BOSTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The temporary new leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston vowed Wednesday to support victims of clergy sex-abuse and to protect children from further abuse.
Bishop Richard G. Lennon, in his first news conference since being named Friday to replace the resigned archbishop Cardinal Bernard F. Law, said he would also support a fair and equitable settlement with abuse victims.
Telling reporters there was "a limit to the information I can provide today," Lennon said this has been an "extraordinarily busy week for me" and, "I still have much to learn."
He said among the issues uppermost in people's minds were support for victim survivors and protection of children and prevention of further abuse, and unity within the church and with the laity.
"First, I stand fully committed to responding to victim survivors of sexual abuse as children or as teenagers by members of the clergy," Lennon said.
He said this would be done on several levels.
"I will support efforts to arrive at a settlement of claims as soon as possible which will be fair and equitable for all the victims of clergy sexual abuse," he said.
The archdiocese is facing nearly 500 lawsuits stemming from allegations that Law and other top deputies covered up for molesting priests, shuffling them from parish to parish where they continued to have access to children.
Those allegations stemmed from disclosures found in thousands of previously secret church documents ordered released to plaintiff attorneys by a judge.
It was the resulting outrage expressed by some priests and members of the laity that led to Pope John Paul II accepting Law's resignation.
Lennon said he has asked that all parties "set aside, except for activity mandated by the court, the day-to-day litigation activities for a period of time so as to permit all parties to actively pursue the potential for a comprehensive settlement of all cases."
Lennon said he would continue to offer counseling and outreach support for victim survivors.
"And I will also begin to meet with victim survivors who wish a meeting with me. Respectfully listening to them, I hope to learn and appreciate the depth of their suffering.
"I will in turn extend to each of them my apology on behalf of the church for the abuse which they have suffered."
He said selling off some of the church's properties and bankruptcy still have not been ruled out as a means of paying claim settlements.
He also addressed the fractures created within the clergy as a result of the scandal, with nearly 60 priests revolting and publicly calling for Law's resignation.
Correcting that situation is "something that will require leadership on my part," Lennon said.
"I have confidence that the fractures can be healed."
Lennon, whose formal title is apostolic administrator, will serve until the pope names a permanent replacement as archbishop of Boston. Lennon said he does not know when that will happen.
Two attorneys for alleged abuse victims on Tuesday questioned Lennon's fitness to lead the archdiocese because he had knowledge about abusive priests but failed to notify authorities.
"He had a moral obligation to notify the public," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian. "At the least, this taints his ability to run the archdiocese."
Attorney Joseph G. Abromovitz, who also represents alleged victims, said that while Lennon "did not have a legal duty" to notify authorities, "he certainly did have a moral duty."
At the news conference, reporters did not ask him to respond to that.