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Spotlight Report

Suit accuses Law of '70s inaction after report against priest

By Matt Carroll and Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 6/13/2002

Top church officials, such as Bishop John B. McCormack, have been implicated in systematic abuse coverups.  
Coverage of archdiocese coverups
Cardinal Bernard F. Law engaged in a ''civil conspiracy'' to conceal the sexual abuse of three young brothers in Mississippi in the early '70s by failing to report their alleged abuse to the state, which is required by law, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

The three brothers - Kenneth Morrison, Thomas Morrison, and Francis Morrison Jr. - and their mother, Dorothy Morrison, are seeking $3 million, plus punitive damages that bring the total to $36 million. Law was one of four defendants named in the suit filed in the Hinds County Circuit Court in Jackson, Miss.

The Morrison brothers allege they were abused by a former parish priest, George L. Broussard, between 1970 and 1974, and that Law, then the vicar general in Jackson, Miss., failed to protect them. Broussard was a close family friend of the Morrisons, as was Law, according to Kenneth Morrison, the youngest of the family, who said he called Law ''Uncle Bernie.''

After the father of the family, the late Francis Morrison Sr., was alerted to Broussard by another parent of a child who allegedly had been abused, he told Law, according to the suit.

''Law promised he would take action and never took action,'' said Anthony R. Simon, a lawyer for the Morrisons.

Broussard stayed at his parish in Jackson for another year to 18 months and still occasionally molested the Morrisons, according to the suit.

Kenneth Morrison, 37, who accuses Broussard of molesting him from about age 5, when he moved to Mississippi, until he was 8 or 9, said in an interview yesterday he hopes the suit will help protect children in the future.

Law, according to the suit, has shown a pattern of concealing sex abuse crimes and failing to report them, which helps priests avoid prosecution and civil suits.

The lawyers have been contacted by about 10 other people who say they were molested by Broussard, said plaintiff lawyer Marcie M. Fyke. The other defendants are Broussard, current Bishop William R. Houck, and the diocese.

Donna M. Morrissey, Law's spokeswoman, said she had not seen the suit and referred calls to the Jackson Diocese. A spokesman for the diocese could not be reached. A note on the diocesan Web site said Broussard is being investigated. Broussard, who told the Globe this spring that he had not molested anyone and that he is no longer a priest, also could not be reached.

This story ran on page A25 of the Boston Globe on 6/13/2002.
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