Boston Cardinal Talked With Pope on Scandal

April 17, 2002

By PAM BELLUCK

New York Times


BOSTON, April 16 - Boston's embattled archbishop, Cardinal
Bernard F. Law, issued a statement tonight saying he had
spent the last few days in Rome, talking with the pope and
other Vatican officials about his role in the sexual abuse
scandal and raising the question of whether he should
resign.

Cardinal Law said his visit left him feeling
``encouraged,'' and he repeated his intention to stay on as
archbishop ``as long as God gives me the opportunity.''

The statement, issued about 7 p.m., said the cardinal had
discussed the sexual-abuse cases, including the release of
documents last week in the case of the Rev. Paul R.
Shanley, which showed that Cardinal Law knew about Father
Shanley's abusive background, yet allowed him to continue
to work as a priest.

``The focus of my meetings was the impact of the Shanley
and other sexual-abuse cases upon public opinion in general
and specifically upon the members of the archdiocese,'' it
said. ``The fact that my resignation has been proposed as
necessary was part of my presentation.''

The archdiocesan spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrisey, could not
be reached for comment. A person with knowledge of the
visit said the cardinal spent three days in Rome, adding
that he did not offer to resign but discussed the
increasing clamor of calls for him to do so.

During the last few days, officials had said Cardinal Law
was in seclusion, so he could meet with advisers and pray.
Also during that time, the Vatican called for all American
cardinals to go to Rome next week, reversing its earlier
posture of allowing American bishops to handle the crisis.

Experts on the church said tonight that the statement
indicated that the Vatican had decided to keep Cardinal Law
as archbishop, and that the pope realized the need for a
systematic look at the problem of sexual abuse.

``I think one would infer from this statement that the
Vatican has decided that they don't want a domino effect
first of all, that if Cardinal Law should resign, other
bishops who made egregious errors in reassigning priests
also might have to resign,'' said R. Scott Appleby,
director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American
Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame.

``It's also a token of a new awareness that the church is
at risk financially and morally in this crisis, and the
Vatican is acknowledging that this is a systemic problem as
much as it is a failure on the part of individual
bishops,'' Professor Appleby said.

It was unclear whether the statement would quell the calls
for the cardinal's resignation.

``I don't think it's going to mollify anyone,'' said
Stephen Pope, chairman of the theology department at Boston
College. ``Those people who are angry about the cardinal
being still in a position of authority are not angry about
the reading of the past as much as they are angry that the
person who could have stopped the priests from sexually
abusing minors is still in a position of authority.''

The cardinal said in the statement that he would use the
archdiocesan newspaper and Boston Catholic Television to
``address at length the record of the archdiocese's
handling of these cases by reviewing the past in as
systematic and comprehensive way as possible, so that
legitimate questions which have been raised might be
answered.''

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