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An archdiocesan spokesman clarified published reports that Archbishop Seán O’Malley had decided to reopen a case of clergy sexual misconduct that had been closed months ago.
The source of the confusion was a letter sent Sept. 12 from Archbishop O’Malley to Susan Gallagher, in response to a letter he had received from her. Gallagher, who wrote on behalf of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, requested that the allegations of abuse made by Paul Edwards be reinvestigated.
Edwards filed suit in August 2002 alleging that Msgr. Michael Foster, top canon lawyer for the archdiocese, and the late Father William Cummings, had separately abused him during the early 1980s. The suit was dropped in September 2002 when inconsistencies were found in Edwards’ accounts of abuse, and several of his friends came forward to contradict the allegations. Edwards’ lawyer, Eric Parker, later asked to withdraw from the case.
The archdiocese closed the investigation into Edwards’ claims on Sept. 12, 2002, and reinstated Msgr. Foster to active ministry. The next day, Edwards contacted the archdiocese with an additional complaint and Msgr. Foster was again placed on administrative leave. The archdiocese concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated and Cardinal Bernard Law closed the final investigation and the archdiocese again reinstated Msgr. Foster.
Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, noted that when Edwards withdrew his allegations, he did so “with prejudice and agreed to no longer pursue legal action against Msgr. Foster, the archdiocese or any incardinated priest of the archdiocese.”
Archbishop O’Malley responded to Gallagher’s recent request saying that he ordered a review of the files regarding Edwards, not that he reopened the case as some media reported.
Father Coyne described the letter from the archbishop that Gallagher passed to the media as “a private, personal correspondence between the archbishop and Ms. Gallagher.”
"It was not intended to be a press release," he continued.
Father Coyne said that a request from Edwards’ new lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr., prompted Archbishop O’Malley to ask for a review of the case. MacLeish claims that he has additional information, such as a polygraph test, that the archdiocese should examine.
"Archbishop O'Malley ordered a review of the file, which means basically to reread the file to make sure that we followed all the proper procedures and protocols," explained Father Coyne. It does not mean reopening the investigation he continued.
In his letter to Gallagher, Archbishop O’Malley states that he feels that the decision of the review board in the Edwards case was just.
“It is my understanding that the review board was in possession of all the available information concerning the case,” the archbishop wrote. “No new facts have surfaced since they rendered their decision; however, I recently ordered a full review of the case and the findings of the archdiocesan review board, and understand that the attorneys are involved in a dialogue concerning these matters.”
Archbishop O’Malley did not mention the names of Msgr. Foster or Father Cummings in his letter, but Father Coyne said that the re-examination of the files is specifically in reference to the allegation regarding Father Cummings.
Msgr. Foster was the first of three accused priests in the archdiocese to be restored to active ministry.