Parish declines to take part in Boston archdiocese's fund-raising campaign

Monday, April 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ A Roman Catholic parish where a former priest allegedly molested children has decided not to take part in two major archdiocese fund-raisers, a move that may represent a rebuff of Cardinal Bernard Law.

In a letter published in the church bulletin last weekend, the Rev. Albert L. Capone said he cannot ``comprehend why the Archdiocese of Boston is not doing more in response to the needs of the victims of sexual abuse by priests.''

He said St. Michael parish in Lowell would not participate in Law's annual appeal or the Promise for Tomorrow campaign and would instead concentrate on tending to the needs of alleged victims of the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham.

Alleged victims have sued the archdiocese and Law, claiming the church covered up Birmingham's crimes by moving him among six parishes and ignoring parents who told church officials about the abuse.

Robert Sherman, an attorney representing alleged victims of Birmingham, said there is ``a mutiny by priests against the cardinal.

``I think it shows that the cardinal has not only lost support from the lay public and lost support from the lay Catholic leadership, he is now losing support from within his own ranks,'' Sherman said.

A call to Capone was not immediately returned Monday.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he had not seen the letter and had no comment.

``Generally most priests try to cooperate with what the bishop tries to do,'' said Monsignor Michael Higgins, the head of Justice for Priests and Deacons, a San Diego-based canon law group. ``In this case in Boston I think what happened is there is contempt. Priests are very disillusioned and so are the people.''

Birmingham, who died in 1989, worked in parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell, Boston, Gloucester and Lexington.

The Promise for Tomorrow campaign set a goal of $300 million over 18 months, the largest ever for a U.S diocese. The archdiocese has said none of the money raised will be used to settle with victims.

The Rev. Robert Bullock, a leader of the Boston Priests Forum, a group of more than 100 priests formed in response to the crisis, said he thinks this was the first time a parish had publicly withdrawn from fund-raising in response to the sexual abuse crisis.

Law has been under intense scrutiny since it was learned that Archdiocese of Boston had shuttled now-defrocked priest John Geoghan from parish to parish despite repeated allegations that he was a pedophile.

The Geoghan case put Law and the Boston diocese at the center of a church abuse scandal that has spread nationwide.

In other developments related to the scandal on Monday:

_ In New York, Cardinal Edward Egan and hundreds of priests met to discuss the crisis _ much like the cardinals did last week during an unprecedented meeting with the pope.

After a speech by Egan, some 500 priests broke into small groups. Priests said Egan met with the groups and answered their concerns.

New York Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling would not say what the priests discussed with Egan during the private, four-hour meeting.

He said the message was ``to let them know what was happening ... they read things, they see things and they don't have an opportunity to ask the cardinal directly what's going on.''

_ Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest archdiocese, was sued under a federal racketeering law for allegedly covering up past sexual abuses by priests. It is at least the third time in the last two months that a Catholic leader has been accused under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which is normally used in mob cases.

The lawsuit also names the bishops of all 194 U.S. dioceses. The plaintiff's attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, said the dioceses maintained secret files of ``scandalous material'' including evidence of abusive priests.

_ In Ohio, Columbus Bishop James A. Griffin said priests now will be barred from the ministry if they are found guilty of any sexual abuse. He said it's a shift from earlier policies in which some priests were sent away for treatment.

_ In Bridgeport, Conn., two priests have resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, Bridgeport Bishop William Lori said.