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Spotlight Report

Claim of '81 sex abuse is OK'd for trial

By Kathleen Burge and Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 1/23/2003

Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan
A Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that a civil lawsuit can go forward against Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan, accusing him of sexually assaulting a high school student in the 1980s.

Judge Constance M. Sweeney ruled that the former student, David E. Carney, didn't wait too long to file suit against Ryan, as Ryan's lawyer had argued. Drawing on a recent decision from the Supreme Judicial Court, Carney and his lawyers said that the statute of limitations doesn't expire until three years after a victim rationally understands that the abuse harmed him.

Sweeney agreed and said the case should move forward so a jury can consider Carney's allegation, which Ryan denies.

''Mr. Carney's deposition does not, as Monsignor Ryan claims, clearly illuminate the time frame during which Mr. Carney understood that he had sustained an injury to his psyche caused by Monsignor Ryan,'' Sweeney wrote. ''To the contrary, the deposition offers some evidence that Mr. Carney did not begin to grasp that causal connection until March 2002, and is still discovering, with the assistance of therapists, the depth and breadth of that connection.''

Carney, 36, sued Ryan and the Boston Archdiocese in April, alleging that the archdiocese's former vice chancellor sexually assaulted him in about 1981, when Carney was a student at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury. He says he didn't make the connection between his sexual abuse and his later problems - drug use, drinking, flunking out of high school - until last March. Carney saw a television report about his friend Garry M. Garland, accusing Ryan of sexually abusing him at Catholic Memorial.

One of Carney's lawyers, Mitchell Garabedian, said yesterday that Sweeney's ruling would make it easier for the civil lawsuits of other alleged victims with similar circumstances to go forward.

''I know it's not over,'' Carney said. ''But it's just a positive step for me and, I'm sure, for a lot of other people.''

Ryan's lawyer, Timothy P. O'Neill, couldn't be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, depositions continued yesterday of both Cardinal Bernard F. Law and Manchester, N.H., Bishop John B. McCormack, a former top aide to Law. The two were questioned separately for about five hours by lawyers representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley and the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham. The depositions were taken at the Boston law firm Greenberg Traurig.

At an afternoon news conference, several alleged Birmingham victims who had attended McCormack's deposition said that when questioned about his role in transferring Birmingham despite abuse complaints about him, the bishop repeatedly identified Bishop Robert J. Banks, one of Law's former deputies, as the administrator in charge of reassigning clerics. Banks now heads the Green Bay, Wis., diocese.

''He constantly points to Banks as the one responsible,'' said Larry Sweeney, a Chelmsford man who says he was molested by Birmingham at St. Michael's parish in Lowell in the 1970s.

McCormack also said that in about 1970, when a father came to him to report that Birmingham had abused his son and another boy, he himself had viewed sexual abuse as a sin rather than a crime, according to several of Birmingham's alleged victims.

Rodney Ford, the father of an alleged Shanley victim who attended Law's deposition, said the cardinal said it was ''common sense'' for him to allow the Rev. James D. Foley to remain in ministry in 1995 despite Foley's 1993 admission that he had fathered two children with a woman who later died of a drug overdose after going to bed with him.

McCormack's deposition will continue tomorrow and Law's will continue Feb. 3.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 1/23/2003.
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