Skip to main content
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!

Church covered up priest child molestation, Massachusetts AG says

   Story Tools

more video VIDEO
Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic lay group that claims more than 25,000 members, has called for Cardinal Bernard Law to resign. CNN's Bill Delaney reports (December 12)
premium content

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Boston have engaged in "an elaborate scheme" to keep quiet the issue of child sexual abuse by priests, the Massachusetts attorney general said Thursday, adding that the problem goes back "decades, and perhaps for generations."

While laying the blame on "management," Attorney General Tom Reilly did not single out embattled Boston Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, who is in Rome to discuss the problems in his archdiocese with Vatican officials.

"This is an institution that is far beyond one person," he said. "There is a far bigger problem up there than one person."

Reilly did not deny published reports that his office has subpoenaed Law and several other bishops to appear before a grand jury, that he said he had authorized to look into the case last summer.

"It's very difficult under criminal laws in Massachusetts to hold a superior accountable for the acts of another, but we felt an obligation to go forward, particularly with our experience with this institution," he said. "Our experience in the past has been that they do the right thing, they clean house, they cooperate. Obviously that has not happened here."

Instead, Reilly said, "it became clear that there was an elaborate system to keep these crimes that were committed against children and not report them to law enforcement."

Church officials, he said, "cared more about themselves, and that's wrong."

Law may meet pope Friday

Law met with Cardinal Giovanni Re, head of the congregation for bishops, and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the congregation for clergy, but he has not sat down with Pope John Paul II, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told CNN Thursday.

Navarro-Valls said a meeting with the pope is possible Friday.

Reilly said his office is increasingly concerned about the fate of internal policies and procedures developed for the church's use by a commission formed for that purpose. He said he had no knowledge that the policies had been implemented.

Reilly refused to comment on possible criminal charges that could be filed as a result of the investigation, saying no such decisions would be made "until I have all the facts."

And, he said, the issue of whether Cardinal Law resigns would be of "no concern" to the investigation.

"This is a management problem, not faith problem," he said. "Countless children were harmed. ... This church has gone through something like this in the '80s, it has gone through something like this in the '90s. It has to be stopped now."

Opposition to archbishop grows

There is growing clergy and lay opposition to Law continuing as archbishop. On Monday, 58 priests signed a letter asking Law to resign from the post. A Catholic reform lay group, Voice of the Faithful, called Wednesday for Law's resignation. (Full story)

Law stepped down this week as chairman of the Catholic University of America board of trustees. (Full story)

Last week, the Boston archdiocese released extensive documents detailing startling examples of clergy sexual misconduct related to claims priests molested children. In addition, the archdiocese Finance Council authorized Law to seek bankruptcy protection for the archdiocese, which faces an estimated 450 claims from alleged abuse victims.

The Boston Globe reported in Thursday's editions that Law and more than five bishops who worked for him have been subpoenaed to appear before a state grand jury investigating "possible criminal violations by church officials who supervised priests accused of sexually abusing children."

The paper reported that the subpoena was delivered to Law's home Friday, before he left for Rome.

Beth Stone, a press officer in Reilly's office, would not confirm the Globe's report, saying only that "there is an open, ongoing investigation" that includes a grand jury.

-- CNN Correspondent Bill Delaney and journalists Delia Gallagher and John Allen contributed to this report

Story Tools

Top Stories
CNN/Money: Ex-Tyco CEO found guilty
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.