BOSTON – Cardinal Bernard Law testified Tuesday before a grand jury investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against him or any other top church officials for their handling of priests accused of sexual abuse.
Law had no comment after a full day of testimony at Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office.
His lawyer, J. Owen Todd, said the grand jury and assistant attorney general Michelle Adelman focused on the evolution of the archdiocese's policy with abusive priests during Law's tenure, which began in 1984.
Law resigned as Boston archbishop in December after a year of revelations that he and top aides reassigned priests who were known molesters to different parishes.
He is the first American cardinal known to have been subpoenaed by a grand jury since the abuse crisis began in January 2002. At least eight other top officials in the Boston Archdiocese have been subpoenaed to answer questions about their handling of complaints against priests.
The cardinal has been questioned for several civil lawsuits filed by alleged abuse victims, but this is the first time he faced a grand jury. Todd said he didn't expect the grand jury to indict Law, adding he was unaware of any criminal probe into Law's activities.
He said Law is "saddened that the situation has developed to where it's necessary for the cardinal and the grand jury to have to investigate what happened."
Reilly's office would not comment on Law's testimony Tuesday. Reilly has been publicly critical of church officials, but has also acknowledged the difficulty in bringing criminal charges against them
"There was a cover-up. There was an elaborate scheme," Reilly said in December. But "it is very difficult under the criminal laws of this state to hold a superior accountable for the acts of another."
Until recently, child endangerment was not specifically addressed under Massachusetts law. Church officials also were not required to report sexual abuse of children to civil authorities.
A new law makes reckless endangerment of children a crime and requires church officials to report suspected abuse.
In December, the diocese of Manchester, N.H., struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid criminal indictment. As part of the agreement, the diocese admitted it likely would have been convicted of failing to protect children from abusive priests.
Two weeks ago, a special grand jury in New York state issued a blistering report that accused the Diocese of Rockville Centre, on Long Island, of ignoring or transferring alleged molester priests from parish to parish.
Law, once among America's most influential Catholic clergymen, has been on private retreat at a Benedictine monastery near Pittsburgh. He plans to serve as the chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy of Alma, a religious order in Clinton, Md.