The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Just name your price

By Brian McGrory, 08/16/02

What's it going to take, Cardinal? What's it finally going to take?

Every week, along comes news of another moral outrage, another abrogation of social responsibility, another grotesque illegality. None of it seems to shock anymore, because nearly eight months into revelations of decades of scandal, it's just what's expected of the Catholic Church in Boston. And that's the saddest part of all.

Yesterday's news came close. A woman is allegedly sexually assaulted twice by a predator in a priest's collar, and his higher-ups engage in that age-old strategy of blaming the victim. Maybe she brought it on herself. Maybe she dressed too revealingly, acted too provocatively. He probably couldn't help it. You know how some women can be.

Right. He supposedly couldn't help unzipping his pants and exposing himself to her in his rectory, or chasing her around her own house, fondling her and forcing his mouth on hers.

And here's what you said about that one, Cardinal. You wrote to the victim's husband that the matter is something that is "personal to Father [Anthony] Rebeiro and must be considered such."

What does that mean, Cardinal, that it's personal? Sexual assault is personal to the assailant?

And at the end of that miserable little letter, you asked that the victim and her husband keep you in their prayers. It really is all about you, Cardinal. It always is.

It was all about you when you shuttled all those pedophilic priests from one parish to the next. It was all about you when you struck a feel-good settlement with all those victims, then reneged, saying it was never a final deal.

It's all about you every time you sit in the witness chair at the various depositions and claim to have no recollection of ever reading a damning document or writing a ludicrous letter, even though your signature is right there. It's all about you when you blame your immediate underlings for putting hundreds upon hundreds of children in harm's way.

And it's all about you when you refuse to allow the church to take money -- well-intentioned, desperately needed charity -- from the moderate lay group, Voice of the Faithful, because you view that as disrespectful to your position and your authority.

With contributions to the church plunging by 40 percent or more, the hungry aren't getting the food they need. The sick aren't getting enough care. And you're worried about getting the respect you feel your position deserves.

Jack Connors, chief executive of the Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos advertising firm and conscientious citizen, was quoted on the front page of last Sunday's New York Times talking about your "terrible judgment" on that last point. He said, "I think he has a classic tin ear. I think he doesn't particularly care what people think."

Connors has that partially right. More and more, it's clear that it's not a tin ear, but a stone heart, and it's not that Law doesn't care what people think, it's that he doesn't care about the people.

He didn't care about the female assault victim who never got so much as a consoling word. He didn't care about all those hundreds of victims who he never bothered to meet until word about their plight broke in the paper you're reading now. He doesn't seem to care about the poor who are in dire need of contributions he refuses to accept.

He sits in these depositions recollecting less than any Watergate witness ever did, parsing more words than Bill Clinton would have ever dared. And all the while, all around him, all the good deeds of a potentially great institution are being lost in the shadow of crime and cover-ups.

There's only one way for the church to get past so much of this, to begin to make amends. So what's it going to take, Cardinal, to get you out of our town?

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 8/16/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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