Grand jury weighs case against cardinal

Thursday, June 20, 2002

BOSTON -- A grand jury is looking into whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Cardinal Bernard Law and other church leaders in the sex scandal that has engulfed the Boston Archdiocese, a law enforcement source said Wednesday.

The grand jury, convened by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, has been investigating for weeks whether the cardinal and other leaders broke the law by quietly shuffling priests accused of molesting children from parish to parish, where they still had contact with youngsters.

A law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the grand jury investigation is under way.

"We respect the right of the attorney general to pursue the investigation with any means that are appropriate," said Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese.

However, legal experts said the investigation will probably not lead to charges against leaders of the archdiocese.

Reilly himself said that state laws on conspiracy, obstruction of justice and being an accessory to a crime would make it difficult to prosecute someone for putting another person in a position to commit a crime. Also, Massachusetts has no law requiring the reporting of a crime.

In addition, the statute of limitations on some offenses has run out, Reilly said.

The scandal in the nation's Roman Catholic Church began earlier this year in Boston when it was disclosed that the archdiocese had moved priests from parish to parish despite allegations they had molested youngsters.

Nationwide, at least 250 priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal erupted.

By law, Reilly cannot confirm whether a grand jury investigation is under way. But Reilly said Wednesday that his office is using "every investigative tool available to us."

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