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Spotlight Report

Bishop says pastor not removed for comments

By Kevin Graham, Globe Correspondent, Globe Staff, 5/31/2002

WEST BRIDGEWATER - The Rev. Edward C. McDonagh was removed from his post as pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church because of an allegation of sexual misconduct, not because the priest had called for Cardinal Bernard F. Law's resignation, a Catholic bishop told hundreds of angry parishioners last night.

Richard Malone, regional bishop for Boston's south region, said Law didn't even know McDonagh had called for him to step down when the pastor was placed on administrative leave last week.

''There have been literally dozens of priests who criticize Cardinal Law to his face. This one wouldn't stand out,'' Malone said. ''Whether people like him or not, he's not a retaliation bishop.''

Yet the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, is denouncing priests who call for Law's resignation. An editorial to be published in today's edition of The Pilot says that ''for a priest to use the position of trust conferred by the bishop to betray that very trust, and to misguide his congregation by promoting dissent against their bishop, is a scandal.''

The editorial, the paper's first rebuke of priests who have spoken out against Law, is running the same week that the newspaper declined to publish an opinion piece written by the leaders of the Priests' Forum, a new organization of Boston priests seeking to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The paper's publisher is Law, and this is the paper's second week under a new editor, Antonio Enrique.

The editorial laments that some priests ''are using the sad situation we are living in to advance their agendas.''

Last night, some of nearly 500 parishioners who packed into the gymnasium at St. Ann's asked Malone when McDonagh might return. ''Where do we go from here?'' asked Linnea Maloney, a parishioner at St. Ann's for six years who says she and other supporters have made hundreds of signs supporting McDonagh.

Former parishioner Leah Lacina said she has chosen to pray for McDonagh, whom she has known for 10 years. He baptized both her children, and although she now lives in Cape Cod, Lacina said she still comes to McDonagh for spiritual guidance.

''I sent him a letter with the advice he's always given me: `Don't worry. Just put it in God's hands.'''

Michael Paulson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A34 of the Boston Globe on 5/31/2002.
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