The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Law welcomes small class of priests into brotherhood

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff, 5/26/2002

Five beaming men in white robes knelt before Cardinal Bernard Law yesterday morning, eager to be welcomed into the brotherhood of Catholic priests, despite the trials that have rocked the church in recent months.

Law made direct reference to the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal during yesterday's annual rite of ordination at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The South End church was more than half-filled with proud family and friends of the candidates for priesthood, most of them graduates of six-year programs at St. John's Seminary in Brighton and Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston.

''In recent months, you and I and the whole church have suffered a serious trial,'' Law said, addressing the fledgling priests early in the three-hour service. ''No joy can be taken from the terrible harm and betrayal at the root of this crisis and trial, yet out of this evil, you have the joy of a much more vivid consciousness of what it means to be a priest.''

The freshly ordained priests blessed long lines of well-wishers in the front of the cathedral after the Mass. Pulled away for a brief press conference outside the church, the Rev. Daniel Hennessey, 30, said he knows where to seek the strength to cope with scandal-related challenges in his new post in South Boston.

''God's grace abounds,'' said Hennessey, who worked at a biotechnology firm in Andover before enrolling in the seminary. ''He gives us everything we need, so it just depends on God.''

The Boston Archdiocese has been under fire for months, since it was learned that officials, including Law, knew some priests had sexually abused children but still moved the priests from parish to parish. Friday, the archdiocese removed another priest, the Rev. Edward McDonagh, from his duties at St. Ann's parish in West Bridgewater, pending an investigation of an abuse allegation.

Twelve priests have been accused of sexual misconduct and pulled from Boston-area churches this year.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said the church is trying to train new leaders who understand the special challenges they face in the wake of the scandal, priests ''who recognize how much listening has to go on, how much healing has to go on.''

Coyne said seminary leaders threw out prepared discussion topics this spring and instead focused on the church's response to the sex abuse claims, ''in the context of priestly formation, of being good priests.''

The Rev. Harry Kaufman, ordained yesterday at age 52, said he left a retail career because ''God kept tapping on my shoulders.'' He said the crisis won't change how he presents himself as a priest, or his mission.

Coyne acknowledged that this spring's crop of five new priests is small. A class of 12 was ordained five years ago, and church leaders hoped the growth trend would continue.

Early indications are that the scandal won't help. Half as many seminary applications have been received as by this time last year, he said.

''Hopefully, by the end of summer, we'll see some more,'' he said.

Dozens of protesters from the organization Massachusetts Women Church gathered outside the cathedral yesterday to voice their opposition to the church's prohibition on women priests.

This story ran on page A32 of the Boston Globe on 5/26/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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