Boston Cardinal a No-Show at Church Amid Public
By Greg Frost - December 8, 2002
BOSTON (Reuters) - Cardinal Bernard Law canceled an appearance
at Sunday Mass as rank-and-file Roman Catholic priests urged
him to resign amid rising public anger over his handling of
clergy sexual abuse.
Law abruptly pulled out of the 11 a.m. EST service at Cathedral
of the Holy Cross, where hundreds of protesters denounced
the senior U.S. prelate and urged state authorities to bring
criminal charges against him.
Waving signs that read "Cardinal Law Must Go -- A Disgrace
to Good Catholics" and "Reassign Law," the
demonstrators vented their anger at the cardinal. They say
thousands of church files made public last week showed Law
was far more involved in covering up alleged sexual misconduct
by priests than he had previously admitted.
The documents revealed one priest was assigned to two parishes
despite his record of molesting boys, another molested young
girls while telling them he was the living embodiment of Jesus
Christ and a third fathered two children and did not immediately
call for help when their mother overdosed.
The release of the files came as the Archdiocese of Boston
threatened to declare bankruptcy as a way of dealing with
the estimated 450 lawsuits it faces from clergy sexual assault
"Cardinal Law said this week the church is bankrupt.
No truer words were ever said. This church is morally bankrupt,"
54-year-old Susan Renehan, who says a priest sexually abused
her from the age of 11 to 14, told cheering demonstrators.
Donald Smith, another alleged victim of clergy sexual abuse,
said he was infuriated by the documents released over the
"Cardinal Law has succeeded in shattering my faith in
the Catholic Church, but not in God. Jesus would be on our
side," Smith said.
Other speakers at the rally outside the 19th century cathedral
called on state authorities to seize Law's passport, saying
he posed a "flight risk."
In April, as the scandal raged in Boston, Law also canceled
an appearance at Sunday Mass and went into seclusion. A few
days later he turned up in Rome and met with Pope John Paul
(news - web sites) II to discuss the impact of the scandal.
PRIESTS CIRCULATE LETTER
Law, leader of some 2.1 million Catholics, has apologized
repeatedly for his handling of abuse cases by priests but
has so far refused to step down.
Several priests have individually urged Law to resign over
his handling of accused pedophile priests. But so far, no
group of priests has publicly asked him to step down.
That appeared to be on the verge of changing on Sunday as
a group of clergymen, exasperated by the scandal and its effect
on their communities, circulated a statement calling for Law's
"The priests and people of Boston have lost confidence
in you as their spiritual leader," according to a copy
of the letter to Law published in The Boston Globe.
The Globe said the group hoped to gather at least 50 signatures
before delivering the letter to Law. The Boston Herald reported
that 50 priests had already signed the letter, and that it
would be delivered to Law on Sunday.
Stephen Pope, chair of the Theology Department at Boston
College, has said that any collective call by priests on Law
to resign would signal "open revolt" in the archdiocese.
The church abuse scandal exploded this year when files released
in the case of defrocked priest John Geoghan showed that Law
and other church leaders knew about the clergyman's behavior
but instead chose to shuttle him from parish to parish.