BOSTON – Under pressure from the Massachusetts attorney general, the Boston Archdiocese on Friday agreed to turn over to prosecutors the names of alleged victims of priest abuse and details of the reported assaults.
In the past month, Roman Catholic leaders had turned over the names of 80 priests in the archdiocese suspected of sexually abusing children in the past four decades. But it did not include details such as dates, locations or the alleged victims' names. Prosecutors complained they could not investigate without those details.
State Attorney General Thomas Reilly announced the changes Friday after a meeting with lawyers for the archdiocese and district attorneys from Suffolk, Middlesex, Plymouth, Essex and Norfolk counties.
"What we have to deal with at this point and what my colleagues have to deal with are decades of unreported crimes against children," Reilly said.
Church officials had maintained they were bound in many cases by confidentiality agreements in civil settlements with victims. Prosecutors say those agreements are void if their effect is to hide a crime.
In the cases with confidentiality agreements, investigators will be provided with the names of the alleged victims' lawyers. And the archdiocese agreed to free any victims from the confidentiality agreements so they may talk about their cases with investigators if they wish.
Church lawyers left the meeting at the attorney general's office without speaking to reporters.
Reilly had summoned the lawyers to his office to address concerns about what he called the lack of prompt disclosure of all information regarding sex abuse of children. He reportedly had threatened a grand jury investigation if the archdiocese did not comply.
In the past several weeks Cardinal Bernard Law has given prosecutors the names of 80 priests suspected of molesting children and suspended 10 active priests after announcing the new zero-tolerance policy for abuse.
The new policy came after reports that the archdiocese had simply shuttled now defrocked priest and convicted pedophile John Geoghan between parishes despite allegations against him.
Geoghan is serving a nine-to-10-year prison sentence for fondling a 10-year-old boy, and faces two more criminal trials and 80 lawsuits.
Meanwhile, one of the priests suspended in the scandal, the Rev. D. George Spagnolia of Lowell, admitted that he lied to The Boston Globe when he said he remained celibate while on a nearly 20-year leave from the priesthood. He said Friday that in fact, he had had two gay relationships.
He acknowledged that the admission, first reported in the Globe on Friday, could damage his credibility. But he maintained his innocence.
"Being gay doesn't mean you're a pedophile. ... I have had gay relationships, but I have never harmed a child," he said.
Spagnolia, 64, was the first priest to fight his suspension under the archdiocese's zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse. He was accused of sexual misconduct involving a 14-year-old boy in 1971 while he was at St. Francis de Sales Church in Boston.
Spagnolia took a leave of absence in 1973 and returned to priestly duties in 1991.