Cardinal Law says plaintiffs contributed to alleged abuse
April 30, 2002
Cardinal Bernard Law, firing back in an increasingly contentious
clerical sex scandal, has declared in court papers that unspecified
"negligence" by a then-6-year-old boy and his parents contributed to
The nation's senior Catholic prelate made the assertion in response to
a lawsuit filed against him and the archdiocese by Gregory Ford and
his parents. Now 24, Ford claims he was molested for six years by Rev.
Paul Shanley, a priest in the Boston archdiocese.
Law is scheduled to be deposed June 5 in the Fords' civil lawsuit,
which charges that the cardinal and the archdiocese failed to protect
More than 1,600 pages of documents turned over by the archdiocese have
produced sordid allegations against Shanley, who was reassigned by Law
to a parish in Southern California in the early 1990s.
Shanley, now 71, recently was let go from his volunteer job with the
San Diego Police Department. Although his whereabouts have been
unknown, Shanley is expected to be deposed as scheduled Thursday,
according to a lawyer for the Fords.
"I think we have located him," Roderick MacLeish Jr. said Monday. He
would not say where the deposition would take place.
Calls to the Rogers Law Firm, which represents the cardinal, and to
the archdiocese were not returned.
In the six-page response, an attorney for Law said, "the negligence of
the plaintiffs contributed to cause the injury or damage."
In addition to asserting that the Ford family's negligence contributed
to alleged abuse by Shanley, a document filed by the firm on Law's
behalf said that any damages awarded should be proportionately
Suffolk University law professor Rosanna Cavallaro called the legal
language in the response "boilerplate" and said it would be unusual
for an attorney not to raise every defense available.
The response to the Fords' complaint was filed in Middlesex superior
court earlier this month. It was first reported publicly in Monday's
At a news conference Monday, MacLeish blasted the cardinal's claim as
"What is the conceivable evidence to support the idea that Ford [and
his parents] were somehow responsible for what Paul Shanley did to
The family's lawyer said he saw a "common theme" in the church's
response: "One, blame the priests. Two, blame the victims. Three, gag
the lawyers. Four, don't turn over documents. And when you do, turn
them over in incomplete portions."
He also called the latest action by the archdiocese "bad legal
strategy," because anything contained in the new filing can be
questioned at the cardinal's deposition.
MacLeish said he will be in court Wednesday to force the church to
turn over records of Shanley's psychiatric evaluations.
Rodney Ford, Gregory Ford's father, said Monday that the motion filed
by the cardinal was hard for his son to stomach.