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Six New York priests are asked to leave assignments

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002

NEW YORK -- The Archdiocese of New York said Sunday that six priests have been asked to leave their assignments because of past allegations of sexual misconduct.

The announcement, made in a statement released by archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, comes less than a week after the archdiocese said it had given the Manhattan district attorney's office a list of cases involving priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

Telephone calls to Zwilling's home and office on Sunday were not immediately returned.

The archdiocese did not release the names of the priests because not all of the allegations had been substantiated, the statement said.

"The priests in question have been informed that they are not to present themselves as priests or exercise their priestly ministry publicly at least until the matter is further clarified or resolved," the statement said.

Also Sunday, a pastor approached last month about sexual abuse allegations involving Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said he thinks the claims are false.

Flora Mae Hickman, 51, of Fresno alleges she was molested by Mahony while a student at San Joaquin Memorial Catholic High School in 1969.

Hickman said she has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and is taking medication for depression. She told the Associated Press that she was knocked unconscious while fighting with students and woke to find the "bottom" portion of her clothing removed and Mahony, then a monsignor in Fresno, "over her."

Hickman said she could not remember many details of what happened.

"She claimed that happened with 40 different youths watching. There's no way that is going to happen in front of all those people," Monsignor John Esquivel said after leading mass Sunday at St. John's Cathedral in Fresno. "I don't believe the allegations are true."

Hickman went to Esquivel with the allegations last month.

The Fresno Police Department is investigating, and Mahony said he was cooperating. Mahony revealed the accusation Friday night and denied it.

Calif. church official laments secrecy

BOSTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston transferred a priest to a California parish without informing anyone there that the man had been accused of sexually abusing children, California church officials said.

"I should have known that," the Rev. Lawrence F. Grajek told the Boston Globe Sunday. "I would have wanted to place restrictions around what he could and couldn't do. In fact, if there had been a problem with children, I'd not have wanted him at all."

Grajek spoke as the attorney for the family of a man alleging abuse by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley prepared to release church documents that include a 1977 statement in which Shanley allegedly said he did not consider pedophilia deviant or immoral.

In a lawsuit, Gregory Ford, 24, of Newton has claimed Shanley raped him. The lawsuit alleges Cardinal Bernard Law allowed Shanley to remain as pastor at a church in suburban Newton until 1989 despite knowledge of his predatory behavior. Shanley was transferred to California in 1990.

Ford's attorney, Roderick MacLeish, said he would release details from the documents today. Neither he nor Ford's father, Rodney, would give specifics about what was in the papers, which the Boston archdiocese gave to MacLeish late Friday.

"I can now start to understand what the victims have gone through. It's horrible, horrendous," Rodney Ford said after reviewing the records. "I don't know if I can ever step foot into a church again."

Grajek, the former pastor of St. Anne Church in San Bernardino, Calif., said Shanley was assigned to the parish for two years. His responsibilities as an associate pastor included supervision of children.

Grajek said he knew of no complaints against Shanley in California.

Irish cardinal apologizes for 'harm'

DUBLIN, Ireland -- The leader of Ireland's 4-million Catholics apologized Sunday for the "unspeakable harm" inflicted by pedophile priests as alleged victims picketed outside, demanding his resignation.

Cardinal Desmond Connell also sought "God's forgiveness and healing" at a mass honoring the man who founded a religious order embroiled in the unfolding sex abuse scandal in this predominantly Catholic country.

"We ask this for ourselves and the victims, who have been so gravely wronged by those who were our brothers," Connell told 2,000 Catholic priests, nuns and brothers at the Royal Dublin Society conference center. Outside, church officials ran a gantlet of protesters, some of whom claimed to be victims of pedophile priests.

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