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Spotlight Report

Law makes annual pitch for funds

Other drives struggle; priests see reluctance to give because of crisis

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 4/29/2002

On the eve of an annual fund-raising appeal that some are seeing as a barometer of his staying power, Cardinal Bernard F. Law yesterday made a televised pitch for Catholics to give money to fund the operations of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Law is hoping to raise $16 million next weekend through the annual cardinal's appeal, which funds the basic operating budget of the church's central administration. That goal matches the total raised last year, but some priests have said parishioners seem hesitant to contribute this year because of anger over the cardinal's handling of clergy accused of sexual abuse.

Other church fund-raising efforts have been hurt by the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The church scrapped its annual garden party at the cardinal's residence, which raises money for Catholic Charities, and gave itself an extension on the $300 million capital campaign launched last summer. A Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll taken two weeks ago found that 31 percent of those Boston-area Catholics surveyed said what they've learned about sexual abuse of children by priests has caused them to donate less money to the church than before.

Some reform groups have been urging Catholics to withhold contributions, and the Voice of the Faithful organization, based in Wellesley, is debating the establishment of a fund to allow people to give to Catholic causes without going through the cardinal's office.

The church has also been scrambling to raise money to finance settlements of litigation over clergy sexual abuse cases, expected to cost as much as $100 million. Church officials say those costs do not come out of Sunday collections, the cardinal's appeal, or the capital campaign.

Speaking at the end of a lengthy Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End, which was televised by Boston Catholic Television, Law urged Catholics to contribute to next weekend's fund drive, which will be taken at a special collection at the close of every Mass.

''As you know, it is this offering which enables us to support the many good works of the archdiocese - outreach to the poor and the sick, spreading our faith, works of evangelization - so we really look forward to your generous-hearted response to that appeal next week,'' he said. ''It is the one time a year we ask you to assist in the work that we do together as the archdiocesan church.''

The cardinal's appeal is the church's main annual fund-raising drive, supporting the operating budget for the central administration, and funding the two seminaries, outreach to ethnic minorities, subsidies for low-income parishes that can not sustain themselves through collections, and religious education programs for children and adults.

Yesterday's Mass provided an occasion for Law's first extended public remarks since he returned last week from a two-day gathering of US cardinals at the Vatican to discuss the clergy sexual abuse crisis. As he did last week, he delivered an update on the scandal from the pulpit in remarks before the formal beginning of the Mass - a forum he has chosen with increasing frequency since he stopped holding news conferences and granting interviews more than two months ago.

The gathering of cardinals has been criticized for not coming up with a plan, but Law said the cardinals were not empowered to produce such a policy. He said that is the responsibility of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is scheduled to devote its June meeting, in Dallas, to the topic of clergy sexual abuse.

''I'm certain that we will not finish with the question in June, but we will do what we can,'' he said.

Law said that the cardinals' meeting was useful as a forum for the prelates to express their opinions to one another and the pope, and that they agreed that the bishops' conference in June should take the unusual step of adopting a national policy that would be binding in all dioceses.

''I came back very encouraged that we are moving in the right direction,'' he said.

The cardinals in Rome, and the bishops in the United States, have not reached agreement on whether to adopt a ''zero-tolerance policy,'' under which any credible allegation, no matter how old, would lead to a priest being removed from all ministry. But Law pointed out that, regardless of the outcome of the national debate, he adopted such a policy in Boston in January.

Law said he will support a call by the cardinals for a national day of prayer on the issue of clergy sexual abuse. But even before that, he said, he is hoping to observe a novena, which is a recitation of special prayers for nine consecutive days, leading up to the Pentecost, which is the day that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples. Pentecost occurs on May 19 this year. Law said he would observe the novena at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, popularly known as the Mission Church, on Mission Hill in Boston.

Yesterday's Mass was called a ''Mass of hope and healing,'' and included special prayers for people who are sick or infected with HIV. In one sign that Law retains his stature as a spiritual leader, several hundred people waited for as long as 30 minutes for the cardinal to lay his hands on their foreheads in an ancient healing ritual.

Law, as he talked about hope and healing, asked worshipers to pray for the bishops as they grapple with the issue of clergy sexual abuse, and made note of his own embattled status. Sixty-five percent of the Boston-area Catholics surveyed told the Globe/WBZ pollsters they want Law to resign, and the cardinal is dogged by protesters and reporters at each of his increasingly rare public appearances.

''I stand before you as one who prays very very much for an increase of hope and an increase of healing in my own ministry to you as your archbishop,'' he said. ''You can appreciate that these are not easy days to serve in the pastoral role that is mine. I so deeply appreciate the support of so many, your prayers, your words of encouragement, and your signs of love.''

Law referred to himself, and others, as ''wounded healers,'' and warned that when people do not practice hope and healing, ''we degenerate into anger and division, and that's not who we are, that's not who God calls us to be.''

As it has been for several weeks, the cathedral yesterday was surrounded by television satellite trucks, and the entrance was lined with protesters calling for Law to quit or to be prosecuted. The crowd of protesters, on a chilly, rainy morning, was smaller than in previous weeks.

The protests have taken on an increasingly confrontational tone.

One man set up a 7-foot-long coffin, which was apparently supposed to represent the death of the Catholic Church, but police confiscated it, saying it was impeding traffic. Others shouted at worshipers via bullhorn, saying ''Indict Law Now'' and ''He's going to jail.''

Some protesters distanced themselves from such tactics.

''All survivors don't necessarily agree with everything going on out here,'' said Joe Gallagher, an organizer with the Coalition of Concerned Catholics.

Some protesters wore bumper stickers reading, ''Cardinal Law Must Go!''

Denise Rao Monaghan and her husband, Jim, of Hopkinton protested against Law for the first time since the scandal erupted. They brought their 6-year-old twin daughters, Allison and Carolyn, who held signs saying ''Mean Priest Cardinal Law,'' and ''Law you made a bad decision - Jesus is mad at you.''

For the second week in a row, a group of worshipers supportive of Law gathered on the cathedral steps at the end of Mass, chanting prayers and holding hands.

Michael S. Rosenwald contributed to this report.

Michael Paulson can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 4/29/2002.
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