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Spotlight Report

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Former Law secretary goes before grand jury

By Wendy Davis, Globe Correspondent, 2/27/2003

Archbishop Alfred Hughes, secretary to Cardinal Bernard F. Law in the early 1990s, testified yesterday before a grand jury considering criminal charges against church leaders for their role in the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Hughes, now archbishop of New Orleans, filed complaints about priests, including priests accused of abusing children, when he was in Boston.

Hughes previously testified at convicted pedophile John Geoghan's criminal trial regarding a 1991 incident.

Speaking at a news conference in his hotel, Hughes told reporters he attempted to fulfill a civic responsibility, by answering all questions at yesterday's grand jury proceeding. Hughes characterized the questioning as cordial, but intense at times.

''It's demanding because I had to be very alert,'' he said. Although he was concerned when he received the subpoena, Hughes said that after his appearance, he does not believe he is a target of a criminal probe.

On Tuesday, Law's lawyer, J. Owen Todd, also said he did not believe Law or any other bishops were likely to face indictment.

Hughes also said he stood by decisions he made in the early 1990s.

''I'm confident that I made decisions that were responsible,'' Hughes said.

''Decisions can be made responsibly with the data available to one at the time,'' he said. In retrospect, he said, there have been developments in the ''knowledge of the nature of some of the sexual diseases and aberrations.''

Church records show that Hughes knew of validations against several repeat abusers, including Geoghan and admitted child abuser Ronald H. Paquin. Hughes declined to answer media questions about specific cases.

Hughes served in Boston from 1990 to 1993 when he left for a position as bishop in Baton Rouge. He has been archbishop of New Orleans since last year.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 2/27/2003.
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