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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
US cardinal answers questions in court
Cardinal Law arrives in court
Cardinal Law was quickly ushered into the building
Cardinal Bernard Law, one of America's most senior Roman Catholics, has told a court he relied on the advice of doctors and subordinates when he approved the transfer of a priest accused of molesting children.

The cardinal has been answering lawyers' questions in a rare deposition of a high-ranking church leader.


It is just impossible for him not to have remembered that letter - I found that the cardinal had some selective amnesia

Mark Keane, alleged abuse victim
He was ordered to give evidence in a civil case brought by 86 alleged victims of defrocked priest John Geoghan

They say Cardinal Law and the Boston Archdiocese which he leads failed to protect youngsters from Geoghan, who has been convicted of fondling a 10-year-old and accused of sexually abusing more than 130 children over three decades.

Although the deposition was closed to the public, an 88-page transcript of the morning session was released by the plaintiffs' side.

Warning letters

William Gordon, a plaintiffs' attorney, asked the cardinal why he had approved Geoghan's transfer in 1984 even though he had received letters and other evidence of abuse by the priest.

Law said he did not remember reading letters warning about Geoghan's behaviour - including one from his own secretary - and said that doctors had said Geoghan was not a threat.

"I am sure that medical assurance was given," he said. "Whether it was subsequently put in writing, I cannot say.

"But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this letter would never have been put before me for a signature had we not had the assurance of someone competent to give that assurance that this assignment was safe."

Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston
Law is accused of moving priests rather than revealing abuse
Cardinal Law said he did not remember reading a letter from Margaret Gallant, a relative of seven of Geoghan's alleged victims, who had expressed disbelief that the church gave Geoghan another chance at a parish in Boston.

Nor did he recall a letter from Bishop John D'Arcy warning him that Geoghan was unfit to be reassigned.

Tight security

Mark Keane, who says he was a victim of Geoghan and who attended the deposition, said: "It is just impossible for him not to have remembered that letter. I found that the cardinal had some selective amnesia."

The cardinal arrived for the hearing in Boston in a silver car with tinted windows, and was taken into the building by a phalanx of security personnel.

Earlier, Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for Mr Geoghan's alleged victims, said he expected to spend several days questioning the cardinal.

"He has to be honest, he has to be straightforward, he has to come clean. I've been working on this case for eight years - it is time for this," said Mr Garabedian.

Retired priest Paul Shanley appearing in court
Former priest Paul Shanley was arrested last week in California

Cardinal Law's deposition is being be videotaped so that it can be produced as testimony if he is not available for the civil trial - at that time the tape would be made public.

The cardinal has been under intense pressure to resign from his position ever since the sex abuse scandal became public.

He has also been accused of having knowledge of allegations against another priest, Paul Shanley, who has been charged in a criminal case with three counts of child rape.

On Friday he was severely criticised after the Church announced it would not honour an agreement to pay compensation to 86 of Geoghan's alleged victims, on the basis that this would leave it unable to pay any other victims who might come forward.

See also:

07 May 02 | Americas
Priest denies child sex abuse
04 May 02 | Americas
US Church rejects sex abuse deal
22 Apr 02 | Americas
Cardinal vows to fight sex abuse
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