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Spotlight Report

Accused priest is placed on leave

By Michele Kurtz, Globe Staff, 8/19/2002

Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Boston, has been placed on administrative leave - at his request - following allegations made last week that he sexually molested a Newton teenager in the 1980s.

In his role as the archdiocese's chief canon lawyer, Foster has been advising Cardinal Bernard F. Law on canon law issues related to the sex abuse scandal. He is also the presiding judge of the Metropolitan Tribunal, which hears all annulment cases.

The archdiocese's announcement about Foster was unusual because he had requested that he be placed on leave.

Paul R. Edwards, 35, who now lives in Winchendon, filed a lawsuit last week in Suffolk Superior Court alleging that Foster molested him repeatedly in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church in Newton, where Foster was a newly ordained priest. Foster is the 20th priest from the archdiocese since February who has been accused of sexual misconduct and placed on administrative leave.

Foster, 47, denied the allegations in a statement released yesterday by his attorney, Joseph L. Doherty.

''I am devastated by these false accusations,'' he said. ''I pray that the truth will be revealed as quickly as possible.''

Edwards says Foster recruited him as an altar boy and molested him in his rectory room ''on numerous occasions'' in the 1980s.

In his lawsuit, Edwards also alleges that another priest, the Rev. William J. Cummings, raped him during a youth group trip to New York City in December 1982. In 1993 Cummings told his congregation at St. John the Evangelist Church in Cambridge that he had the virus that causes AIDS. He died a year later.

Edwards asserts in the lawsuit that after Foster earned his canon law degree and went to another Newton parish in 1988, Edwards visited him and told him about the alleged rape by Cummings. In an interview with WHDH-TV, Edwards said Foster told him not to tell anyone about the rape.

Spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said in a statement yesterday that the Archdiocese of Boston only recently heard of the complaint against Foster. Foster will receive his salary and medical benefits during his leave.

The archdiocese is in the process of notifying civil authorities, she said.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 8/19/2002.
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