San Bernardino Diocese pulls complaint against Boston Archdiocese

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino will withdraw a cross-complaint filed against the Boston Archdiocese, holding it liable for damages in a lawsuit filed against both dioceses by an alleged victim of retired priest Paul Shanley, accused in Boston of 10 counts of child rape.

The action was a show of support for Boston's new archbishop-elect, The Sun in San Bernardino reported Saturday.

San Bernardino filed the complaint in April seeking to hold responsible former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, for allowing Shanley to transfer to Southern California in 1990. Shanley arrived with a sworn affidavit that he was in good standing in Boston despite a history of sexual-abuse allegations there.

Law failed to inform diocesan officials of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Shanley, who received an assignment from former San Bernardino Bishop Phillip F. Straling to St. Anne Catholic Church in San Bernardino.

San Bernardino Bishop Gerald Barnes spoke Thursday with Boston Archbishop-elect Sean Patrick O'Malley about the complaint, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, diocesan spokesman.

"They both expressed a sincere desire to bring these matters to a speedy and just resolution," Lincoln said.

He said no formal agreement was reached in which the Boston would accept responsibility in the Shanley matter.

"We are confident that the new leadership in Boston will be willing to take responsibility for the past actions of the archdiocese," said Lincoln. "We want to give them an opportunity to do that."

Under the law, a party named in a lawsuit that wants to shift the legal burden to a responsible third party must file a cross-complaint. Lincoln said the complaint against the Boston Archdiocese could be refiled later, if necessary.

Boston church officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment Saturday.

San Bernardino Bishop Barnes, in a written statement released Friday, said that while his diocese isn't obligated under church law to drop the complaint, he is doing so to quickly resolve litigation.

"For the good of the victims, the church and the faithful, we must move forward," Barnes stated.

In its complaint against Boston, San Bernardino argued that the diocese shouldn't be forced to pay damages in connection with Shanley, who has been accused in a lawsuit of molesting Big Bear Lake resident Kevin English, when English was a teen in the early 1990s.

San Bernardino argued it should not be liable for the actions of church leaders in Boston, who were aware of Shanley's history. The California diocese said it made five unsuccessful attempts to settle the issue with Boston. English's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors in San Bernardino and Riverside counties did not file criminal charges against Shanley for his alleged molestation of English, because of problems with evidence. A civil suit accusing him of having sex with a boy is pending.

Shanley is awaiting trail in Massachusetts on charges of raping four boys from 1979 to 1989. He has pleaded innocent to 10 counts of child rape and remains free on $300,000 bail.


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