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In the Crossfire

Is church doing enough to combat abuse?

(CNN) -- Boston Cardinal Bernard Law's taped deposition was released Tuesday and reveals he allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to return to the ministry without informing parishioners. Is the Roman Catholic Church doing enough to combat abuse of children? Attorney Robert Bennett, a member of the Catholic Bishops' Review Board looking into sexual abuse, addresses the issue as he steps into the "Crossfire" with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

BEGALA: First, let me ask you, as an attorney, why is that cardinal not in prison? As a Catholic, why are we being asked to submit to the moral authority of a monster like that?

BENNETT: Paul, I think that's a gross overstatement, with all due respect.

BEGALA: He's let a pedophile priest go into Quincy, Massachusetts, knowing that he was a child molester. What else could he be?

BEGALA: I'm not here to defend Cardinal Law, and I don't know if the facts are as extreme as you say. I'm not here to defend Cardinal Law, however, so don't, by your outrageous statements, don't put me in that position. I don't think Cardinal Law should be in jail.

Whether Cardinal Law should be a cardinal in the Archdiocese of Boston at the current time, given what's happened in the past, is an issue which is a very real issue and an issue which our board is going to have to focus upon. I think the irony of all this, Paul, is that -- and you've seen it before and have been involved in it before -- in an effort to not bring scandals to the church, and I'm sure that's what the motivation of Cardinal Law was, not to bring scandal to the church, what they basically did was plant to seeds for an enormous scandal.

And it's always the coverup, which is the biggest problem, and I think that's kind of what we're facing now.

CARLSON: Mr. Bennett, sort of a thought experiment here. The Rev. Daniel Graham was the subject of a colloquy between the lawyer and Cardinal Law. Do you think -- he apparently molested boys -- do you think if he had embezzled $200,000 from the diocese he would have been bounced out? Do you think he would have been treated with the same gentle treatment that he was?

BENNETT: My guess is he would not have been. I think, again, what you have to keep in mind is, culturally, things were treated differently at that point in time.

But let me make it clear, I think it is an outrage to permit someone who you have reason to believe is a pedophile to be transferred from one diocese to another. I don't have the luxury, as you two have as television hosts, to make judgments on what I read in the newspaper.

CARLSON: It is a great luxury, I have to say.

BENNETT: It is a great luxury. I have to look at the hard day...

CARLSON: But hold on. But as you do that, and as you seek to find ways to prevent it from happening again, it seems to me you have to answer the question, what about the culture allowed this to happen? I read a report the other day that some years ago there were recently 200 -- at least accused or alleged pedophile priests -- just in Boston. What about the culture of the Catholic clergy could allow something like this to happen?

BENNETT: I think it's very wrong. I mean, you know...

CARLSON: But what about it? I mean, no other institution...

BENNETT: The problem here is that we're all agreeing. And that's not typical of your show. Where is the other person? I mean, yes, it's awful.

CARLSON: But I'm asking you for the conclusions you have drawn after looking into this. I mean...

BENNETT: Well, the conclusions I've drawn -- I've been in this about a month and ...

CARLSON: But I mean, you're pretty fast.

BENNETT: Yes, but I'm not -- I'm not that fast. There is -- the church -- historically the church does not want to bring scandal to the church.

In many instances individual families did not want this to be brought to the attention of the public. But if you are asking me to justify what occurred in the Boston Archdiocese...

CARLSON: No, just explain.

BENNETT: ...I cannot and will not. Well, I don't think Cardinal Law is an evil man.

BEGALA: Well, how else could you describe -- I'm sorry to be so rough -- no I'm not. I'm not sorry to be so rough on Cardinal Law. He is a man, and I love this church, have been raised in it, raising my children -- I will die in the Catholic Church, Bob. But this is a man whom we are supposed to look to for moral authority who knew, by his admission, that there were child molesters, and he sent them to minister to children. What else can we call him but evil?

BENNETT: You know, I think -- I prefer directing my remarks to conduct rather than person.

BEGALA: Conduct. Good point. You're right. That conduct was manifestly wrong and evil, right?

BENNETT: And I'm much more comfortable talking about conduct. And I think the conduct was wrong. And I think it did a great disservice to the church, and that's why we have a crisis. But I, again, want to see some evidence that, firsthand, rather than rely on what I read in the paper.




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