Church Official Urges Longer Moratorium

By Theo Emery
Associated Press, carried in Dayton Daily News [Boston MA]
Downloaded May 23, 2003

BOSTON (AP)--The interim head of the Archdiocese of Boston called Thursday for a 30-day extension of a moratorium on litigation in the church sex abuse scandal, saying he remains committed to settling the suits but needs more time.

Bishop Richard Lennon said the extension will allow the archdiocese to work with insurance companies toward a settlement.

"It is my fervent hope that such a resolution will serve to foster the healing so desperately needed by those who have been abused, their families, this local Church and the wider community," he said.

A 90-day moratorium ended this week without a settlement offer from the church. Late last week, attorneys from the archdiocese asked the alleged victims' lawyers to continue discussions. They refused, saying there had not been enough progress to merit a continuation.

About 500 people have come forward with claims of sexual abuse by dozens of current or former clergy in the archdiocese since the church was forced to turn over documents in January 2002 showing the church shuffled priests between parishes to hide their actions.

The resulting flood of litigation has focused national scrutiny on Boston for more than a year and led to the resignation of Bernard Law as archbishop of Boston. Lennon has taken over the archdiocese on an interim basis.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., whose law firm represents some 250 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, said he planned to meet with clients Friday and would consider the bishop's request.

"It's premature for us to make a final decision, but it would be foolhardy for us to ignore what we believe to be a personal appeal from Bishop Lennon," MacLeish said.

But Carmen Durso, a lawyer who represents more than two dozen alleged victims, said he would be reluctant to continue talks without a significant breakthrough.

"People we represent are experiencing significant anxiety about the ups and downs," he said. "To make it more uncertain by agreeing to a further extension of the moratorium would be harming them."

Also Thursday, a judge declared a mistrial when jurors could not reach a verdict in the case of a Missouri priest accused of molesting a teenager eight years ago. Prosecutors said they planned to try the Rev. Bryan Kuchar again.

Prosecutors had presented Kuchar's audiotaped confession to police, in which he admitted having oral and anal sex with the 14-year-old boy. During his testimony, Kuchar said the confession was a lie so police would leave him alone and let him go home. He now denies any wrongdoing.


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