January 11, 2005

Judge to rule on validity of church abuse agreement

Nashua Telegraph

By ALBERT McKEON, Telegraph Staff

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005

Two years ago, on a cold and sunny December morning, the national and local media swept through Concord to record a historic agreement between church and state.

The attorney general’s office had agreed not to prosecute leaders of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester for keeping sexually abusive priests in ministry. No charges would come as long as the diocese created a transparent system to protect children from abuse, and annually submitted to state audits to measure compliance.

But the process hasn’t left the ground; an audit has not been performed. What was once considered historic may become history. A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge will soon determine if the accord is valid - if there was a true meeting of the minds.On Monday, exactly 25 months after the agreement was signed, the diocese and state filed court motions previewing their arguments for a hearing Jan. 20 at the Manchester court.

Both sides essentially differ on what an audit should entail, and who should pay for it.

The attorney general’s office contends the diocese has tied prosecutors’ hands by parsing the contract’s meaning. According to prosecutors, church leaders want to limit the audit to nothing more than a cursory review, thus preventing the state from determining whether children are safe.

“The diocese now seeks to continue the environment of secrecy and avoidance . . . with the state only allowed to measure compliance by looking at written policies and procedures but no opportunity to look into whether they work or are effective,” prosecutors wrote in their brief. “Policies and procedures do not protect children.”

Posted by kshaw at January 11, 2005 07:50 AM