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Spotlight Report

Worcester bishop named in lawsuits

Handling of cases vs. priests at issue

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 3/18/2002

Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of the Diocese of Worcester has been named as a defendant in more than 30 lawsuits alleging that priests accused of sexual misconduct were shuffled to new parishes rather than being removed during the time that Reilly was a high-ranking church official in Providence and Norwich, Conn., according to published reports.

None of the suits suggest that Reilly himself was involved in any sexual misconduct during his tenure as chancellor of the Diocese of Providence, his 27 years as bishop of the Norwich Diocese, or his roughly seven years as bishop in Worcester.

Reilly was named in 28 suits filed in Providence, all but one of which are pending. In Norwich, he was named in four lawsuits, two of which have since been dismissed.

Reilly, in an interview with the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester published yesterday, said he was not personally involved in the reassignment of priests accused of sexual abuse during his time in Providence and Norwich. He also said no allegations of sexual misconduct by priests in Worcester have arisen in his years there.

Reilly noted that a recently announced no-tolerance policy will require incidents of suspected child abuse to be reported to the state, and he said the suspension of two Worcester Diocese priests from active assignments is proof the diocese is taking charges of sexual abuse seriously.

''I think the way we're handling it is pretty good,'' he told the Telegram. ''We're following the law, we're dealing with the authorities. We're trying to help the victims.''

Meanwhile, on ABC's ''This Week,'' recently suspended Lowell priest D. George Spagnolia renewed his call for Cardinal Bernard Law to resign, saying that Law was no longer an effective leader of the clergy in the Boston archdiocese. Spagnolia was relieved of duties at St. Patrick Church last month after an allegation surfaced that he had sexually assaulted a youth 31 years ago.

Spagnolia said Law is punishing innocent priests in an attempt to make up for his mishandling of abuse allegations in the past.

''He's throwing us to the wolves, he's throwing us away,'' said Spagnolia, who has denied the abuse allegation, but has acknowledged that he lied about remaining celibate during a leave of absence from the priesthood.

Law, who celebrated his usual 11 a.m. Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral yesterday, did not mention the ongoing sexual abuse scandal, except to remark that copies of a special edition of The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, were unavailable.

Church officials said yesterday that demand for the issue - which discusses topics including homosexuality, pedophilia, and the future of celibacy in the priesthood - was so great that most were snapped up during Masses on Saturday and early yesterday at Holy Cross and other churches, despite a print run of 100,000 extra copies.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 3/18/2002.
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