Tue, Jul 22, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Officials involved in church abuse case to escape charges

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BOSTON

Criminal charges will not be filed against Cardinal Bernard Law or any other official of the Archdiocese of Boston for shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish or allowing them to remain in church positions, a spokesman for the state attorney general, Thomas Reilly, said Sunday night.

Reilly will make public this week a "very comprehensive" report detailing a 16-month investigation of the church, including an investigation by a grand jury that was convened last year, the spokesman, Corey Welford, said, confirming a news report on the television station WBZ.

"The attorney general has completed a 16-month investigation of the archdiocese," Welford said.

It will be "a very comprehensive report, which will focus on what happened and why, and what the archdiocese can do to focus on how to protect children now and in the future," he said.

Welford would not offer specifics on why charges would not be pressed or exactly what the archdiocese needed to do, saying the report's details were still being hammered out.

A spokesman for the Boston archdiocese did not return a phone call Sunday night.

Reilly has said that Massachusetts law makes it difficult to press criminal charges against the archdiocese.

State legislators passed a child-endangerment law last year, but it does not apply retroactively to past cases. Also, some of the state's laws on conspiracy require prosecutors to prove that officials were knowingly negligent in their actions, not unintentionally neglectful.

Reilly subpoenaed Law and a number of church officials in the grand jury investigation.

At a news conference on Dec. 12, one day before Law resigned, Reilly said the church had participated in an "elaborate scheme" and "cover-up."

At that briefing, Reilly said that many institutions he had investigated had taken steps to "do the right thing" and address reports of abuse. "Obviously this has not happened here," Reilly said of the church.

The New Hampshire attorney general's office issued a report in March similar to the one forthcoming in Boston.

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