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Spotlight Report

Some say 'no' as Law launches appeal

By Steven Wilmsen, Globe Staff, 5/5/2002

When the collection plates are passed at St. Mary's Parish in Charlestown today - the day Cardinal Bernard F. Law hopes to raise $16 million in his annual appeal to parishioners - Grazia Walker won't give any money.

Instead, she'll place a note in the basket reprimanding Law.

''I'm going to say that I want him to give me the names of charities, so I can give to them directly,'' Grazia said yesterday. ''I don't trust him anymore. I don't want my money going through him. I am not losing my faith in God, but I have lost faith in Cardinal Law.''

Law faces a major test as he makes his appeal during church services today in some 400 parishes across the district.

Using prerecorded messages, he will ask parishioners to give money to the archdiocese. In some parishes, a videotape of Law will be played. In others, a written plea will be read.

''This is the most heartfelt Cardinal's Appeal letter I have ever written to you,'' Law wrote in a letter. ''There are some who may think that this is not the time to show your support for the church. However, this is when your church needs you most.''

The archdiocese is seeking to raise $16 million, the same amount it did last year.

The appeal, conducted each year to raise money to fund the core operations of the Boston archdiocese and aid in missions and charitable work, is being seen this year as both a fiscal necessity and a barometer of Law's credibility with parishioners.

It is also a test of whether the archdiocese can weather the fiscal implications of the scandal. On Friday, a 15-member committee of lay business people decided to abandon efforts to reach settlement agreements with some alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, saying that the $15 to $30 million cost of a settlement involving those who said they were abused by the Rev. John J. Geoghan would leave the archdiocese in grave financial peril.

As a result, the archdiocese could now face protracted and costly litigation.

The sex abuse allegations and Law's upcoming appeal sparked dissent in some parishes last week.

A Lowell pastor, the Rev. Albert L. Capone, wrote in his parish bulletin that he had ''informed the archdiocese that we won't be participating'' in this year's appeal. He later backed off, saying his parish would postpone but not cancel its participation.

Archdiocesan officials, who have been waging a public relations battle all week over the appeal, emphasized yesterday that none of the money raised will be used in settlements or court cases.

''At this point, we don't know how much any of that is going to cost,'' said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocesan spokesman. ''We have to know that figure first and then figure out how to raise those funds.''

Insurance and separate fund-raising campaigns would fund most legal and settlement costs, he said.

Of the money raised during this year's appeal, Coyne said 20 percent will go toward administrative costs. The rest will be used for charity, missions work, and Catholic schools.

''The hardest thing to try and convey to people is that the money is for our mission work,'' Coyne said. ''If people believed their money was going to go to the settlement of these cases, you could understand where there would be concern.''

This story ran on page A33 of the Boston Globe on 5/5/2002.
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