Clerical sex abuse targeted
Massachusetts lawmakers OK reporting requirements for clergy
First published: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
BOSTON -- Amid the biggest child-molestation scandal to rock the nation's Roman Catholic
Church, the Massachusetts state House approved legislation Tuesday requiring clergy to report
evidence of sexual abuse of children to authorities.
Clergy would not have to report anything they learned in confession or other usually privileged
conversations if their religion forbids it. A version of the bill passed the Senate in January; the
legislation must go back to the Senate for consideration of House amendments.
The measure, approved overwhelmingly in a voice vote by the House, would extend to
members of the clergy the mandatory reporting law that applies to teachers, social workers and
other professionals in Massachusetts.
In a related development, Vermont's attorney general says he or his staff will meet soon with
officials from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to discuss any concerns about sexual
abuse by priests. Attorney General William Sorrell said Tuesday that the head of his office's
criminal division, Cindy Maguire, had called the diocesan office last week "and expressed a
desire to meet and talk about information that they might have on alleged misconduct on the
part of priests with youngsters in Vermont.''
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said Friday t has found ``credible evidence''
that 35 priests sexually abused children over five decades and relieved several of them of their
About 50 children were victims, diocesan spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said. Rossi could
not say how many of the 35 names had been given
to police when the allegations were made. She said the
archdiocese followed state law.
The archdiocese will not turn over the names of the priests now because the statute of
limitations has expired in all of the cases, she said, adding that most allegations involved one
victim. ``We will follow the letter of the law 100 percent, but we are not going to go back and
release the names of priests from years ago,'' Rossi said. ``We don't see any good that
would come from that, for either the victim or the priest.''
She said the fewer than 10 priests had faced ``credible'' abuse allegations years ago and
had been working in administrative jobs since then.
Of the remaining accused priests, four were diagnosed as pedophiles and either left the
priesthood or retired. The others were either relieved of their duties, retired, left the priesthood or
died, Rossi said.
One priest, the Rev. Michael Swierzy, 53, pleaded guilty in 1998 to one count of
corrupting the morals of a minor after a boy came forward in May 1997 with allegations of abuse.
The boy is suing Swierzy and the church, Rossi said.
The archdiocese said it reviewed records dating to 1950, prompted by a sex-abuse
scandal in Boston, where church leaders admitted they knew about abuse allegations against a
priest but did little to stop him.
That scandal prompted Philadelphia church leaders to relieve several priests in
administrative jobs of their duties, Rossi said.``The tragic situation in Boston gives the church great
concern and great pause,'' Rossi said. ``Sadly, there is a ripple effect.''
Some of the Philadelphia priests involved were shuttled from parish to parish - a
practice stopped in the early 1980s, Rossi said. She did not know how many priests were treated
in that manner.
In the past, some priests facing credible allegations of abuse have been placed in a
``limited ministry'' - essentially a closely supervised administrative position that did not involve
with children, Rossi said.
There are about 800 diocesan priests in the archdiocese, which serves about 1.5
million Catholics. Since 1950, about 2,100 priests have served the archdiocese.
There have been no allegations against any diocesan priest in the last three years,
During the 1990s, the archdiocese paid about $200,000 to settle a handful of abuse
Phila. Diocese Finds Sex
Friday, Feb. 22, 2002
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