Massachusetts Law Review
The attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications - between a client or prospective client and an attorney - made for the primary purpose of obtaining legal advice or assistance. Except in a few limited circumstances, the attorney cannot reveal these confidential communications to a third party or in the course of any legal proceeding. The applicability of the attorney-client privilege is usually fought out in the courtroom. The underlying communications that are the subject of those disputes, however, may occur far earlier, oftentimes before either a cause of action comes into existence or litigation is ever contemplated.
In a special letter published on Good Friday last year in the Roman Catholic newspaper, The Pilot,
Cardinal Bernard F. Law apologized to victims of clergy sexual abuse and urged victims to come "forward for . . . healing and the protection of others."2
The letter came two months after the Boston Globe
had accused the Boston Archdiocese of secretly settling sexual abuse claims against 70 priests. During those two months, the Archdiocese turned over to prosecutors the names of 90 priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse.3
The cardinal's letter coincided with a legislative response that had been a decade in the making. On May 3, 2002, Governor Swift signed an emergency act amending section 51A of chapter 119 of the General Laws to require certain religious leaders to report all cases of abuse that come to their attention.4