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Boston Diocese Will Not be Charged for Abuse

Aired July 23, 2003 - 19:19   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on now, the Catholic archdiocese in Boston and its leadership was blasted today for its part in decades of sexual abuse against hundreds of people, maybe even as many as a thousand, they say.
But officials in Massachusetts say there won't be criminal charges brought because of that abuse. Will not be criminal charges brought.

Jason Carroll explains why.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His voice, shaking with anger, Massachusetts attorney general revealed the results of a report alleging the level of sexual abuse by priests was far greater and took place longer than many had imagined.

TOM REILLY, MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is very important that there be an official public record of what occurred. The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable.

CARROLL: The scope of the scandal, outlined in a 76-page report based on an 18-month investigation, using the archdiocese of Boston own records. They project nearly 1,000 victims of abuse, involving more than 250 clergy and church workers, going back six decades.

REILLY: There is simply no way to calculate the damage, other than to say that what has been done to innocent children is horrible.

CARROLL: A spokesman for the archdiocese did acknowledge past mistakes.

REV. CHRIS COYNE, SPOKESMAN, ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON: There was a whole kind of culture protection that never recognized the number one thing we had to do was protect children.

CARROLL: Much of the criticism is directed at Boston's former cardinal, Bernard Law, and other clergy, saying they knew they were putting abusive priests with children.

Law and others have denied this. The cardinal was forced to resign over the crisis.

But the attorney general says no laws were broken at the time, so he can't pursue criminal charges. REILLY: I can say this, that if the conduct that happened in the past happened in the past years with the laws that the legislature passed last year would be a far different story.

CARROLL: Gary Bergeron is one of the victims who met with the attorney general. He wanted to see some clergy face criminal charges, but the release of the report provides some relief.

GARY BERGERON, CLERGY ABUSE VICTIM: To have the attorney general stand up and say not only did it happen, but it was worse than anybody could imagine, I don't need anybody's affirmation but my God, I felt it today.

CARROLL (on camera): The report did not find any recent allegations of abuse. Victims say perhaps that means it draws a line between a painful past and a hopeful future.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Boston.


COOPER: Well, this has produced outrage in many circles. When we come back from break, we're going to hear from two men, John Harris and Robert Costello, who say they were victims of priest sex abuse and they want answers.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, today's announcement that there will not be any criminal charges in the church abuse case in Massachusetts wasn't a total surprise to victims of abuse. But some are reacting by voicing their disappointment in the system.

Joining us, two men who claim they were abused by priest in the Boston area, John Harris and Robert Costello, both members of the group called Survivors Networks for Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP. They are joining us from Watertown, Massachusetts.

Gentlemen, appreciate you joining us.

John, your reaction upon hearing the news no criminal charges will be filed?

JOHN HARRIS, ALLEGED ABUSE VICTIM: Well, certainly I understand and it's been explained to me the legalities of it and why indictments could not come down.

But that doesn't negate the rage that many of the survivors feel that more -- perhaps more imagination or ingenuity could have been used by the civil prosecutions to find something that they could use to get these people out of their positions of management.

COOPER: Yes. Robert, let me just tell you, this is what the attorney general said, he said, quote, "The laws in existence at the time these events occurred do not permit us to initiate criminal charges." Basically, that they didn't have the laws on the books that they now have on the books.

Is that enough of an explanation for you?

ROBERT COSTELLO, ALLEGED ABUSE VICTIM: No, not really. I think, as John said, he could have been a little more imaginative, as well as, you know the church dragged their heels through the entire investigation. It was a fight to get any reports, any paper documents or anything else like that.

So just interfering with, you know, a grand jury investigation anything that would have given the thousands of victims out there a, you know, a slender of hope that maybe somehow justice would be served.

COOPER: Robert, I'm interested to hear your opinion. This investigation has gone on for -- I don't know, I think 18 months or so at the outer limit of it. Yet the investigation did not find any evidence of recent abuse or ongoing abuse. They didn't say it's not happening. They didn't find any evidence of it.

Do you find that credible?

HARRIS: No. I mean, you know, it's only been -- the investigation was going on for -- I think you said 16, 18 months, but you know, children who are being abused right now don't know it's going on. They can't voice their feelings or emotions, and I'm sure it's going on. It's just a matter of, you know, we're going to have to wait another 20 years for these children to become adults and to start dealing with this. So I think that it's far from over.

COOPER: John, I know you were upset by how this investigation was handled, how the information was disseminated?

HARRIS: That's correct. I mean, part of the big problem is deference, and Massachusetts has long history of deference to the Catholic church and the deference continues to this day.

For instance, the attorney general's report was released yesterday to Bishop-elect O'Malley before it was even released to the public. And that shows a deference to the clergy.

Attorney General Reilly works for the citizens of the commonwealth and we should have received the report at the same time as the church.

COOPER: Well, gentlemen, I appreciate you coming own to talk about your thoughts on all this. John Harris and Robert Costello. I know it's always a tough subject to talk about but we appreciate you coming in. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: You're welcome. COOPER: Well, we tried to get in touch with some at the archdiocese of Boston to include their comments in this segment. We did not get a response. However, the archdioceses web site says it plans to review the findings of the report before making any further public comments. We'd love to talk to them any time.


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