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Boston Church Settles Priest Case

November 19, 2005|From Associated Press

BOSTON — The Boston Archdiocese avoided federal charges Friday by agreeing to be more open about priests' backgrounds as part of a settlement with prosecutors investigating whether the church transferred a priest without revealing past accusations that he "fools around with kids."

The church was accused of withholding information from federal authorities about Father William Scanlan when Scanlan became a Veterans Affairs chaplain at a Palo Alto hospital in 1999.

U.S. Atty. Michael J. Sullivan agreed to end the grand jury investigation if the church agreed to new measures, including reporting requirements.

Under the deal, the church must provide background information on priests in the military, the VA and federal prisons. It also must provide detailed information about chaplain candidates, audit its policies for child protection, promptly report allegations of abuse, and implement other anti-abuse programs and internal controls.

The archdiocese said in a statement that it was pleased with the settlement and had "consistently maintained that there was no basis for a criminal prosecution."

Neither the U.S. attorney's office nor the archdiocese identified the chaplain, but a source close to the investigation confirmed previous news accounts that had identified him as Scanlan.

Federal prosecutors said the priest's personnel file contained notes written in 1987 by an unnamed bishop that said another priest had reported Scanlan "fools around with kids" at a home for troubled adolescent boys.

The file also contained a 1987 evaluation from a residential psychiatric treatment facility that indicated Scanlan had become infatuated with one of the boys.

When Scanlan was hired by the VA in 1999, a condition of his employment was a background investigation by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That investigation included forms sent to the Boston Archdiocese seeking any "adverse information" about Scanlan.

Prosecutors say a bishop who had been the priest's supervisor "falsely certified that the Archdiocese of Boston had no adverse information," even though the bishop would have had access to the personnel file.

Archdiocese attorney Michael Fee said a priest who had prepared the form for the bishop to sign "had no information about this priest being unfit or being the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct."

Fee also said the references in the file were not substantiated allegations of abuse.

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