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Spotlight Report

Church to review abuse case

Focus will be on procedure

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 9/26/2003

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley has said that the church will review the allegations of molestation by alleged victim Paul R. Edwards, claims that were previously dismissed amid questions about Edwards's credibility.

O'Malley made the statement in a Sept. 12 letter to the Coalition of Catholics & Survivors, a victims' advocacy group that has supported Edwards's claims and has demanded a review of his case.

In the letter, O'Malley thanks the group for its ''offer of assistance in promoting justice and healing'' and says he has ''ordered a full review of the case'' and of the findings of the Archdiocesan Review Board, the church panel that investigates allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

O'Malley also said, however, that he believed that when the review board made its decision on the case, it ''was in possession of all the available information concerning the case'' and that ''no new facts have surfaced since they rendered their decision.''

Although the letter does not put any restrictions on the review, an archdiocesan spokesman said yesterday that it will be limited to Edwards's allegation that he was raped by the Rev. William J. Cummings, who died nine years ago.

Archdiocesan spokesman Rev. Christopher Coyne said the church is not reviewing allegations made by Edwards, 35, of Winchendon, that he was molested by the Rev. Michael Smith Foster, the top canon lawyer for the archdiocese.

''This is a simple review to make sure that there was as thorough an investigation against Father Cummings as there should have been,'' Coyne said. ''The fact is that the investigation into Monsignor Foster is not reopened. It is closed and there is no new evidence.''

Edwards's attorney, Roderick MacLeish Jr., said he welcomed the review, but added that he had uncovered some new evidence in the case that will be given to church officials.

''We are happy that the archbishop has agreed to review [the case],'' MacLeish said. ''We have some additional materials that the archdiocese has not seen and we will share that with them. But we are going to do it in a private way, not in the media.''

Edwards filed a lawsuit in August 2002 alleging that he was repeatedly molested by Foster at a Newton parish and raped by Cummings during a church-sponsored trip to New York City in the early 1980s, but later withdrew the suit. Foster was twice placed on leave and then reinstated as church officials investigated Edwards's allegations.

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