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Spotlight Report

Protester tells of embracing cardinal

By Kevin Graham, Globe Correspondent, 7/23/2002

Arthur Austin says he arrived at Holy Cross Cathedral Sunday wearing a ''Reject Cardinal Law'' button, intending to stay outside with other protesters.

But Austin, who says he is a victim of sexual abuse by the Rev. Paul Shanley, says he ended up taking communion from Cardinal Bernard F. Law for the first time and even sharing an emotional embrace with the archbishop.

Austin, of Braintree, recalled yesterday how he entered the cathedral in the South End and prayed intensely. ''And when it came time for the Eucharist, I stood up,'' he said.

Soon Austin found himself standing in front of the man he said he blames for the sex abuse scandal. When Law saw the button he winced, said Austin.

''He looked at it and looked down,'' Austin said. ''I just stood there, and, finally, he looked up and looked into my face. I said to him, `Eminence, pray for me.'''

Law seemed unprepared for such words, Austin said.

''I think he was expecting angriness or bitterness, anything but love,'' he said. ''He sort of stammered and said, `Uh ... oh, thank you.'''

Austin said he turned to leave, making way for the next person in line. But Law reached out and said, ''Please pray for me, please,'' Austin said.

It was a poignant moment, not only for Austin, but for other nearby communicants, including victims' advocate Joe Gallagher Jr., who cofounded the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors.

''If it had happened to me,'' Gallagher said, ''I don't know how I would have felt.''

Austin said: ''When I looked at [Law], the mask slipped away. I was not looking at the archbishop of Boston. I was looking at a very tired, very frightened, very old man.''

After Mass, Austin stood at the back of the church and waited for the cardinal to pass by.

''He nodded at me, and I held out my hand,'' Austin said. ''I pulled his head down on my right shoulder and embraced him.''

Despite the events of Sunday, Austin said, ''I have not wiped the slate clean for him in the terms of accountability.''

This story ran on page A9 of the Boston Globe on 7/23/2002.
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