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Spotlight Report

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Archdiocese hands over files on abuse cases

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 3/20/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday gave state prosecutors four boxes of files containing information about the victims of about 90 priests accused of sexually abusing children over the last 50 years.

More than two weeks after agreeing to supply prosecutors with the information they need to decide whether to bring criminal charges, archdiocese officials brought the files to Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's office yesterday afternoon.

''We're in the process of reviewing the information,'' Reilly said in an interview. ''We'll put it on a database. It'll take a few days to see what we've got.''

The database will allow prosecutors to see whether, as they believe, some priests abused children in different counties, helping to resolve jurisdictional questions.

Essex District Attorney Kevin M. Burke, president of the state's district attorneys association, said that while prosecutors assume most cases are so old they will fall outside the statute of limitations, he was irked that the archdiocese waited until the last minute to turn over the information.

In January and February, the archdiocese had given prosecutors in five counties the names of nearly 90 priests, but prosecutors said they could not determine whether any of the priests should be charged until they had victims' names and case files.

Under pressure from Reilly and five district attorneys, the archdiocese agreed March 1 to turn over information about victims and to waive confidentiality agreements the church had reached with victims. The archdiocese agreed to turn over the information in phases, but none was delivered until yesterday.

''It's one thing to say you'll be cooperative; it's another to play on the margins of cooperation,'' said Burke. ''I'm beginning to get annoyed. Everything's a couple days late. Time is of the essence here. Every day counts.''

Archdiocese officials have said poor record-keeping made it difficult to comply with prosecutors' requests more quickly.

This story ran on page A32 of the Boston Globe on 3/20/2002.
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