California diocese drops Shanley suit

Boston Herald/July 5, 2003
By Eric Convey

A California diocese that had taken the extraordinary step of suing the Archdiocese of Boston in connection with the clergy abuse scandal is dropping the court case, at least for now.

"The move is a show of good faith to the newly appointed archbishop, Sean Patrick O'Malley," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif.

The suit, technically called a "cross-complaint," had asked the courts to make the Boston archdiocese pay to settle any civil claims related to abuse committed in California by the Rev. Paul Shanley.

Church leaders in San Bernardino argued the Boston archdiocese should not have withheld information about past Shanley allegations when he transferred there in 1990.

At the time, Shanley had never been charged with a crime but allegedly engaged numerous men in sexual affairs. He awaits trial on Massachusetts molestation charges brought last year and is named in lawsuits on both coasts.

In a statement yesterday, the San Bernardino diocese said it filed the cross-complaint only "after Boston leaders failed to respond to five separate requests by San Bernardino (counterparts) to settle the liability issue directly."

The San Bernardino diocese "was forced" to bring the action, the statement says.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston could not be reached yesterday. The chancery was closed for the Independence Day holiday.

Bishop Richard G. Barnes of San Bernardino said in yesterday's statement that he dropped the cross-complaint even though canon law did not require him to do so.

"I trust that our church and almighty God, in their infinite wisdom, will help us find early and just resolutions to the crisis we have endured for over a year," he said. "For the good of the victims, the church and the faithful, we must move forward."

Barnes said he hopes to end any dispute between the dioceses by "sitting down with Bishop O'Malley to resolve this matter directly."

At the same time, Barnes said, he will protect the "patrimony" of the archdiocese -- church parlance for preserving its financial viability.

O'Malley is scheduled to assume leadership of the Boston archdiocese at the end of the month.

The Diocese of San Bernardino is the country's 12th largest. The Boston archdiocese is the fourth largest.

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