An alleged victim is called negligent
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4/29/2002

In his first legal response to charges that the Rev. Paul R. Shanley began molesting a Newton boy when he was 6 years old, Cardinal Bernard F. Law has asserted that ''negligence'' by the boy and his parents contributed to the alleged abuse.

The cardinal's claim, filed in court by his attorneys, is boilerplate legal defense language. But a lawyer who is not involved in the case and has handled other cases involving allegations of clergy sex abuse said last night that the decision to use such a claim in so sensitive a case showed poor judgment.

Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer who represents others who say they are victims of abuse, said he found no legal fault with the language. But for Law to make use of it, Durso said, ''is dumb beyond belief. It is a stupid argument to make when you know that Catholics are already angry at you.''

Added Durso: ''From the start, the archdiocese has been incredibly stupid in the way they have handled this crisis. And as hard as it was to do, they have managed to make things worse.''

''How could you possibly ever argue to a jury that a 6-year-old is responsible for his own sexual abuse,'' MacLeish said. Gregory Ford's abuse allegedly began when he was 6 and ended when he was 13 - when Shanley resigned as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton in early 1990 and moved to California.