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Spotlight Report

Law plans life outside archdiocese

By Michael Paulson and Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 12/17/2002

Cardinal Bernard Law delivers his statement at the Creagh Library in the archdiocesan chancery complex in Brighton. (Globe Staff Photo / Bill Greene)

Cardinal Law's statement

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in his first public appearance since resigning as archbishop of Boston, said yesterday that he decided to quit when he realized it was the best way for him to help end the clergy abuse scandal here, and that he now plans to settle somewhere outside the Archdiocese of Boston after taking a retreat at a monastery.

Reading a brief statement to the news media, Law said he saw no alternative but to offer his resignation, which was accepted Friday by Pope John Paul II. The longtime archbishop of Boston had faced a clamor of calls for his ouster from some priests and laypeople after nearly a year of publicity over his past failure to remove abusive priests from ministry.

''It came to be ever more clear to me that the most effective way that I might serve the church at this moment is to resign,'' he said.

Law wore a simple black cassock and pectoral cross, and stood beneath a crucifix in a plain conference room at the Creagh Library, an office building on the grounds of the archdiocesan chancery complex in Brighton. He revealed little of how he is feeling - at times he smiled and other times he appeared more somber, often holding his hands clasped together behind a lectern.

Law, who is facing depositions in civil cases and has been subpoenaed by a criminal grand jury, said he would cooperate. ''Needless to say, I will continue to be available as necessary in the legal process,'' he said.

At the start of his statement, he thanked the news media for what he termed its ''courtesy during these years.'' As he has several times this year, Law apologized for his role in the clergy sex abuse crisis. Church documents turned over to victims' lawyers have revealed that, in numerous instances, he allowed priests who had sexually abused minors to remain on the job, sometimes after treatment.

''The course of events in recent months has certainly been different than anything I, or others, would have predicted on the occasion of my installation more than 18 years ago,'' he said. ''To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and from my mistakes, I once again apologize, and from them, I beg forgiveness.''

Law said his future was uncertain, but that in the short-term, ''I will take a brief vacation with some priest friends after Christmas, and then I will go on retreat at a monastery. Following that, I will take up residence outside the archdiocese and continue my responsibilities as cardinal.''

He did not say exactly how long he would go on retreat, or when he would move out of the archdiocese.

Aides had initially suggested yesterday's event would be a full-scale news conference, but shortly before the scheduled start Donna Morrissey, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, announced that Law would simply make a statement, and would not answer questions.

Law said he was deferring to Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the administrator of the archdiocese until the pope appoints a new archbishop, and said, ''I think it best for me simply to say what I've prepared, and I will not be available for questions beyond that, and I hope that you will respect the reasons for this.''

Morrissey said Law, who has been ''deluged with media requests,'' would not grant any interviews in the immediate future. Lennon is expected to hold his first news conference sometime this week, perhaps tomorrow.

As a cardinal under age 80, Law, who is 71, remains a cardinal-elector, eligible to vote in any upcoming election for pope. He also remains a member of seven of the nine major Vatican departments, called congregations, including those for Oriental Churches, Clergy, Divine Worship and Sacraments, Evangelization of Peoples, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Catholic Education, and Bishops. The Congregation for Bishops is particularly influential, because it screens candidates for bishops around the world. Although the membership of congregations includes bishops worldwide, much of the work is done by those who live in Rome, so if Law were to move to Rome he could become a more active participant in those offices.

He said he hopes his resignation ''might help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience healing, to experience reconciliation, and to experience unity.''

Two priests who took in the broadcast of Law's appearance said they were moved by the brief event. The Rev. Philip B. Earley, who was among the 58 priests who signed a letter seeking Law's resignation, said he was struck less by what Law said and more by his reserve and humble appearance.

''If he had uttered these words and used this demeanor a year ago, I wonder where the church would be today,'' said Earley, the pastor of St. Thomas of Villanova in Wilmington. ''Maybe he would be in a different position.''

A somber Rev. Robert W. Bullock, a leader of the Boston Priests' Forum, which served as a catalyst for priests during the crisis, said, ''I felt a great sadness for him and a feeling of loss. I thought what he said was very heartfelt and deeply moving.''

Victims and victim advocates, however, were generally unimpressed.

''Once more, we are hearing Cardinal Law's call for forgiveness and how contrite he is,'' said William J. Gately, co-coordinator of the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. ''At the same time, it is important to remember that two weeks ago, he was trying to stonewall and prevent us from getting the documents that resulted in his resignation. If he truly is contrite, he should reach out to his lieutenants and get them to cooperate in the spirit of truth with the survivors and the legal community as well.''

Alleged victims seemed especially disappointed. ''He didn't touch on anything that means anything to the victims or their families,'' said David E. Carney, an alleged victim of Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan, suspended earlier this year by the archdiocese.

Thomas C. Plant, an alleged victim of former priest Paul J. Mahan, said, ''He was brief, he was short, and he tells us he's going to be taking a vacation at a monastery. Does that mean he's going to be praying for us victims, or the priests who molested us?''

Jeffrey A. Newman, an attorney with the firm of Greenberg Traurig, which represents about half of the 500 people with abuse claims against the archdiocese, said he regretted what seems to be a decision by Law to permanently step out of the public arena.

''The sense I got was that he's simply going to recede and live his life somewhere else, and I hope that's not the case,'' Newman said. ''After the process has progressed, he can do an awful lot of good if he comes back and explains his decision-making process and where he went wrong ... I was disappointed he didn't take a moment and try and help us understand that.''

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian was more critical. ''The speech was a shallow attempt to address a very troubling issue. It was disappointing to say the least,'' said Garabedian, who represents victims of former priest John J. Geoghan and other accused clergy. ''I was waiting for an unconditional apology to the victims. It seems that he has forgotten about the victims once again and cares more about the priests in the church. I don't understand why he didn't at least take questions. There are obvious questions that need to be asked and answers that need to be given. It was a great disappointment.''

James E. Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, rued the brevity of Law's remarks but said the cardinal was correct to cite the need for healing, reconciliation, and unity in the archdiocese. ''If I were to pick out something that had some substance, I would go with that,'' Post said.

Post also said Bishop Lennon, Law's temporary replacement, could work toward those goals by forging ties with Voice of the Faithful. ''I would hope Bishop Lennon would respond in part by removing the bans on Voice of the Faithful affiliates using church property for church meetings,'' Post said.

Matt Carroll, Thomas Farragher and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 12/17/2002.
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