Cardinal Bernard Law acknowledged in a sworn deposition that church files included complaints dating back to 1966 against the Rev. Paul Shanley, but the Boston archbishop said he never sought out those records before promoting Shanley in 1985.
The transcripts of Law's testimony in June were made public on Tuesday.
As he has in the past, Law said repeatedly during two days of sworn testimony that he relied on the recommendations of subordinates and scattered church records in making decisions to return priests to parish work even after receiving sexual abuse allegations against them.
Written transcripts and videotapes of Law's deposition in civil lawsuits filed against Law and others related to alleged abuse by Shanley were made public Tuesday as Law continued his deposition for a third day.
Shanley, 71, who was once known for his street ministry to gay and troubled youth, is currently in jail awaiting trial on child rape charges. He was indicted in June on charges he abused boys from 1979 to 1989 while he was a priest at a church in Newton, a Boston suburb. The boys were between the ages of 6 and 15.
Under questioning from Roderick MacLeish, an attorney for alleged Shanley victims, Law acknowledged that a complaint was sent to the archdiocese in 1966 alleging that Shanley had sexually abused a boy.
But Law said he did not examine Shanley's personnel file in 1985, before he promoted Shanley to pastor at St. Jean's parish in Newton, where several men have claimed in civil lawsuits that they were sexually abused by Shanley in the 1980s.
Law said he did not recall reading a 1985 letter from a woman who said Shanley gave a talk in which he said, "When adults have sex with children, the children seduced them."
But MacLeish presented Law with a copy of a letter from Bishop John McCormack to the woman in which McCormack said Law had received her letter.
Law said the church's records were kept in "a lot of disparate places" and that he had no reason to believe at that point that Shanley had been abusing children. He has said he did not have any knowledge of allegations against Shanley until 1993.
"But certainly there was information about Paul Shanley that was not readily available and it would be helpful to have been," Law said.
Also during the deposition, Law was grilled about his handling of the Rev. Daniel Graham, an admitted child molester. Law allowed Graham to return to his church in 1988 with no restrictions on his activities.
"He was allowed to continue, yes, after intervention by a medical source," Law said.
After the initial claim of abuse, Graham was allowed to continue his ministry, but the archdiocese reversed itself three times on whether he should continue. The abuse claim came in the 1980s from a man who said the priest had sexually assaulted him on numerous occasions 20 years earlier.
Law said that, in accordance with policy that existed before 1993, parishioners were not informed of the allegation against Graham. He said the archdiocese's policy has changed.
Law also said he relied on the recommendation of two subordinates in deciding to return Graham to his parish.
"Any assignment of Father Graham would have been made upon their recommendation, and their recommendation would have been made upon the basis of a study of that case and an informed opinion that he did not pose a risk," Law said.
Law said the policy has changed so that now "no priest against whom a credible allegation of sexual abuse against a minor has been made may hold any assignment whatsoever."