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Spotlight Report

  Adrian Walker  

No excuses for Law


How can anyone now follow this man?

How can any sane person worship at an altar presided over by a cleric who provided the support - I refuse to call it moral support - to sick, depraved priests that Cardinal Bernard F. Law did?

Why would anyone walk into the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday and worship at his direction?

To paraphrase Al Gore, it's time for Cardinal Law to go. Not early next year, or next summer, or a few years from now after a few ever more desperate attempts at damage control. The time is now, by any means necessary.

That was made clear yesterday by the revelations of more abuse found in the files of the archdiocese.

There was a priest who sexually molested young women, purporting to be the ''second coming of Christ.'' Another who allegedly was snorting half the cocaine in Malden. Another was accused, among other things, of beating his housekeeper, and was conducting a long-term affair with a female companion in violation of his vow of celibacy.

Worst of all, there was a cardinal, Bernard F. Law, who didn't do a thing about any of it, who used his authority to protect predators while ignoring the pain of their victims.

To one of these crazies, the Rev. Peter J. Frost, he would write of the hope that his ''wisdom'' would aid him in his future ministry.

''It is my hope that some day in the future you will return to an appropriate ministry, bringing with you the wisdom which emerges from difficult experience,'' Law wrote in 1999. ''In the meantime, I want you to know that you and your family are in my prayers.'' This to a priest who had admitted that he had sexually abused boys as far back as 1969.

The sentiments he expressed to the odious Rev. Robert V. Meffan were no less warm.

Meffan is the piece of work who says he thought he could bring teenage girls closer to Jesus by bringing them as close as possible to his genitals. According to church records, at least three women complained to officials that Meffan - who assured them that they were ''brides of Christ'' - sexually abused them.

''The lives and hearts of many people have been touched by your sharing of the Lord's spirit,'' Law wrote in approving Meffan's retirement. ''We are truly grateful.''

This goes beyond being a kind boss, beyond being slow to recognize the damage wreaked by sexual abuse. The documents reveal that the church officials knew far more then than they were believed to have known. And they strongly suggest that they simply didn't care very much, that the real issue was how to best cover their backs. That is far from any defensible concept of ministry.

In its latest act of self-immolation, the archdiocese is considering filing for bankruptcy because of its difficulty in settling the mountain of lawsuits confronting it. That would be a travesty. But it would also be sadly consistent with the despicable moral tone Law has set - transferring known molesters, slapping them on the wrists, patting them on the back, then hiding behind lawyers in a pathetic attempt to keep the full extent of his deeds out of the papers.

One of my friends, a devout Catholic, described a sad scene to me yesterday. He was at Mass with his family last weekend when his wife poked him in the ribs. ''Look around,'' she said to him. ''Nobody's here.'' My friend is angry enough to join the ranks of the missing, but clings to the belief that the church - his church - is bigger than the damage its alleged leaders have done to it. By any just measure, he should be right.

There is only one possible fresh start now, one way out. A moral leader must have a moral compass, and Bernard F. Law clearly lacks one.

No more excuses. No more evasion.

Bernard Law's time is up.

He must go, and he must go now.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 12/5/2002.
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