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Boston Church Documents Detail Abuse Patterns

The documents related to eight priests were being used as evidence of a pattern of official mismanagement in the case against Rev. Paul Shanley, who is accused of molesting several boys.

The 2,200 pages contain letters and official reports relating to a priest who beat his housekeeper, another who traded cocaine for sex, and a third who molested young girls who wanted to become nuns.

The discovery comes after the archdiocese lost a legal battle to delay the public release of the documents and about 10,000 additional pages concerning 57 other priests.

According to reporters who have viewed the documents, one priest was assigned to a Boston parish just after being treated for pedophilia in Ohio, despite warnings from his doctors that he should not work with children. Several young men in the priest’s new parish later accused him of abuse and he was later convicted of sexual abuse in New Hampshire, according to the New York Times.

The set of documents also included letters from Boston Cardinal Bernard Law expressing sympathy for the accused priests. To a priest accused of sexually assaulting young women studying to be nuns, Law wrote, “Our recent conversation and your written reflection are a beautiful testament to the depth of your faith and the courage of your heart.”

Victims’ rights groups said the papers are evidence that the church put its laity at risk.

“What is striking to me about these documents is that it is very clear from them that Cardinal Law and other top archdiocesan officials knew far more, far earlier about far more priests and their abusive behavior than the officials have ever let on and yet did so very little,” David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told reporters.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the church regrets that it cannot change the past.

“For the past 11 months our comprehensive new policy has not allowed any priest with a credible allegation of abuse of a minor to serve in ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston,” she said. “We wish it would have been our policy for the last 50 years.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Law is reportedly considering the recommendation of his top legal and financial advisers to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to deal with claims from more than 400 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse. A bankruptcy petition would need the official sanction of the Vatican as well as a 15-member Finance Council.

Lawyers representing abuse victims accuse the church of threatening bankruptcy to force plaintiffs to settle for less money. The lawyers said they will stop negotiations unless the archdiocese agrees not to declare bankruptcy.

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