Hughes to Testify before Grand Jury Weighing Criminal Charges

By Jay Lindsay
Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe
February 26, 2003

BOSTON (AP) New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes began testimony Wednesday morning before a grand jury investigating whether criminal charges should be brought against Boston Archdiocese officials for their handling of priests accused of sexual abuse.

Hughes followed Cardinal Bernard F. Law, Boston's former archbishop, who answered questions on Tuesday for the same grand jury, which is meeting in state Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office. At least eight other top officials in the Boston Archdiocese have been subpoenaed to answer questions about their handling of complaints against priests.

Hughes' spokesman, the Rev. William Maestri, said Hughes' testimony, which began this morning, is expected to continue at least into the late afternoon. Maestri said he plans a press conference after the testimony to answer questions about Hughes' appearance.

Last week, Maestri said that Hughes, a former aide to Law, "wants to cooperate as a good citizen in this civic experience."

Law declined to comment as he left the offices of Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly on Tuesday, but his lawyer, J. Owen Todd, said the grand jury and assistant attorney general Michelle Adelman focused on the evolution of the archdiocese's policy with abusive priests during Law's tenure, which began in 1984.

Reilly's office had no comment on Law's appearance or criminal charges against church officials. Reilly, who convened the grand jury last year, has said that it could prove difficult to bring criminal charges against church officials.

Law stepped down as Boston's archbishop in December following months of revelations about how he and other church officials shuffled sexually abusive priests between parishes, hiding their crimes from parishioners.

Until recently, church officials were not required to report sexual abuse of children to civil authorities. A new law now makes reckless endangerment of children a crime, and requires church officials to report suspected abuse.

Law was scheduled for just a single day of testimony before the grand jury. He has been deposed several times in suits by alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Green Bay Catholic Bishop Robert Banks, a former auxiliary bishop in Boston who was embroiled in the sex abuse scandal, submitted his letter of resignation to the Vatican. He turned 75 on Wednesday, the age at which church law requires bishops to retire.

Banks, who has been bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay since 1990, will continue to lead the diocese until Vatican officials accept the letter. When the letter is accepted, a temporary administrator will be named to lead the diocese until a bishop is appointed.

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