The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Pastor rejects drive led by Law

Lowell parish spurns Cardinal's Appeal

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 4/30/2002

In a sign of continuing displeasure with Cardinal Bernard F. Law's handling of clergy sexual abuse cases, a Lowell pastor has said that on Sunday he will not ask parishioners to contribute to the Cardinal's Appeal, an annual fund-raising drive that helps pay for the church's day-to-day operating expenses.

''I have informed the archdiocese that we will not be participating in the Cardinal's Appeal at this time,'' the Rev. Albert L. Capone wrote in the weekly bulletin for St. Michael's parish. ''We must attend to the immediate needs of the parish, that being the pain, fear, stress, and hurt we all are experiencing as a result of this present crisis.''

Attempts to reach Capone yesterday were unsuccessful. But a lawyer for several people who claim they were sexually abused by the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham during the 1970s said Capone made his decision after the archdiocese reneged on a commitment to send a representative to a Wednesday meeting of alleged victims.

''It took a great deal of courage for Father Capone to break from the lock-step obedience that the cardinal has demanded and set out on a different path aimed at getting help to victims in Lowell,'' said Robert Sherman, a Boston attorney with the firm Greenberg Traurig.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he could not offer an immediate comment because he did not know about the events at St. Michael's.

In the church bulletin, Capone described the Wednesday meeting as one in which victims and their families complained about the archdiocese's response to their claims of abuse.

''We discussed the poor response and lack of assistance on the part of the Archdiocese of Boston for victims of sexual abuse by priests and for their families,'' Capone wrote. ''I do not comprehend why the Archdiocese of Boston is not doing more in response to the needs of the victims of sexual abuse by priests.''

In addition to scrapping plans to participate in the Cardinal's Appeal, Capone said in the newsletter that he also has told the archdiocese that St. Michael's will not conduct a previously scheduled fund-raising drive for Law's ''Promise for Tomorrow'' campaign, a capital spending and endowment fund.

Ken Hokenson, chief development officer for the archdiocese, said in a recent interview that church officials are hoping to raise $17.4 million through the Cardinal's Appeal. The money would help cover an operating budget of more than $40 million.

Last year, before the crisis over clergy sexual abuse erupted, the Cardinal's Appeal generated $16.1 million.

The ''Promise for Tomorrow'' campaign, a separate drive, was to be a centerpiece of Law's tenure as archbishop of Boston, with a two-year goal of raising $300 million ending in December. Recently, the fund-raising period was extended by six months, to the end of June 2003.

Hokenson said that as of last week the archdiocese had raised $173.4 million in pledges through the campaign, with about $30 million of that in hand.

Earlier this month, the Globe reported that some of the pressure for Law to resign was coming from influential Catholics who feared his continued presence would undermine fund-raising efforts.

A Catholic official with knowledge of the church's finances, who asked that he not be identified, said some Catholics in the archdiocese fear that the Cardinal's Appeal might raise only half of the $16.1 million that it generated last year.

Hokenson said he could not provide a fund-raising forecast but also said the crisis over clergy sexual abuse is likely to affect donations.

''Some people are saying the only way you can register your anger and disappointment is by closing your checkbook,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, that creates a whole second class of victims.''

Some pastors, including some who have called for reforms in the wake of the scandal over clergy sexual abuse, agree. The Rev. Robert W. Bullock, pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Sharon, said he understands the ambivalence many parishioners feel about contributing to the Cardinal's Appeal. But he also said he will ask parishioners to contribute Sunday because the Appeal pays for ministries crucial to the well-being of the disadvantaged.

The point was brought home to him recently, Bullock said, when a deaf child in his parish received assistance from the church's ministry for the deaf.

''I know people are torn but the money is going to ministries that are absolutely essential,'' he said.

Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Michael Rezendes can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 4/30/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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