Panel That Reviewed Abuse Allegations to Be Replaced

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald
March 29, 2003

The board that has reviewed sexual abuse allegations against priests in the Archdiocese of Boston for the past decade will soon be replaced, a leader of a victims' group said yesterday after meeting with Bishop Richard G. Lennon.

Lennon told his visitors the old Review Board "will be defunct by next week,'' said Ann Hagan Webb of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

The new panel's structure was determined by a panel formed by former archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law. Like its predecessor, the new panel will field complaints against priests.

Lennon said that contrary to past policy, the identities of the new board's members will be made public - with the exception of the abuse victim serving on it, Webb said. The other members will include psychologists, law enforcement experts and clergy.

"That means a lot to us, because we need to know who's making these decisions,'' Webb said. "That will be a big improvement if we know those people and know we can trust them.''

The previous review board, established in 1993 to assess the truthfulness of abuse allegations, met in secrecy. Archdiocesan officials have confirmed its existence but have refused to say who was on it or when it assembled.

SNAP leaders sought yesterday's meeting with Lennon as soon as he was named the archdiocese's apostolic administrator in December. Also present was Bill Gately, who with Webb leads the group's New England chapter.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Donna M. Morrissey, refused to comment on the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

"We don't talk about meetings with victim-survivors. We resepect their right to do so,'' she said.

The main purpose of the meeting was to ask Lennon to instruct the archdiocese's lawyers to refrain from legal tactics that intimidate victims, Webb said.

Webb, who said Lennon did not respond to their requests, said the group also wants him to:

Support legislation extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse and rape.

Appoint a trauma specialist to work in the archiocese's Office of Healing and Assistance and to stop holding healing Masses for victims.

Reopen the investigation into allegations against Msgr. Michael Smith Foster, the archdiocesan canon lawyer whose accuser was determined to be not credible by the review board last year.


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