|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
Commission members defend archdiocese on reforms
By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, 07/16/02
BOSTON -- Members of a commission set up to draft a policy protecting children from clergy sexual abuse defended the pace of reforms on Tuesday, one day after state Attorney General Thomas Reilly criticized the Archdiocese of Boston for dragging its feet.
"This problem has existed for a long time, and this time, we want to make sure it's done right, and so does the archdiocese," said Maureen Bateman, chair of Cardinal Bernard Law's Commission to Protect Children.
"Sometimes, that takes a little longer -- then so be it," Bateman said.
In a letter sent to the commission Monday, Reilly's office praised the commission's draft recommendations, but criticized the archdiocese for failing to quickly implement measures to uncover abuse and protect children.
Reilly also questioned whether Law will follow through on the commission's recommendations.
"The words are there, but the action hasn't matched those words, and that causes us concern," Reilly said.
Bateman said she believes the archdiocese and Law have moved as quickly as possible to implement some of the commission's recommendations, before its final report is submitted in September.
"I certainly don't have any doubt about the will of the archdiocese to make these policies -- and then procedures -- that are effective," Bateman said.
"Change can never come fast enough when you see the need, but when you make the change, it has to be the right change. Sometimes that takes more time," she said.
Law formed the commission after the clergy sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston in January with revelations that church leaders knew of allegations of abuse by defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, but still transferred him from parish to parish.
Some of the group's draft recommendations, released last month, include a zero tolerance policy for abusers, better screening of clergy and church workers, and establishment of lay groups to monitor and enforce church policy.
Another commission member, Mary Jane England, said the group's mission is to lay out the framework for reform, but it's up to the archdiocese to implement the changes -- some of which they've already done, she said.
England said the archdiocese has implemented some of the commission's recommendations, including setting up a toll-free number for victims to report abuse.
"The archdiocese didn't wait for us to finalize our report," she said.
In its draft recommendations, the commission recommends establishing an independent review board to make sure the archdiocese implements the reforms.
Reilly's letter came at the end of a public comment period on the commission's draft recommendations. But Bateman said the commission has decided to extend the comment period until July 29 to give interested parties more time to make suggestions before the panel issues its final report Sept. 6.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey was questioned in a deposition related to the clergy abuse scandal on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
"In the past six months, the archdiocese of Boston has made substantial progress in regards to policy reform to protect children," she said in a statement released Monday.
Morrissey was questioned by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 86 Geoghan victims who have filed civil lawsuits.
Garabedian is trying to persuade a judge to force the archdiocese to honor a $15 million to $30 million settlement agreement with the victims. The archdiocese backed out of the deal after its finance council said the church could not afford to pay that settlement and find additional money to pay other alleged victims.
A 30-day "cooling off" period, during which lawyers for alleged victims and the archdiocese agreed to try to negotiate a settlement, is scheduled to end Sunday, according to a spokeswoman for attorney Roderick MacLeish. As of Tuesday, no agreement had been reached.