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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July, 2003, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Boston priests 'abused hundreds'
Cardinals in Rome
The Church is struggling to deal with sexual abuse scandals worldwide
Hundreds of people have told investigators they were sexually abused as children by priests from the Archdiocese of Boston since 1940.

A grand jury inquiry found the archdiocese received complaints from 789 alleged victims, involving more than 250 clergy and other workers.

Attorney General Tom Reilly said in a 91-page report that the level of abuse "borders on the unbelievable".

He said Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop last December, "bears the ultimate responsibility for the tragic treatment of children that occurred during his tenure".

"But by no means does he bear sole responsibility. With rare exception, none of his senior managers advised him to take any of the steps that might have ended the systemic abuse of children," he said.

No charges

The inquiry was exploring whether the church hierarchy should be charged for ignoring allegations of abuse.

Despite the attorney general's scathing remarks about what he called an "institutional acceptance of abuse," no charges are to be filed because child-protection laws in place while abuses were taking place would not allow it.

A protest by about two dozen alleged victims took place at the attorney general's office on Tuesday.

Father Edward McDonagh, accused of rape - but church officials said they could not substantiate the claim

"How dare there be no indictments," said Kathleen Dwyer, 58, who said she was sexually abused by a priest at her church in Braintree in the early 1950s, when she was seven years old.

One protester carried a sign that read: "They let children be raped. Their punishment: Nothing."

The investigation did not uncover any evidence of recent or ongoing sexual abuse of children.

But the attorney general said the inquiry did not find any information that would explain the drop-off in recent complaints.

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

A state law passed last year adds members of the clergy to a list of professionals required to inform state officials of suspected child abuse.

The BBC's Owen Franks
"Church officials say they hope to settle the claims out of court"

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01 Jul 03  |  Americas
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13 Dec 02  |  Americas

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