Release of Papers Puts Pressure on Cardinal in Boston
April 10, 2002
By PAM BELLUCK with DANIEL J. WAKIN
New York Times
BOSTON, April 9 - For months, as the scandal over abusive
priests unfolded in Boston, the archbishop, Cardinal
Bernard F. Law, seemed damaged, but still in control.
He apologized for having allowed a known pedophile, the
Rev. John J. Geoghan, to continue in the priesthood but
said he had been relying on expert medical opinions.
Cardinal Law gave prosecutors names of priests accused of
abusing children and suspended those still in the
priesthood. He refused to resign, and it seemed to some
that he might weather the storm.
But today, a day after the release of 800 pages of
documents in a lawsuit over another priest who faces
multiple accusations of sex abuse, calls for Cardinal Law's
resignation were renewed, and some of them came from new
and prominent voices. Across the city, people felt that the
evidence in the documents was much more incriminating to
Cardinal Law than anything else unearthed since the scandal
"With Geoghan, there wasn't a smoking gun and now there
is," said Philip Lawler, a former editor of The Pilot, the
archdiocesan newspaper, who had worked under Cardinal Law
and been slow to criticize him. "There's no way to write it
off to inadvertence or to mistaken judgment. It was
The memos and letters released in the case of the Rev. Paul
R. Shanley show that the cardinal had knowledge of the
abusive background of the priest as well as knowledge of a
church-ordered psychiatric evaluation of Father Shanley.
The records indicated that Cardinal Law or his most senior
officials not only continued to allow Father Shanley to
have access to children, but transferred him to dioceses in
California and New York without informing officials there
about his history.
And the documents reveal a cardinal who is compassionate
and even complimentary toward Father Shanley, but give no
hint that the cardinal was concerned about those who said
Father Shanley abused them.
"A lot of minds have been changed," said Thomas O'Connor,
the Boston College historian and an expert on Boston
Catholics who had not supported calls for Cardinal Law's
resignation until today. "There seems to be a sea change or
a quantum leap, if you like. One, because the paper trail
is so long and so large. The details are so much more
poignant and specific."
Also today, one prominent Catholic in the cardinal's inner
circle, Thomas P. O'Neill III, the son of the former
speaker of the House of Representatives, said he felt
compelled for the first time to call on the cardinal to
"It is time that he step aside," said Mr. O'Neill, chairman
and chief executive officer of GPC O'Neill and Associates,
a public relations firm. "I just think that the church
needs leadership and I think that we cannot withstand just
more defensiveness about the management of the past."
Officials of the archdiocese declined to comment today.
Father Shanley, now 70, could not be located for comment.
Some of the documents most directly damaging to Cardinal
Law were written while Father Shanley was in New York from
1995 to 1997, serving as acting director of Leo House, a
Catholic guest house for students, travelers and members of
By that time, the archdiocese had settled at least one
lawsuit against Father Shanley and has at least one other
suit pending. Cardinal Law had also been notified in a memo
from a senior archdiocesan official that a church-ordered
evaluation of Father Shanley at the Institute for Living in
Connecticut in 1993 found that he "has a great deal of
Still, in 1997, when Father Shanley was being considered
for a permanent job as executive director of Leo House,
Cardinal Law wrote to New York's cardinal, John O'Connor,
saying he "would not object" to Father Shanley's being
given the position.
"Two conflicting issues arise in considering Father Shanley
for the post," Cardinal Law wrote. "The first is that he
has done good work and is surrounded by a competent staff
which is aware of his situation. Opposing this is the
likelihood that the role of Executive Director will bring
with it a greater notoriety. That could draw publicity to
him, to Leo House and to the church."
The cardinal made no mention of concern that Father Shanley
might be in a position to abuse other children or young
people, only that Father Shanley's past might bring
negative attention to the church. The letter was apparently
never sent because Cardinal O'Connor had already rejected
Father Shanley for the post.
According to a 1995 memo written to Cardinal Law by a
senior Boston official, the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, Cardinal
O'Connor was "skittish" about promoting Father Shanley. He
cited bad publicity from a lawsuit by long-term residents
of Leo House fighting eviction and noted that Leo House was
close to the Greenwich Village's gay community, which had
made Cardinal O'Connor a frequent target. Cardinal
O'Connor, Father Flatley wrote, "feels that this situation
could be used for negative publicity."
Other documents showed that Cardinal Law displayed a
forgiving, even approving approach to Father Shanley.
In a 1995 letter to Father Shanley, Cardinal Law seemed to
commiserate with him over the fact that one of his accusers
was intent on keeping track of Father Shanley's postings
and whether he was being monitored.
"This has been a tumultuous year for you, Paul," the
cardinal wrote. "It must be very discouraging to have
someone following you and making inconsistent demands. I
know how hard you have worked to deal with the issues of
the past, and the progress you have made."
Later that year, after a nun at Leo House wrote Cardinal
Law that someone had called warning that Father Shanley was
a child molester, an archdiocesan official responded by
telling the nun that "Leo House is a good placement for
Father Shanley," according to one memo.
And in 1996, in a letter granting Father Shanley "senior
priest/retirement status," Cardinal Law thanked him for his
Over the last few months, Cardinal Law has repeatedly said
he will not resign, arguing that it would be better for him
to stay and fix the problems. Although polls as far back as
February have shown that a majority of Catholics would like
him to step down, the cardinal has supporters.
"What I know of His Eminence, I know that he would never
intentionally do any sort of evil act," said Robert
Morrissey, a lawyer involved in church fund-raising. "He's
a good man of God. He acknowledges himself that he made
mistakes, but you know, we all do.`
Still the new documents, which the archdiocese provided
under court order to a lawyer for one of Father Shanley's
accusers, have angered and troubled people all across the
city. The Boston Herald reiterated its call for his
resignation. Irate callers have clogged the talk-radio
airwaves, and one show even planned a live broadcast in
front of the cardinal's residence.
Many people presumed that the cardinal bore responsibility,
not just for his own writings, but also for memos and
letters written by his senior officials.
In one, for example, Bishop Robert J. Banks wrote to the
diocese of San Bernardino that Father Shanley, who was
being transferred there in 1990, was a priest "in good
standing" who "has no problem that would be a concern to
In 1991, during his assignment in California and before his
position in New York, the Rev. John B. MacCormack, in an
internal memo, said, "It is clear to me that Paul Shanley
is a sick person."
And in several notes about Father Shanley, senior officials
speak of him in light, almost jocular tones, saying,
"Dealing with Paul Shanley is never dull!" or, "He is an
Dr. O'Connor, the historian, said, that in the Geoghan case
"many people sort of made the case that this was an old
situation" and that Cardinal Law had not been responsible
for the bad decisions made before he became archbishop in
With the Shanley case, "people say he must have been aware
of what was going on."
Rape Charge for Detroit Priest DETROIT, April 9 (AP) - A
priest accused of raping a 48-year-old parishioner last
October returned to Michigan today from a St. Louis
treatment center and was arraigned here.
The priest, the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame, 43, has worked
at Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit since 1999.
Father Houndjame, who is from Africa, also faced
accusations of sexual misconduct in his previous assignment
in St. Augustine, Fla., Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, a spokeswoman
for the diocese there said. Father Houndjame was removed
from his position there after three women complained of
unwanted advances, Ms. Bagg-Morgan said.