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Attorney general not recommending criminal charges in church scandal

By Mark Pratt, Associated Press, 7/20/2003

BOSTON (AP) No criminal charges will be filed against top church officials in the Archdiocese of Boston's clergy sex abuse scandal, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said Sunday.

Attorney General Thomas Reilly's report, based in part on a 16-month investigation by the state grand jury he convened, documents what happened in the archdiocese and suggests needed changes to prevent future abuse, according to WBZ-TV Channel 4, which cited an unidentified source who has reviewed the document.

The attorney general's office would not release the document on Sunday, but confirmed the accuracy of the television report.

''The attorney general has completed a comprehensive 16-month investigation of the Archdiocese of Boston and the report will be released sometime this week,'' Reilly spokesman Corey Welford told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for more than 100 alleged abuse victims, said he had not seen the attorney general's report but expressed disappointment that there would be no criminal charges.

''Given the number of tragedies that have occurred by these sexual molestations and the allowance of these sexual molestations, many of my clients were hoping that there would be indictments so church leaders and individuals would be held responsible,'' he said.

Gary Bergeron, 41, one of 54 men who say they were abused by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham, never expected top church officials to be charged.

''I am not surprised there are no indictments because of the way the laws were written,'' Bergeron said. ''But it's unfortunate that, for all intents and purposes, men who agreed to sanction the abuse of children throughout the years cannot be indicted.''

Archdiocese spokesman Rev. Christopher Coyne said he could not comment until the report was made public.

The grand jury investigated whether the former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, and some of his top aides, many of whom are now bishops in other dioceses, could be held criminally responsible for moving priests from parish to parish even when they knew of abuse allegations.

Reilly said publicly in April that it would be difficult to indict church supervisors for allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work because of weak child protection laws in Massachusetts that were in place when the abuse took place. Reilly came to the same conclusion after the grand jury investigation, according to the report.

Law resigned as archbishop in December, after nearly a year of criticism over his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work. Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley was named July 1 as his successor. Bishop Richard Lennon has served as interim head of the archdiocese since Law's resignation.

In addition to Law, at least eight other top officials in the Boston Archdiocese were subpoenaed to answer questions about their handling of complaints against priests, including the Rev. Thomas Daily, now bishop in Brooklyn, N.Y.; the Rev. Robert J. Banks, now bishop in Green Bay, Wis.; and the Rev. John McCormack, now bishop in Manchester, N.H.

The attorney general's report also suggested ways to prevent future abuse, including increasing penalties for failure to report suspected abuse and ways for the church and laity can work closer together to prevent abuse.

The archdiocese has instituted its own abuse policies, which Reilly has criticized as not tough enough.

The archdiocese is facing about 500 civil suits from alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. Church officials have repeatedly said they remain committed to working toward an out of court settlement.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests