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Yes, someone behaved responsibly in Boston

By Joe Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, Washington correspondent
July 23, 2004

No one will go to jail as a result of Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly's 16-month investigation into the workings of the Boston archdiocese, though it's hard to imagine a more scathing report than the one released yesterday.

"The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable," said Reilly.

Boston church officials "chose to protect the image and reputation of their institution rather than the safety and well-being of children," according to Reilly's 76-page report.

That stings -- even for those of us, 19 months into the current scandal, approaching numbness.

Three cardinals (Richard Cushing, Humberto Medeiros, Bernard Law), auxiliary bishops (including Thomas Daily, William Murphy, John McCormack, Robert Banks, Alfred Hughes) and priests assigned to administrative duties in the chancery engaged in a sustained pattern of gross mismanagement. How many of the 1,000-plus victims would not be victims today absent the sins of omission and commission committed by these prelates and clerics? Nobody knows.

In any other institution (government, business, non-profit) these men would be shown the door. Enron was a catastrophe, but Ken Lay is now unemployed; Howell Raines no longer edits the New York Times. It's called accountability.

Did anyone do anything right in the Boston archdiocese?

Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Mulkerrin "was a strong and lonely advocate for change during her tenure" in the office responsible for dealing with priestly predators, says Reilly's report. She told McCormack, her supervisor at the time, that Fathers John Geoghan and Robert Gale were a continuing threat to children. "Neither Geoghan nor Gale was more closely supervised after she complained, and both priests went on to abuse other children."

In addition, McCormack rejected Mulkerrin's suggestion "to use parish bulletins to … alert parishioners whenever the archdiocese determined that a present or former priest of the parish" may have abused a child.

As priests were surreptitiously shuffled about, Mulkerrin recalled in an April 2003 deposition, she asked McCormack: "What are we thinking of? What are you thinking of?"

What indeed.

She left the job after just two years. "Spiritually, psychologically and physically I could no longer do it."

Cushing and Medeiros are dead. The auxiliaries all got promotions. McCormack is bishop of Manchester, N.H.; Daily leads the Brooklyn diocese, neighbor to Long Island's Rockville Centre diocese, headed by Murphy. Banks is bishop of Green Bay, Wis., Hughes the Archbishop of New Orleans.

Law lives on the grounds of a convent in Maryland and last month attended the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Bishops Conference in St. Louis.

Mulkerrin, a nun of nearly 50 years, former president of her 1,300-member order, holder of two advanced degrees, "lives in Massachusetts and leads spiritual retreats for parish groups," according to the Concord Monitor.

Next week, Sean O'Malley becomes the Archbishop of Boston. Maybe he should look her up.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests