Cathedral Vicar Asks Church to Stop Deposing Therapists

By Robin Washington
January 23, 2003

An influential priest appealed yesterday to the leader of the Boston archdiocese to stop its lawyers from deposing therapists of sexual abuse victims, while victim advocates condemned the church's healing office for failing to speak out against the practice.

In a letter to Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the Rev. Robert J. Carr, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, called the depositions ``counter-productive'' and in opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

``In the Navy I learned the saying, `Don't win the battle and lose the war,' '' Carr wrote. ``In this case, the battle is for the financial settlements in the archdiocese and the war is for the salvation of souls in our care.

``May I strongly encourage you to invite the lawyers to reconsider this tactic. I think if we are going to further our mission we must take the high road and trust the outcome to the Lord,'' he continues, adding he knew of one alleged victim of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley who stopped seeing his therapist in fear of the tactic.

Victims and advocates first learned last week that a church lawyer had deposed a therapist in another Shanley case.

Though archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said such depositions are legally permissible, she said then and yesterday it would only be used as a last resort before civil cases go to trial.

``Our first choice is to settle these cases to avoid the litigious process,'' she said.

That explanation was repeated in a Jan. 19 letter to victims from Barbara Thorp, director of the archdiocese's Office of Healing, which approves therapy payments.

While apologizing for ``the distress and suffering'' due to news reports about the tactic, Thorp wrote, ``It is clear, though, that the protracted legal action further contributes to suffering and interferes with the healing process.''

Ann Hagan Webb, co-coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests New England chapter and one of 83 therapists and advocates penning a letter against the depositions, called Thorp's statement ``horrifying.''

``It really sounds like she's blaming the victims for having lawsuits, and that they brought it on themselves,'' she said.

Conversely, she praised Carr. ``He's absolutely right,'' she said. ``They have an obligation to do something moral.''

Rodney Ford, the father of alleged victim Gregory Ford, said his son's therapist has been notified she'll likely be subpoenaed. Ford said victims should be read ``Miranda rights.''

``Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,'' he said.

In another case regarding an alleged victim's statements, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney denied a motion by a church attorney to throw out an abuse suit on statute of limitation grounds. Lawyers for Monsignor Frederick Ryan had argued that plaintiff David Carney said in a deposition he was aware years ago of the effects of the abuse but did not file suit until recently.

``They took things out of context,'' Carney said. ``They tried to trick me.''

gftailEric Convey contributed to this report.


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