April 03, 2005

Abuse Scandal Gives Boston Mixed Feelings About Pope's Legacy

The New York Times


Published: April 2, 2005

BOSTON, April 2 - Jack Connors, a prominent member of this city's large Catholic community, has a resonant memory of Pope John Paul II's visit to Boston in 1979. Throngs of people descended on Boston Common for a public Mass, many waiting for hours in a torrential rain.

"I was drenched," Mr. Connors said. "My kids wanted to know why are we here. We should have known it was a sign that we were in for some stormy weather."

It is the kind of anecdote that crystallizes the complex feelings many here have toward Pope John Paul II, who died on Saturday at the age of 84. It is a sense of awe and affection mixed with disappointment at his handling of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that exploded in Boston three years ago and continues to reverberate here.

"Am I angry with him? No," Mr. Connors said. "He was a good man and did what he thought was right. But regrettably, there wasn't as much thoughtfulness and oversight as one might hope for."

Similar reactions were common this weekend as many of the 2 million Catholics in and around Boston struggled with how to reconcile the respect and warmth they felt for John Paul with what they saw as too little attention paid too late to the problem of sexually abusive priests. In particular, there was criticism that when Cardinal Bernard F. Law was forced out of his position as Boston archbishop because of the scandal, he was not chastised or demoted, but was instead named archpriest of one of the four basilicas under Vatican direction in Rome, St. Mary Major's Basilica.

Posted by kshaw at April 3, 2005 04:07 AM