Catholic Charities Board to Accept Votf Cash

By Eric Convey and Robin Washington
Boston Herald
April 9, 2003

Defying Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the board of Catholic Charities voted yesterday to accept a $35,000 contribution from the lay group Voice of the Faithful and to take similar donations in the future.

Lennon, who has the authority to fire the board, issued a statement saying he is "disappointed" but "will not take any steps at this time regarding their decision."

Lennon said one of his chief jobs as the temporary head of the archdiocese is to end division, and he hopes that by moving forward, "the unity that is a hallmark of the church and that is so necessary for the Archdiocese of Boston will be brought about."

Lennon had previously complained that by raising money on its own, Voice of the Faithful was undermining the authority and pastoral work of the bishop.

VOTF leaders said they were merely offering a vehicle for people unwilling to give money to the archdiocese because of the clergy molestation scandal. Executive Director Steve Krueger charged last night that Lennon had never backed up his criticism of the separate fund-raising.

"At a point in time when healing in this diocese needs to take place, we believe that Catholic Charities did the right thing," Krueger said.

Catholic Charities board members were caught in the middle.

"Is it hard to disagree with your father? It's like having a disagreement with your family," President Joseph Doolin said after the vote.

Board leaders declined to give the exact tally, but it was nearly unanimous, according to chairman Neal F. Finnegan.

The decision followed a private meeting Friday at which Finnegan and vice chairman Peter Meade said they told Lennon they were caught between obeying him or taking money to help the poor.

"Those are the two conflicting areas and they are a source of great tension for people and, at this time of disunity in the church, also a source of great pain," Finnegan said.

"I think that he understands this is a board trying to do right things," Finnegan added.

Also yesterday, state legislators presented to the public a bill to eliminate statute-of-limitation restrictions in sexual assault cases.

State Sen. Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen), a sponsor of the bill authored by plaintiffs' attorney Carmen Durso, said it was necessary to protect children.

Debate on the bill, which covers sexual assault of minors and adults and would be retroactive if allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, will be heard publicly tomorrow.

But John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, warned legislators should be careful before removing the statute in cases largely centered on an accuser's memories of years past.

Similar caution came from attorney William Newman of Northampton, who argued a statute-of-limitation case involving sexual assault before the SJC in 1988.

"Witnesses die. Memories become faulty. Exculpatory evidence is lost. And a person has a right to have his case heard in a reasonable period of time," he said.

But the bill's chief sponsor, state Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy), denied the measure was a draconian response to unprosecutable abuse. "This isn't a ground-breaking area. There's no statute of limitations on murder," he said.

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