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Church in Crisis

Exonerated priest charged again, placed on administrative leave

The Boston archdiocese exonerated Msgr. Michael Smith Foster of sexual misconduct allegations Sept 10. But in a dramatic reversal, four days later, citing “new evidence,” the archdiocese placed Foster on administrative leave and reopened the case against him.

Allegations against Foster surfaced in mid-August when Paul R. Edwards filed a lawsuit in the Massachusetts Suffolk Superior Court, saying Foster began molesting him when Edwards was 15 years old. Foster, the highest-ranking archdiocesan official to be charged in the sex abuse scandal, denied the allegations. But pending an investigation and resolution of the charges, he requested to be placed on administrative leave. Cardinal Bernard Law granted that request.

A group of priests and laypeople had expressed strong doubts about the charges against Foster. During the last two weeks of August, moreover, even Edwards’ lawyer, Eric J. Parker, expressed doubts to the court about the charges. On Sept. 3, Edwards withdrew his lawsuit, “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be filed again.

A week later Law called Foster to tell him he had been cleared and reinstated, according to a Sept. 12 Boston Globe report. Law also asked Foster to celebrate Mass with him the following Sunday. Foster expressed “joy” with his reinstatement.

But the following day Edwards met with church officials to renew his charges. Presented with renewed charges, Foster refused to accept voluntary leave status. On Sept. 14, the archdiocese placed him on administrative leave.

-- Chuck Colbert

National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 2002