese. “Once again, it was part of the protective culture of the church of the time,” Coyne said, “and forgetting . . . that the first thing has to be the protection of children.
“It’s going to take a long time to Recover the credibility we’ve lost,” he added.
Included in the files is a three-page handwritten 1993 Law memo in which he details why he let Rev. Eugene M. O’Sullivan be shifted in 1985 to a diocese in New Jersey – even though O’Sullivan had been convicted of raping an Arlington altar boy just a year earlier.
“Boston was not acceptable because of possible scandal,” Law wrote in the 1993 memo, which he apparently prepared after the Associated Press and other news media contacted the chancery about O’Sullivan’s criminal past. “While assignment of a priest under these circumstances is arguable, our present policy does not permit it.”
Nonetheless, after O’Sullivan was bounced from Metuchen, N.J., because of his Bay State convictions, he was allowed by Law to wear his clerical collar for 17 more years – and even served formally at Carney Hospital in Dorchester. The lengths to which Law himself went to assure new priestly duties for O’Sullivan and two other longtime problem pastors – the Revs. Ernest E. Tourigney and Daniel M Graham – are just some of the troubling personnel moves outlined in the files, obtained by MacLeish as part a pretrial investigation of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Other revelations included in the long-hidden files are these:
– Embattled Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., denied over and over to parishioners that Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham was a threat to molest minors, even though Birmingham’s personnel file showed evidence of abuse starting under Cushing in 1964. In April 1987, in his capacity as Law’s secretary for ministerial personnel, McCormack reviewed an emotional inquiry about Birmingham from a male parishioner at St. Ann’s Church in Gloucester. The parishioner, whose son, then 13, was an altar boy under Birmingham, said he learned that Birmingham had been removed from his parish for molesting children, and that the priest had soon after fallen into “poor health.”
Because Birmingham had also preached about AIDS, and was rumored to have engaged in risky sexual practices, the parishioner wrote: “I am concerned about the AIDS situation, and about a priest possibly molesting my son.” He asked Law for an explanation. In answer, McCormack wrote that Law had received the letter and asked McCormack to investigate. McCormack then wrote: “I have contacted Father Birmingham and . . . he assured me there is absolutely no factual basis for your concern regarding your son and him. . . . I feel he would tell me the truth . . . in this matter.”
Birmingham died wasting away from cancer in 1989. Some 40 men have come forward in recent months to file lawsuits against him for abuse, and church files quote him admitting several times under questioning to “sexual improprieties.” Gary Bergeron of Lowell, a Birmingham accuser, said yesterday: “Page after page shows they all knew he was a molester a full decade before he abused me and my brother, but did nothing. It’s incredible to see how these `men of God’ let this go on for so long.”
– The files mark the first clear indications Cushing engaged in cover-ups. The Herald reported last month that Medeiros was deeply implicated in efforts to hide the depredations of defrocked and jailed pedophile James R. Porter. In a letter dated Oct. 1, 1964, a Marshfield couple wrote to Cushing detailing the sexual abuse of their 12-year-old son by O’Sullivan at St. Ann’s Church in Marshfield. In the letter, the couple told Cushing that O’Sullivan had fondled their son, an altar boy, several times that summer. They also informed Cushing of at least four other altar boys who spoke of being sexually abused by O’Sullivan. The couple said they had reported the incidents to the church pastor, who said he would relay their concerns to the archdiocese. The couple later found out the pastor had not followed through. That is when they wrote to Cushing.
“We are taking the liberty of reporting directly to you . . . trusting that you in your wisdom will know best how best to handle the matter,” the couple wrote Cushing.
Shortly after, O’Sullivan was transferred to Our Lady’s Parish in Waltham. That same year, similar accusations were levied, and he was again transferred, next to Point of Pines Church in Revere. An unsigned memo from 1964 acknowledges allegations against O’Sullivan and noted a three-week vacation was arranged beginning June 16, 1964, until July 6, 1964.
“Informed (O’Sullivan) that we would transfer him, effective approx. July 9,” the note states.
And despite Law’s insistence in his 1993 memo there were “no previous reports” of accusations on O’Sullivan, an internal memo from “T.J.D.” to Bishop Alfred Hughes confirmed the O’Sullivan problem. “As far as I can see there is no evidence of treatment following the events of 1964, just transferred etc. . . .,” the memo states.
– Regarding Father Graham, removed in February from St. Joseph’s in Quincy, the papers show he was assigned a “mediator” in 1988 by Bishop Robert J. Banks, now of Green Bay, Wis., a Law aide who was deposed yesterday for his role in the Boston scandal.
The mediator was Shanley, now awaiting trial on three counts of child rape, who acted as middle-man between Graham and the accuser. Shanley referred Graham to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), a program for sexual addictions loosely based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“With Fr. Paul Shanley’s help I have discovered a helpful support group, S.L.A.A.,” Graham wrote to his victim. “Meetings are helpful to keep ones sexuality in check.”
Graham was cleared by church officials to resume parish ministry, but in 1992 was charged once again with abusing minors. In a 1996 letter to Graham, Law offered him a dispensation from Law’s 1993 rules governing molester priests so that he could resume parish work.
– The documents also further the evidence that Medeiros allowed pedophile priests to remain in the ministry and transferred rather than disciplined them.
In 1973, Medeiros approved the request of Rev. Ernest E. Tourigney to take a post as student chaplain at Catholic University in Washington. Medeiros knew Tourigney had been transferred to St. Mary’s in Holliston after accusations of molestation at Immaculate Conception Church in Weymouth.
In his letter to Medeiros requesting the post, Tourigney said his stay at St. Mary’s helped “alleviate a long-term difficult situation with the parish, which I have tried to do to the best of my ability.”
“During my years as a priest, I have worked with the youth both on a parish and deanery level,” he wrote. “It is the type of work I enjoy doing the most, find most rewarding and feel most qualified in doing.” The records indicate there were at least eight victims who accused Tourigney of sexually assaulting them. Still, McCormack and Law gave him new slots.
– One of the more sordid tales to emerge from the papers involves accused predatory priest Richard O. Matte. A man alleges he was abused by Matte after he went to the cleric about being sexually abused by another priest at various places, including drug dealers’ houses in the early-1980s.
According to a letter to church lawyers from Robert A. Sherman, the victim’s attorney and MacLeish’s partner, the then-14-year-old boy was the victim of “violent sexual abuse” by the Rev. Richard Buntel from 1979 to 1985. Both Buntel and Matte were assigned to St. Joseph’s Church in Malden.
The victim claimed Buntel befriended him and introduced him to alcohol and marijuana, later feeding him cocaine and exposing him to “violent pornography.”
“On one occasion, two drug dealers associated with Fr. Buntel urged Fr. Buntel to make a pornographic film of him sexually assaulting (the victim),” Sherman wrote. “(The victim) does not know if this film was ever made.”
Bishop John McCormack files: Memos reveal trail of charges
By Sacha Pfeiffer Boston (MA) Globe June 5, 2002
The departure was sudden, but if parishioners asked what had become of their parish priest, church officials had a tidy explanation ready: The Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham had been “working too hard” and “needed a rest,” according to a three-page, handwritten Nov. 4, 1964, memo by a high-ranking Chancery official.
In fact, Birmingham had been hastily transferred from Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sudbury to St. James Church in Salem after two fathers and their sons reported the young priest had repeatedly fondled the boys.
It’s likely, however, that many Sudbury parishioners knew the truth anyway. The pastor there told Chancery officials that knowledge of Birmingham’s habit of groping altar boys was so “widespread” that some children refused to attend altar-boy meetings and religious education classes.
Forced to face two of his young accusers at a meeting at the Chancery, Birmingham first denied the accusations, then claimed to have no memory of the incidents, and finally apologized for the “impropriety.”
He was ordered to see a Catholic psychiatrist “to get to the root of this problem,” although it is unclear whether he followed through with the directive. He was placed on sick leave and later reassigned to Salem, where his abusive behavior continued, according to a fellow priest who advised church officials in 1970 that Birmingham be transferred again.
The disclosures about the archdiocese’s extensive knowledge of Birmingham’s alleged history of abuse were included among 1,000 pages of church documents released yesterday in connection with a lawsuit filed against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Despite Birmingham’s troubled history, he was moved from Salem to another parish in Lowell, to one in Brighton, to Gloucester, and to Lexington. By the time he died in 1989, he had served in a half-dozen parishes in the archdiocese, leaving dozens of accusations.
Church files show that his alleged abuses were known to Cardinal Bernard F. Law and several of his top deputies, including now-Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., who was one of Birmingham’s seminary classmates, and now-Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis.
In McCormack’s case, he wrote on Law’s behalf to assure a parishioner at St. Ann’s in Gloucester in April 1987 that there was “no factual basis” to his concern that his son may have been molested by Birmingham – even though McCormack had known since at least 1970 of Birmingham’s alleged abuses. “From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter,” McCormack wrote to the parishioner, who had written Law to inquire whether the Birmingham who was removed from Gloucester several months earlier was the same Birmingham who had been removed from Sudbury in the 1960s for molesting boys.
“I see no need of your raising this question with your son,” McCormack added.
Two months earlier, Banks wrote that Birmingham had “admitted there had been some difficulty” when confronted with a recent abuse complaint.”He agreed it would be helpful to resign from the parish, and to seek assessment and therapy,” Banks added.
Birmingham’s file indicates he was sent the same year to the Institute of Living, a Hartford treatment center for sexually abusive priests. After that, he served as parochial vicar at St. Brigid in Lexington from 1987 until shortly before his death in 1989.
After Birmingham’s death, complaints continued to stream in to the archdiocese, including one by a man who received a $60,000 settlement from the archdiocese for abuse he suffered at Birmingham’s hands when he was a high school student in the 1960s.