Shrink-Priest Blasted Clergy, Victim without Meeting Them

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
May 8, 2003

A Harvard psychiatrist who is also a Jesuit priest routinely wrote stinging assessments of clerics and at least one alleged sexual abuse victim without ever meeting them, archdiocese records show.

The Rev. Dr. Edwin "Ned" Cassem, who is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, penned an affidavit last year calling alleged victim Paul Edwards a "sociopath." In 1994, he said the Rev. Paul R. Shanley's "pathology is beyond repair" - though he never met either man.

He similarly declared in 1994 the Rev. James D. Foley was "unstable" and "highly charged sexually" in notes taken by now-Bishop John B. McCormack, who with other church leaders sought Cassem's evaluations on at least nine priests.

Those assessments have sparked outrage from accusers and defenders alike.

"It's absolutely reckless," said Edwards, whose accusation against Msgr. Michael Smith Foster was dismissed by the church following Cassem's affidavit.

"Good or bad for the victim or for the perpetrator, this type of evaluation is absolutely intolerable," Edwards said.

Paul Shannon, a longtime Shanley friend, called it "bizarre."

Pointing to memos indicating McCormack wanted to place Shanley on sick leave, Shannon said, "It sounds like Cassem was doing a favor for the archdiocese so they would be able to justify (Shanley) getting on disability."

An MGH spokeswoman declined comment on Cassem's behalf. Church spokesman the Rev. Christopher Coyne said most cases Cassem reviewed involved persons who had been examined by other doctors.

"What level of influence Dr. Cassem's opinion had I don't know," he said.

But both Shannon and Edwards questioned his ethics, though the Massachusetts Board of Medicine does not prohibit the practice. Unlike diagnoses, opinions do not require in-person examinations.

Dr. Harold Bursztajn, a Harvard colleague of Cassem, said opinions are common but psychiatrists should be sure the facts presented to them are complete.

"You have to make sure that neither side is withholding information," he said.

A Herald investigation last fall found much of the information in Cassem's affidavit about Edwards, which was provided to Cassem by Foster's lawyers, was untrue.


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