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Boston report finds extent of abuse complaints 'simply staggering'

Following the child sex abuse cover-up allegations last year which lead to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as Archbishop of Boston, an official investigation concluded this week that the church ignored 'hundreds' of complaints over the past 60 years.

The grand jury inquiry lead by Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly found the archdiocese's own records reveal that they received complaints from 789 alleged victims, involving more than 250 clergy and other workers. But he said, the number of victims, spanning a period from 1940 to today, probably exceeded 1000.

Introducing the 91 page report, he said: "What we have documented in the course of this investigation borders on the unbelievable. The duration of it, six decades of the sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy. The magnitude of it is simply staggering."

The attorney general said that Cardinal Bernard Law, bears ultimate responsibility for what he calls the "tragic treatment of children."

But, he added the Cardinal does not bear sole responsibility, saying: "With rare exception, none of his senior managers advised him to take any of the steps that might have ended the systemic abuse of children."

"The Catholic faith and the Catholic religion values and teaches to protect the most vulnerable, particularly our children. Now this is not about the Catholic faith and the Catholic religion," he said. "This is a massive, inexcusable failure of leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston."

The investigation did not uncover any evidence of recent or ongoing sexual abuse of children. The attorney general said the inquiry did not find any information that would explain the drop-off in recent complaints.

Concluding, Reilly said he hoped his report would draw a clear line between the past and a more hopeful future.

The archdiocese now faces about 500 civil suits from alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. A church spokesman said the archdiocese remains committed to working towards out-of-court settlements.

Independent Catholic News

Office of Massachusetts Attorney General | Report executive summary (PDF) | Full text (PDF)
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston | July 23, 2003 - The Archdiocese of Boston has received the Attorney General's report
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops - Restoring Trust: Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse
Report details decades of abuse, 'failure of leadership' in Boston (Catholic News Service)
AG says cardinal knew all (Boston Herald)
Church reiterates commitment to children (Boston Globe)
A church chastized (Boston Globe)
Catholic scandal statistics released (AP)
Abuse Woes Continue for Catholic Church (AP)
Abuse enablers must follow Law into retirement (Boston Herald)
Investigation Concludes Boston Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal 'Staggering' (VOA)
US Catholic Laity Group Seeks Change in Wake of Pedophile Scandal (AP)

25 Jul 2003