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Law Addresses Shanley Case

Cardinal Bernard Law responded to the latest release of documents from the file of the Rev. Paul Shanley, telling parishioners in a letter that he did not learn until 1993 that the priest was accused of molesting boys.

Law rescinded Shanley's authorization to be a parish priest in San Bernadino, Calif., after learning of the abuse allegations, the cardinal wrote in a letter distributed on Pentecost Sunday. He said he was not aware of allegations against Shanley dating to the 1960s until a few months ago.

The archdiocese faces civil suits alleging it knew of those allegations before it assigned Shanley to a Newton parish.

Records released earlier this year showed the archdiocese knew of abuse claims against Shanley as far back as 1967 and that he had spoken out in favor of sex between men and boys, but it did little more than transfer him from parish to parish. Law did not arrive in Boston until years later.

Fifty new documents from Shanley's personnel file were released on Tuesday in what an attorney for alleged victims said represents "the strongest statement to date" that church leaders knew how dangerous the priest had become.

Law, who has been under pressure to resign as documents detailing the archdiocese's handling of priests accused of sexual misconduct have been made public, again apologized for past errors in judgment, saying there was never an intent to put children at risk.

"When I arrived in Boston in 1984, I assumed that priests in place had been appropriately appointed," Law said in the three-page letter.

"It did not enter into my mind to second-guess my predecessors, and it simply was not in the culture of the day to function otherwise. Despite the quantity of documents released and statements on the part of some indicating they know otherwise, before God I assure you that my first knowledge of an allegation of sexual abuse against this priest was in 1993."

The Diocese of San Bernardino confirmed Sunday that it received a letter from Boston in October 1993 informing them of allegations against Shanley.

Law also wrote that when Shanley left Boston in 1990, it was at his own request for sick leave and had nothing to do with abuse allegations.

Calls to Roderick MacLeish, an attorney representing Shanley's alleged victims, were not returned.

Shanley served a parish in Newton from 1983 to 1990. This month, he was extradited to Massachusetts to face charges he raped a boy over a six-year period in the 1980s, including in a church confessional.

Shanley has pleaded innocent to three criminal charges of child rape.

In other developments:

  • The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville, Ind., has removed from ministry a priest accused of having a past sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy. The Evansville Courier & Press reported Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger terminated the Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer's duties as a priest. The bishop said that Kurzendoerfer had disobeyed restrictions placed on him in 1998 after he admitted to soliciting sex from a young adult. The bishop's action means Kurzendoerfer "is a priest, but he cannot do any of the things that a priest normally can do. He will have no task in ministry appointed by the church," a diocese spokesman said. The diocese offered to provide counseling for Kurzendoerfer.
  • In Louisville, Ky., the Jefferson Circuit Court will hear arguments from the Archdiocese of Louisville and an attorney for several dozen people who have sued the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse. Last week, the archdiocese asked the court to seal all lawsuits and records regarding the charges. Since April 19, 75 men and women have filed suit against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Louisville - the corporate name of the Archdiocese of Louisville. The plaintiffs allege the archdiocese was aware of sexual misconduct complaints, but did not abide by state and church laws regarding sexual abuse with a minor. In its motion, the archdiocese cited a statute demanding the court seal all records regarding childhood sexual cases more than five years old.
  • In Milwaukee, three men who were abused as youngsters by a priest at a Roman Catholic school for the deaf say they hope telling their stories encourages other victims to come forward. The men were interviewed by Milwaukee station WITI-TV about their experiences years ago at St. John School for the Deaf in suburban St. Francis. The school closed years ago. According to the report, some of the men who had been abused went to Boulder Junction five years ago to confront the Rev. Lawrence Murphy about his actions while serving at the school decades ago. A videotape shows Murphy, who died in 1998, telling the men the incidents were long ago and saying, "I'm sorry," and "don't bother me." Murphy admitted to the Milwaukee Archdiocese that he sexually abused 34 boys while he worked at the school, the report said.
  • The Catholic Diocese of Nashville paid off Edward McKeown to leave the priesthood, but officials didn't warn appropriate officials that he was a pedophile and didn't keep him from working with children at a church, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Tennessean reported that summaries of testimony and evidence in a legal brief unsealed by the state Court of Appeals showed that McKeown's doctors instructed diocesan officials to keep him away from children. Diocese officials had assured parishioners in July 1999 that McKeown had been removed from contact with youth after the first complaint in 1986 and that they knew of only three incidents.
  • A Roman Catholic priest has resigned after three men came forward last week accusing him of sexually molesting them during the early 1960s, Bishop John B. McCormack said Sunday. The Rev. Aime Boisselle of Sacred Heart Church in Concord is accused of molesting the men while serving in a Manchester parish, McCormack said. The alleged victims were in their early teens at the time. No criminal charges have been filed and McCormack said he did not believe any of the men had filed lawsuits naming Boisselle. McCormack was not certain whether authorities had been informed about the allegations.
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