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‘Smoking gun’ in church crisis?
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Pope’s 1999 order directed Law on how to handle a sex offender in priesthood
Dec. 11— Boston's Cardinal Law is in Rome, where the Vatican is defending him even while some Catholics, priests among them, are calling for his resignation. WHDH-TV's Victoria Block reports.
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Dec. 11 —  As pressure continued to build Wednesday for Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as head of the Boston archdiocese, critics said they had uncovered a “smoking gun” that shows Law and other U.S. Catholic leaders accused of covering up sex abuse allegations were acting on the pope’s orders.

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•  U.S. Catholics
•  One diocese's story
•  Complete coverage

       A GROUP called the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors said Tuesday it had come across the document from among the thousands of personnel files that the Boston archdiocese made public last week. A court hearing lawsuits against the archdiocese had ordered the release.
       Joseph Gallagher, a co-founder of the group, said the document was the “smoking gun” that spelled out a Vatican policy of placing image ahead of child welfare.
       In the document, Pope John Paul II says a defrocked Catholic priest who had a history of molesting boys should leave the areas where his “condition” was known — or stay put as long as it caused no scandal.
       “That would explain why [other] bishops have done the same thing as Cardinal Law — they’ve moved sexual offenders from parish to parish without notifying the parishioners,” Gallagher said.
       The May 25, 1999, document is a translation of Pope John Paul II’s order removing Robert Burns, a convicted pedophile, from the priesthood.
       Donna Morrissey, a Boston archdiocese spokeswoman, said she could not comment on matters of litigation.
       Law himself is at the Vatican, consulting with officials on how to handle the lawsuits. One option would be for the archdiocese to declare bankruptcy.
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       The cardinal is also facing growing pressure to step down.
       “The events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston,” 58 Boston-area priests wrote in a letter released Monday.
       “It’s as close to an open revolt as priests can come,” Stephen Pope, chairman of the Theology Department at Boston College, told Reuters. “It’s not that they’re taking to the streets with torches, but this is something they never do.”
       The file on Burns contained not only lurid revelations about the priest’s behavior but also said Law told the Vatican that his archdiocese had assigned Burns to two parishes even though it knew of his “proclivity” toward molesting boys.
       In his 1999 order defrocking Burns, the pope said the former priest “ought to live away from the places where his previous condition is known.”
       But the pope’s order also offered the man’s religious superior an alternative to forcing Burns to abandon the areas where his condition was known.
       The religious superior “is able to dispense from this clause of the decree if it is foreseen that the presence of the suppliant will cause no scandal,” the document said.
       Roderick MacLeish, a Boston attorney who last week released the archdiocese’s file on Burns along with those of other priests accused of sexual misconduct, said the order is noteworthy not only because it’s relatively recent but also because of its use of the word “scandal.”
       “Now for the first time we’ve seen documents from the Vatican that emphasize the word that we’ve seen so often here in Boston: ‘scandal,’” MacLeish said.
       “This document says he is to be relocated to another place where presumably they wouldn’t know about him, unless the bishop or the cardinal of the appropriate diocese determines it will cause no scandal,” he said. “What about the children?”
       MacLeish has said the files, which a judge ordered the archdiocese to turn over, help prove a central claim in his lawsuits against the archdiocese — that the church reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse without warning parishioners.
       The pope’s order came in response to a memo Law wrote to the Vatican in which he explained that the archdiocese had assigned Burns to two Boston-area parishes even though it had been advised by a center for troubled priests that the man should not be given a job that would put him in contact with children because of his history.
Cardinal Bernard Law
1720671.jpg - 7790 Bytes        “This propensity was known to officials within the Archdiocese of Boston, but overlooked in favor of Father Burns’ solemn assurance of his ability to control his impulses,” according to the cardinal’s memo.
       At the time the memo was written, the archdiocese said it was aware of at least six young men whom Burns allegedly molested while he worked in Boston between 1982 and 1991.
       Burns came to Boston from the diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, where his problem had been noticed.
       Burns pleaded guilty in 1996 to criminal charges that he had sexually assaulted two boys in New Hampshire. He was sentenced to two consecutive four- to eight-year terms in jail.
       Like Boston, nearby New Hampshire has also been embroiled in the controversy. On Tuesday, state Attorney General Philip McLaughlin announced an unprecedented settlement in which the Diocese of Manchester would avoid prosecution by agreeing to submit to supervision of its handling of sexual-abuse complaints for the next five years.
       In the settlement, which also has provisions to protect children from abuse in the future and calls for full disclosure of past abuses, Bishop John McCormack signed a statement that said the diocese “acknowledges the state has evidence likely to sustain a conviction” under the state’s child endangerment statute.
       “The church in New Hampshire fully acknowledges and accepts responsibility for failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children,” McCormack said at a news conference.
       McLaughlin said he had confirmed reports of molestation involving more than 40 priests and was prepared to bring charges based on five or six of them, involving about 30 victims.
       But he said he agreed to drop a prosecution to spare the victims, some of whom were as young as 10 years old when they were molested, from having to testify in a courtroom in front of their tormenters.
       “Consider the abject humiliation of people who today are asked to reflect on things done to them as children over which they had no control whatsoever,” he said.
       The settlement is the only one reached so far under the imminent threat of criminal indictment of a diocese.
       The investigation was triggered by the flood of allegations against Boston-area priests beginning late last year. Some of the alleged abuses occurred in New Hampshire or involved priests or victims who had lived in both states at some point.
       McCormack was already a key figure in the church scandal because he was a top aide to Law before becoming bishop of Manchester in 1998.
       The scandal has focused on Law, and after an outcry earlier this year for his resignation, the cardinal appeared to be making strides toward restoring public confidence. But the personnel files released last week unleashed a torrent of criticism from once-loyal parishioners and priests.
       “He’s lost his diocese,” said the Rev. Robert Bullock, a leader of the Boston Priests Forum, a group that represents about half of the 600 or so priests in the archdiocese. “He’s in hiding. He can’t appear in public here. We need new leadership.”

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       Law and the Boston archdiocese could see more bad publicity Wednesday:
* The Rev. Paul Shanley posted $300,000 cash bail on Wednesday. Shanley, 71, has been charged in Boston with 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery for allegedly abusing boys at a church in Newton from 1979 to 1989.
       A former Boston Archdiocese leader, the Rev. Thomas Daily, now the bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a sworn deposition that the church knew Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys when it promoted him to lead a parish in 1983.
dotblack.gif - 77 Bytes Voice of the Faithful, a lay group of Catholics, said members planned to vote Wednesday night on three separate resolutions calling on Law to resign, asking Pope John Paul II to appoint another bishop, and asking the U.S. Conference of Bishops to follow through on their pledge to hold bishops accountable.
       “The damage that’s happened in Boston is not just local,” said Jim Post, president of the group. “It has affected confidence in bishops everywhere. The question is there now: What secrets are there in our church records?”
       The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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