The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Law says crisis not focus of meeting

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 7/22/2002

This week's World Youth Day celebration in Toronto will be a ''time of great spiritual refreshment'' with little if any discussion of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis, Cardinal Bernard F. Law said yesterday.

An estimated 750,000 young Catholics will worship and study together, and Pope John Paul II is expected to attend the celebration, which begins tomorrow.

''I think it will probably be pretty much the way World Youth Day always is,'' Law said in a brief news conference after celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with about 300 of the 600 pilgrims who will represent the Archdiocese of Boston in Canada.

''Young people are very resilient. I think that the young people gathered in the cathedral today are very centered in the Lord.''

The sexual abuse scandal ''is being dealt with diocese by diocese,'' Law said. ''I don't believe that that is going to be a principal focus at World Youth Day.''

Law said the projected attendance for the Toronto event is lower than the 2 million people who attended the last World Youth Day, in Rome in 2000. Attendance is expected to be lower because of travel fears and restrictions stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks, not the clergy sex-abuse scandal, he said.

Law did not mention the scandal when he addressed the youth during the Mass. He also refused to take questions on another significant gathering of Catholics: the national convention of Voice of the Faithful, the Boston-based lay reform group established in a church basement just five months ago. The group now has 19,000 supporters across the country, and an estimated 4,000 members attended its first convention Saturday at Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston.

James Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, said at a separate news conference yesterday that the abuse issue must not be ignored in Toronto.

''I hope and pray that the Catholic leadership will acknowledge to young people the responsibility to address the issue of abuse, one of the greatest social issues of our time,'' Post said.

Yet even as Law played down the impact of the abuse scandal on the Toronto gathering, some of the young pilgrims who attended Mass said they realize they will be meeting with the pope at a critical time in the church's history.

''It's different. It's kind of confirming our faith,'' said Andrew Griffith, 18, from Wakefield. ''Some people, because of what's happened, have lost some of their faith. It's important to show that we still believe.''

Griffith credited the diocese's youth workers with striking the right balance in dealing with the scandal.

''It's been somewhere in the middle. They're not trying to keep us away from it, to pretend it didn't happen, but they're not dwelling on it either,'' he said. ''Maybe they could be a little more up front. But I am glad [that] they are acknowledging it and that it is a problem.''

Even if they had wanted to, it would have been impossible for the young pilgrims who attended Mass yesterday to ignore the abuse scandal. As they entered the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, they passed about 50 sign-waving protesters and listened to protester Steven Lewis on a megaphone.

''Cardinal Law of Boston, Massachusetts, is a charlatan, a liar, and a hypocrite,'' Lewis shouted as a passing knot of teens cringed at the blast of sound. ''I hope you elders in there are explaining to children as they go in there that their peers have been molested and repeatedly raped under the stewardship of that man in there.''

A decade ago, Lewis settled a molestation suit against the Rev. Edward T. Kelley and the archdiocese for $10,000 for abuse he allegedly suffered at St. Mary's Parish in Lynn in the late 1960s.

He is part of a cadre of abuse victims and other protesters calling for a diocesewide boycott of Mass on Sept. 22.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 7/22/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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