The Boston Archdiocese released a new round of personnel records on sexually abusive priests on the same day 58 clerics submitted a letter calling for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.
The records show church leaders took some allegations of sex abuse by priests more seriously after a formal policy on abuse was instituted in 1993.
In one case, Father Paul Manning was removed from his ministry even after he was acquitted of indecent assault and battery of a minor during a 1993 incident. Church officials also ordered him to desist after hearing he was continuing to celebrate Mass.
Yet in another case, Father William Scanlan was described by one church official in 1987 as someone who ”fools around with kids” – but was still assigned to parish work.
The Scanlan case was in line with thousands of pages released last week revealing lurid details of one priest trading cocaine for sex with boys, another having sex with teenage girls studying to become nuns and yet another fathering at least two children and abandoning his lover as she overdosed.
The new documents came as Law’s sudden trip to Rome was confirmed, though not explained, fuelling speculation he might resign or seek permission in the Vatican to send the archdiocese into bankruptcy. At the same time, 58 Boston-area priests signed a letter calling for the cardinal’s resignation.
“The events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston,” according to the letter.
The documents’ release is the third such disclosure in a week, prompted by a state judge’s ruling ordering the archdiocese to hand over the files to lawyers representing hundreds of alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy. The lawyers hope the documents prove that the archdiocese routinely reassigned alleged paedophile priests to cover up the scandal.
Of the records related to seven priests released this week, only one - concerning Scanlan – appeared to fit a now-familiar pattern.
Scanlan was assigned to several parishes after some sex abuse allegations arose in 1987, and later was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.
Notes written in July 1987 by an unidentified church official say, “He is going to cause me a problem. He fools around with kids. He is in difficulty.”
Four days later, the official wrote “his reactions of innocence were appropriate and I said matter was ended unless I had back up to the charges.”
Scanlan was later assigned to a prison ministry, then returned to parishes.
A decade later, Scanlan was accused of raping a troubled 12-year-old girl he had been advising, allegedly telling her when she resisted that ”God wanted him to.”
Scanlan was ordered into therapy, but vigorously denied the accusations, saying she was infatuated with him and that she had dreamed he attacked her. He also passed a lie detector test, according to the documents.
In October 2000, an archdiocese official wrote to Scanlan that after “lengthy and serious discussions - we cannot conclude the alleged incident more likely than not occurred,” and reinstated him.
Scanlan eventually was assigned to a military veterans’ hospital in California, under the condition that his superiors know about the allegations, that another priest be involved in his psychotherapy, and that he be evaluated quarterly.
Other files included papers showing harsher punishment, including a priest dismissed by Law in 1995 for kissing a 19-year-old seminarian, and a priest removed from the ministry in May, two months after the archdiocese received a letter from a woman claiming her brother had been raped by the cleric in the early 1960s.