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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Cardinal 'ordered to testify' over abuse
A demonstration in Boston calling for Cardinal Bernard Law to resign
Demonstrators have been out in force
The Archbishop of Boston has been ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating allegations that Catholic priests sexually abused children, a Boston newspaper reports.

Thursday's Boston Globe said Cardinal Bernard Law and as many as seven bishops who served under him were subpoenaed last Friday - the day Cardinal Law left Boston for Rome.

Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law
Law is accused of failing to confront the problem
The report came as a group claiming to represent some 25,000 parishioners called on Cardinal Law to resign immediately over his handling of the paedophilia allegations.

The group, Voice of the Faithful, voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to ask Cardinal Law to step down due to what it called "a pervasive pattern of behaviour to conceal and cover up... evil actions".

Since the weekend, Cardinal Law has been in Rome, where he is believed to be discussing the possibility of resigning.


On Monday, 58 priests signed a letter asking the cardinal to step down in what Catholic theologians are describing as a "revolt" or "rebellion".

Cardinal Law is expected to meet the Pope on Thursday or Friday, when he may also discuss the possibility of declaring the Boston archdiocese bankrupt in the face of about 450 lawsuits alleging child abuse by priests.

Grand jury
Convened by judge to determine if there is sufficient evidence to press criminal charges
Composed of ordinary citizens as in a normal jury
Secret proceedings
Lower burden of proof than "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of criminal cases
The Massachusetts Attorney General's office refused to comment on the report that Cardinal Law had been ordered to appear before a grand jury.

The Boston Globe reported that such a jury had been at work for months.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General told BBC News Online that there was "an active ongoing investigation into the diocese" but would not elaborate.

In the US, grand juries are called to determine whether evidence is strong enough to bring criminal charges against an individual.


Voice of the Faithful took its vote as the Boston diocese released 2,000 pages of personnel documents on 11 accused priests.

Pope John Paul II prays in Rome
The Pope will make the final decisions
The files - released in response to a court order - contained allegations that a 17-year-old was sexually abused on 21 consecutive nights as he travelled across the US with a priest.

Another shows that Cardinal Law recommended a priest for a position as a military chaplain not long after the diocese paid $200,000 to the family of a young man who said the priest had molested him.

Wednesday's documents were the second group of more than 11,000 files on 65 priests that the church has been ordered to release. The diocese has released about half so far.

Also on Wednesday, the Rev Paul Shanley was released from prison on bail as a small group of protesters shouted "pervert" at him.

Allegations against Mr Shanley, 71, sparked the crisis earlier this year. He has surrendered his passport and been ordered not to leave the state or contact anyone involved in the case against him.

No date has been set for his trial on 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault.

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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09 Dec 02 | Americas
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