Priest in Charge of Files Shocked by Depth of Abuse

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
January 28, 2003

An archdiocesan priest in charge of accused pedophile priests cases said he was stunned to find church officials kept secret files about scores of clergy charged with child sexual abuse, according to depositions released yesterday.

The Rev. Brian M. Flatley said he was horrified when he saw the scope of the problem facing the Boston archdiocese when he took over the post from Bishop John McCormack, now head of the Manchester, N.H., diocese.

``It was very shocking to me,'' Flatley told lawyers for alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who faces criminal charges and civil lawsuits for abusing boys.

In his two years as assistant to the secretary of ministerial personnel and delegate of the cardinal for clergy sexual misconduct, Flatley had access to the personnel files of priests who were accused of misconduct.

Flatley, who was put in charge of organizing the ``chaotic'' file system, said about half of the more than 150 confidential files contained allegations of sexual misconduct.

He discussed his dismay over the scope of the problem with other high-ranking priests, including McCormack, who said ``he had been shocked as well, I believe, about the scope of the problem,'' Flatley said.

Flatley said that while he discussed priest sexual misconduct with Bernard Cardinal Law, they did not discuss the broad scope of the problem.

Flatley, in his testimony, said he never told members of the church's clergy Review Board charged with evaluating abuse cases exactly how many molester priests were in the archdiocese.

``You never took it upon yourself when you found out this horrifying information . . . to tell the Review Board precisely how many allegations there were. Is that correct?'' attorney Roderick MacLeish asked him.

``That's correct.''

``So as far as you were concerned, they were just dealing with individual cases, they didn't get the full picture. Is that correct?''

``That's correct.''

In another deposition released yesterday, a former secretary to Law and Humberto Cardinal Medeiros said he knew by 1985 Shanley was ``a threat to children'' but did not follow up to make sure the priest was kept away from minors.

In the testimony, given in May and October last year, lawyer Courtney Pillsbury of Greenberg Traurig, a firm representing plaintiffs in a suit against Shanley and the Archdiocese of Boston, presented Monsignor William Helmick with copies of correspondence to Law concerning allegations against the priest.

``So you'd agree with me, by 1985, the records of your own files suggest that Paul Shanley represented a threat to children . . . Is that correct?'' Pillsbury asked.

``Yes, yes,'' Helmick replied.

``And you were relying on others to follow up with these various communications that had been received by your office and to do something about Paul Shanley?''

``Yes,'' Helmick said.

``Did you ever bother to find out whether anything had been done?''

``I did not.''

Shanley, who also has been charged criminally for the alleged rapes of four Newton CCD students, is free on bail awaiting trial. He maintains his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

In her testimony, Sister Rita McCarthy confirmed to attorney David Thomas that another nun, Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, who handled the intake of abuse claims, had suggested the archdiocese warn parishes about abuser priests in their midst.

``We both believed it should be done,'' she said.


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