Cardinal Law Leads Mass for the Pope, and Some Protest
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN - The New York Times
April 12, 2005
VATICAN CITY, April 11 - Less than two and a half years after he
resigned as archbishop of Boston under pressure over his failure
to remove pedophile priests from the ministry, Cardinal Bernard
F. Law led thousands of worshipers in a memorial Mass for Pope John
Paul II on Monday from the altar of the majestic St. Peter's Basilica.
The cardinal, who had been deeply reviled in his own diocese, read
a homily praising John Paul, who had been greatly revered in his
home diocese of Rome. "In these past few days, we experienced
the touching love of the city of Rome for their pastor, a love that
the pope returned," Cardinal Law said, in fluent Italian.
But the outrage that drove Cardinal Law from Boston followed him
to Rome on Monday. Two representatives of the Survivors Network
of Those Abused by Priests held a news conference in St. Peter's
Square to call attention to his record.
"He is the poster child of the sexual abuse scandal in America,"
said Barbara Blaine, a Chicago lawyer who helped found the Survivors
Network. "We don't believe it's appropriate for him to be in
any position of power or trust in the church."
Television news crews, largely idled since the cardinals decided
Saturday to stop granting media interviews, mobbed Ms. Blaine on
the square despite a downpour. The police escorted the group to
a spot just outside the square's boundaries.
Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002,
after nearly a year of devastating disclosures about priests accused
of sexual abuse whom he had permitted to remain in parish work.
After a year of insisting that resigning was not an option, he stepped
down soon after a judge unsealed church records in a court case,
including correspondence showing that the cardinal wrote letters
praising priests he knew were pedophiles.
The cardinal initially retreated to a convent in Maryland, but
he was appointed 11 months ago to become the archpriest of one of
Rome's four most prestigious churches, the Basilica of St. Mary
Vatican officials said Cardinal Law was among the prelates chosen
to preside over nine days of Masses for John Paul because it is
a custom for the archpriest of his basilica to do so. The cardinal
had always been a favorite of John Paul's, influencing the appointments
of bishops and serving on more Vatican committees than any other
He is among 115 cardinals who will elect a successor to John Paul
in a conclave beginning next Monday.
On Monday, Voice of the Faithful, an American Catholic group started
in Boston in response to the sexual abuse scandal, called for Cardinal
Law to sit out the conclave. His "empty chair" would send
a message to the others about "the gaping wound in the church,"
Kristine Ward, the group's vice president, said in a statement.
From Boston to Rome, the name of Cardinal Law still connotes a
certain notoriety. In St. Peter's Square on Monday, Marilyn Hughes,
a tourist from the Boston area, said she was stunned to learn that
he was leading a funeral Mass for the pope.
"He should have been in jail for what he did, and they elevated
him; that's abhorrent," said Ms. Hughes, who is not a Catholic.
She and her husband, a minister, belong to the United Church of
Giampiero Censi, a Roman who was leading an American family on
a tour of St. Peter's Basilica, said, "It's just a shame for
a cardinal to go to preach after he did what he did."
"What happened in America is not so uncommon," he said,
referring to sexual abuse by priests. "This is a problem all
over the world."
The Mass was attended by about two dozen other cardinals, among
them Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia.
The funeral Masses on Saturday and Sunday were also sparsely attended
by the cardinal electors.
Cardinal Law, appearing heavier and more stooped than when he left
Boston, communicated little in his homily except to eulogize John
Roger Chartier Jr., of Norwich, Conn., who is on a pilgrimage to
Rome with his wife and others from his diocese, said: "I don't
know the internal politics of the church, and I don't care. It's
about serving the Lord."
But the Rev. Michael Kerrigan, a Paulist priest based in Toronto,
said of the abuse scandal, "It's been hard for many of us because
he represents a side of the church we're not too proud of."
While the cardinals have imposed a news media ban on themselves,
groups representing the church's liberal and conservative flanks
are expected to try to raise issues here this week that they hope
the cardinals will consider in the conclave.
"We Are Church," a network that represents 140 liberal
Catholic groups in 27 countries, is bringing in theologians to promote
an agenda that includes allowing women and married men to be priests,
giving more power to local bishops and laity, and changing the church's
attitudes toward sexuality.
"There is a strong lack of democracy and dialogue within the
church," said Christian Weisner, the international chairman
of We Are Church. "I hope the cardinals will be wise in the
conclave to see that the new pope has to be different from the old