Back to homepage Arts | Entertainment Boston Globe Online BostonWorks Real Estate Sports digitalMass Travel The Boston Globe Spotlight Investigation Abuse in the Catholic Church
HomePredator priestsScandal and coverupThe victimsThe financial costOpinion
Cardinal Law and the laityThe church's responseThe clergyInvestigations and lawsuits
Interactive2002 scandal overviewParish mapExtrasArchivesDocumentsAbout this site
 Latest coverage

April 2
Springfield bishop apologizes

March 19
Priests named to guide church

March 10
New bishops for two dioceses

February 24
Sniezyk clarifies his remarks

February 23
Prelate: Harm unrecognized

January 15, 2004
O'Malley vows to help victims

January 11, 2004
Study faults Melkite church

January 7, 2004
Audit finds safeguards working
Boston's inquiry presses on
Agents faced reluctant aides

January 6, 2004
Church could defrock priests

November 30
Morrisey reflects on scandal

November 20
Policies on VOTF reconsidered

NOvember 13
Bishops affirm sex teachings

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Church clears Foster of abuse

Monsignor to regain job as canon lawyer

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 9/12/2002

Accused of abuse and absolved, Msgr. Michael Smith Foster returned to parish work sobered by his experience.  
Coverage of the Foster case
The Archdiocese of Boston has formally exonerated Monsignor Michael Smith Foster of charges that he sexually molested a Newton teenager in the 1980s, according to people involved with the decision. The church's resolution came a week after Foster's accuser withdrew his lawsuit in the face of serious questions about the alleged victim's credibility.

Foster, who has been fighting the charges - as well as the archdiocesan bureaucracy - since the lawsuit by Paul R. Edwards became public on Aug. 16, was informed of the church's decision in a telephone call late Tuesday evening from Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

A public announcement is expected today, along with a statement that Foster has been reinstated as the archdiocese's judicial vicar - the chief canon lawyer.

The archdiocesan review is also expected to clear the Rev. William J. Cummings, who died in 1994. Cummings was accused in the lawsuit of raping Edwards during an overnight trip to New York City in 1982 by a youth group from Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton.

Foster's staff at the Metropolitan Tribunal, which he heads, burst into applause yesterday when they were informed of the decision by Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, the vicar general of the archdiocese, according to a person familiar with the decision who requested anonymity.

Through a spokeswoman, Foster declined to comment yesterday.

Foster, at 47 considered a rising star in the church, quickly denied the charges last month. But like 22 other priests this year, Foster had to step aside pending a church investigation. He was the highest ranking cleric in the archdiocese to face such allegations.

But a week after Edwards made his charges, the alleged victim's credibility crumbled when the Globe reported that Edwards, now 35, has a long history of inventing stories about himself and others. Moreover, parents and students who knew Edwards and the two priests offered evidence that raised serious doubts that the molestations could have occurred.

For example, Edwards said Foster molested him numerous times in his rectory bedroom at Sacred Heart Church in Newton between 1980 and 1985. But the pastor, as well as teenage friends of the accuser who worked in the rectory then, said visitors were not permitted above the rectory's ground floor. And they said it would have been extraordinarily difficult for the abuse to have occurred in such a busy rectory without it being obvious.

Similarly, the accusation by Edwards that Cummings raped him in a hotel room during an overnight trip to New York was seriously undercut. Parents and other students who made the annual trip noted that it was a day trip, with the teens and lay chaperones leaving Our Lady's before dawn and returning late the same day.

After the Globe report, Edwards's attorney, Eric J. Parker, looked into his own client's allegations and then asked court permission to withdraw as Edwards's attorney, prompting the judge in the case to declare that she had ''significant concerns'' about the credibility of the accusations. On Sept. 3, Edwards withdrew his lawsuit ''with prejudice,'' meaning it cannot be refiled. That was a clear hint, according to legal specialists, that the charges were probably false.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said his office has launched a criminal inquiry of Edwards.

The unraveling of the allegations against Foster helped fuel a backlash by archdiocesan priests, who have complained that priests accused of sexual misconduct this year have been publicly removed without consideration for their rights or an opportunity to formally challenge the charges before being banished from their rectories.

Advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse said yesterday they were not surprised allegations against the priest had been determined to be groundless.

Barbara Blaine, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said there are always people ''who will jump on the bandwagon.'' On the other hand, that shouldn't lead people to doubt the vast majority of the claims. ''There were people after 9/11 who made false claims. That didn't detract from any of the suffering of the real victims of 9/11,'' she said. ''The fact of the matter is that false accusations are the rare exception to the rule.''

Walter Robinson can be reached at

Matt Carroll of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Advertise | Contact us | Privacy policy