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Spotlight Report

Church gives names of accused priests

By Globe Staff, 1/31/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston said it reported to law enforcement authorities yesterday the names of priests accused of sexually molesting children in the last 40 years.

A statement faxed to news outlets last night did not say how many priests were involved. Donna M. Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the number will not be made public.

The names of the priests' alleged victims have not yet been provided to law enforcement agencies, but church officials have said none of the victims is presently younger than 18, according to a state official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether the names represented all the priests who have had complaints lodged against them over the years. The list was turned over to law enforcement authorities less than a week after Cardinal Bernard F. Law said he was reversing long-standing archdiocesan policy and disclosing to state authorities the names of accused priests for possible criminal prosecution. The archdiocese said the ''matter is ongoing.''

One archdiocesan official, who asked not to be identified, said the referrals went to six district attorneys in Eastern Massachusetts, as well as to police departments in every jurisdiction where the alleged abuse took place and to police officials in the communities where the priests now live.

Anson Kaye, spokesman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, said her office had done an initial review of the referred names and would be seeking more information.

That information might include the identities of the victims, whose testimony would be needed to bring criminal charges. David Procopio, a spokesman for Acting Suffolk District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley, said the archdiocese informed her office it was considering notifying victims that it will disclose their names to prosecutors.

Several law enforcement officials interviewed last night said they hope the church would first obtain the victims' consent.

''Alleged victims should have a say at this point in their lives whether they want their names brought to us,'' Procopio said. ''You're talking about people who are probably in middle age and probably have active or full lives, and this will certainly be a significant interruption of those lives.''

Procopio said the list provided to Suffolk prosecutors contains about 10 names. He said his office would not release the names ''until we decide whether these are cases we're going to investigate.''

Timothy Cruz, the Plymouth district attorney, also confirmed last night that his office had received a list of names from attorneys for the archdiocese.

He said the list contains ''bare-bones facts'' about the allegations against the priests listed.

Procopio and lawyers familiar with the issue said that the criminal statute of limitations has long since expired on the vast majority of the referrals.

On Jan. 9, Cardinal Law announced he would refer all future incidents of sex abuse to authorities. But after several prosecutors, including state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, called for a wider release of information, Law said he would forward evidence of past abuse.

Walter V. Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 1/31/2002.
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