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Catholic Bishops Back In The Hot Seat

Cardinal Bernard Law spent a fourth day answering questions Wednesday about how the Boston Archdiocese responded to sexual abuse allegations against a retired priest.

Law was questioned by civil attorneys for four men who claim they were sexually abused by Paul Shanley between 1984 and 1990. His testimony is expected to resume after Labor Day, said Roderick MacLeish, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Neither MacLeish nor attorneys for the Boston Archdiocese would discuss the depositions. But MacLeish denied a claim by Law's attorney that settlement talks were ongoing.

"Settlement discussions have been off the table (for) weeks now," said MacLeish. "There have been absolutely no substantial discussions with anyone from the archdiocese."

Law's attorney, J. Owen Todd, said he is actively pursuing a settlement and that he had discussions with attorneys from MacLeish's firm Wednesday morning.

In the first two days of his deposition, Law testified he never looked at Shanley's personnel file before he promoted him in 1984 to pastor at a Newton church.

In Shanley's file were letters from people who had heard the priest advocating sex between men and boys and blaming children for seducing adults.

More than 370 pages of transcripts and seven hours of videotapes of the first two days of Law's deposition in June were released publicly Tuesday. The lawsuits allege Law and other church officials were negligent in their supervision of Shanley.

Shanley, 71, who was once known for his street ministry to gay and troubled youth, has pleaded not guilty and is in jail awaiting trial on charges he abused boys from 1979 to 1989.

The deposition of Manchester (N.H.) Bishop John McCormack, a former deputy to Law, is scheduled to continue Thursday in Manchester.

Next Wednesday and Thursday, Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn - who used to be in the Boston archdiocese - will be questioned. Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay, Wisconsin, will also face a new round of questioning in the coming weeks.

In another development, a Massachusetts priest pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of rape of a child. Father Paul Hurley was charged last week with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in his Cambridge church in 1987 and 1988, paying up to $100 for sex acts.

Hurley, 59, of Sandwich, said outside court he was shocked by the charges. He said all priests have suffered from the barrage of sex abuse allegations made across the nation.

"A lot of priests feel that they're just one allegation away," he said. "They're just nervous out there dealing with people."

Hurley is on administrative leave and has been restricted from acting as a priest. He was released after his arraignment.

In other developments Wednesday:

  • A Franciscan friar was arrested on charges he sexually abused four victims at a church in East Boston. Prosecutors say that because Franciscan Brother Fidelis DeBerardinis moved out of state after the alleged incidents - between 1968 and 1973 - the statute of limitations has not yet expired.

    The new indictment brings to five the number of Boston-area priests facing criminal charges that they sexually abused children while serving as clerics in the nation's fourth-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese. The archdiocese is also facing civil claims from about 200 people who allege they were abused by priests and as many as 200 others are preparing lawsuits, according to lawyers.

  • A 21-year-old man is suing the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest who was indicted on sexual misconduct charges last week. The suit brings to 172 the number of claims pending against the Archdiocese of Louisville. The archdiocese declined comment Wednesday.
  • A Mesa, Ariz., priest was accused in a lawsuit of molesting a teenage boy between 1993 and 2000. A diocese spokeswoman said the priest was placed on administrative leave after the alleged victim came forward.
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