Change in policy seen as return to old patterns

Change in policy seen as return to old patterns

Look like the protesters have found something new to protest. Over the summer the Archdiocese of Boston changed its abuse policy. They made some alterations that included removing the right of accusers to automatic access to accused priests’ records. Of course, victims’ groups see this as a nefarious change, preventing victims from “bringing the facts of their cases to a nonchurch review board.” But it does no such thing.

What the rewritten policy does is bring it in line with criminal prosecutions. In a criminal case, the victim does not have automatic access to all of the investigative files of the prosecutor. In the same way, alleged victims of abuse do not have automatic access to the archdiocese’s records, because as we’ve seen, not every accused priest is actually an abuser. Sometimes the accusations are false, so why should such a priest have his privacy violated? There have several recent cases of priests who were falsely accused of criminal behavior and who had the details of their private lives splashed about the news.

“We realized we needed to protect the rights of the priest as well,” [Fr. Christopher Coyne, archdiocesan spokesman] said. “It doesn’t say (accusers) won’t be given access. It says they won’t be given automatic access. They just don’t have automatic access to all information.”

Here’s an interesting bit of information in the article that leaves out some very important details.

Gallagher said she was suspicious of the changes because they were posted by the church just days after one clergy accuser, Paul R. Edwards of Winchendon, made a formal request for the file on the church&88217;s probe into his case.

Edwards accuses Monsignor Michael Smith Foster and the late Rev. William J. Cummings of sexual abuse. The church dismissed Edwards’ claims last year after the former Newton altar boy was savaged in the media.

What you aren’t told is that a judge threw out Edwards’ lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that he could never re-file on those charges. If his accusations were so lacking that a judge acted so decisively against him, why should he have access to the file? On top of that, why does he need the file if the accused priest was cleared and he can’t file a lawsuit based on it?

Gallagher wants the Edwards-Foster case to go before an outside review board as a test of the church’s internal investigations.

Msgr. Foster was cleared not once, but twice, and a judge determined Edwards’ case should be thrown out. Are we to allow reviews and investigations ad infinitum?