In a meeting resembling last week's summit between U.S. cardinals and the pope, New York Cardinal Edward Egan and hundreds of priests gathered Monday to discuss the sex abuse scandal engulfing the U.S. Roman Catholic church.

The Rev. Peter Gavigan from Our Lady of Victory in New York said his "faith and trust" in Egan was renewed following the private, four-hour meeting.

After a 45-minute speech by Egan, some 500 priests broke into small groups. Priests said Egan met with the groups and answered their concerns.

"It was both informational and relational ... the relationship between the priests and the cardinal as bishop was strengthened," Gavigan said. "We priests have been dealing with it, in a sense, on our own. It was necessary to see him face to face."

New York Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling would not say what the priests discussed with Egan.

He said the message was "to let them know what was happening ... they read things, they see things and they don't have an opportunity to ask the cardinal directly what's going on."

Egan had no comment as he arrived at St. Joseph's Seminary. On Sunday, he said priests accused of sexual misconduct would be suspended at least until the allegation is resolved. He also suggested those who suspect abuse should seek out the authorities.

Gavigan also said the church should "listen to the people's pain, listen to their hurt and also listen to their suggestions about how things might be improved."

"I think the wisdom will also come from the people, not just from the top," he said.

In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law came under new criticism for a legal defense that suggests plaintiffs in a lawsuit against him were partly responsible for an allegedly abusive relationship between the Rev. Paul Shanley and a boy.

The alleged abuse began in 1983, when Gregory Ford was 6.

Now 24, Ford and his parents say Law was negligent in overseeing Shanley, who was described in archdiocese personnel documents as a "very sick person" and known as a proponent of sex between men and boys even as he was shuffled from job to job by church officials.

In a six-page response to the lawsuit, an attorney for Law said "the negligence of the plaintiffs contributed to cause the injury or damage."

That drew outrage from the Fords and their attorney, Roderick MacLeish, who said there is "not a shred of evidence" to support the claim that Gregory Ford or his parents were responsible for Shanley's behavior.

Gregory Ford's father, Rodney Ford, called the response "a disgrace."

"They want to blame me and my wife for something that happened to my 6-year-old son," he said. "I'm ashamed to call myself a Catholic."

Suffolk University law professor Rosanna Cavallaro called the legal language in the response "boilerplate" and said it would be unusual for an attorney not to raise every defense available. The archdiocese did not return calls to comment Monday.

Shanley, 71, whose last known address is in San Diego, has issued no public statements since the case began.

Separately, a parish in Lowell said it will not take part in the Boston Archdiocese's annual fund-raising campaign and instead will tend to alleged abuse victims of the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham.

In a letter published in the church bulletin, the Rev. Albert Capone also said he cannot "comprehend why the Archdiocese of Boston is not doing more in response to the needs of the victims of sexual abuse by priests."


-- Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest archdiocese, was sued under a federal racketeering law for allegedly covering up past sexual abuses by priests. It is at least the third time in the last two months that a Catholic leader has been accused under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which is normally used in mob cases.

The lawsuit also names the bishops of all 194 U.S. dioceses. The plaintiff's attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, said the dioceses maintained secret files of "scandalous material" including evidence of abusive priests.

Officials also said four priests from the San Bernardino Diocese left their parishes over the weekend amid allegations they molested children.

•  Priests also gathered in Concord, N.H., for training on how to prevent and detect the sexual abuse of children. Other dioceses testing the new "Protecting God's Children" training program are in Newark, N.J., Kansas City, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.

•  New York's Brooklyn Diocese said it will forward all child abuse allegations to prosecutors without screening them. District Attorney Charles Hynes called the agreement "groundbreaking."

•  Nassau County, N.Y., prosecutors said all charges of sexual abuse by priests handed over by the Rockville Centre diocese cannot be prosecuted because they have gone past the statute of limitations.

• The Rev. William Donovan, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Bridgeport, Conn., resigned after admitting to a homosexual relationship, which is under investigation by church officials. Donovan, 66, also has three drunken-driving convictions.