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Church secrets tumble out

Boston, Dec. 4 (Reuters): One priest had a history of molesting boys, another maintained a “double life” with his girlfriend and a third supplied cocaine to a teenager with whom he was having sex — but the Archdiocese of Boston gave all three men new jobs even though it knew of their records.

The disclosures surfaced in thousands of pages from the personnel files of eight priests that were made public yesterday. A Massachusetts judge ordered the files released last month as part of civil lawsuits over the archdiocese’s handling of the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is accused of raping boys.

The release of the documents marked the latest chapter in a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the US Roman Catholic Church since January. It came amid reports the Boston archdiocese may declare bankruptcy as a way of dealing with the estimated 450 lawsuits it faces from people who charge they were sexually abused by clergymen.

Lawyers for Shanley’s alleged victims said the personnel files prove a central claim in their lawsuits: that the archdiocese routinely protected and reassigned priests accused of sexual misconduct.

“These people knew that paedophiles were coming to town. They had advance warning. We didn't,” said Robert Costello, who said he was abused by a Boston-area priest from 1968 to 1975.

The file of the Rev. Paul Burns contains a letter Boston Cardinal Bernard Law wrote to the Vatican in 1999 in which he admitted his archdiocese had assigned the priest to two parishes even though it knew he had been accused of molesting boys and had been warned to keep him away from minors.

Burns had spent time at a centre for troubled priests in 1981 and 1982 to “treat incidents of and a proclivity towards sexual activity with boys,” according to a memo that accompanied Law’s letter.

“This propensity was known to officials within the Archdiocese of Boston, but overlooked in favour of Father Burns' solemn assurance of his ability to control his impulses,” according to the document sent to the Vatican.

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