April 13, 2005

Cardinal offense

Boston Phoenix

THE PROMINENT role that the Vatican has bestowed upon Bernard Cardinal Law following the death of Pope John Paul II goes far beyond the merely inappropriate. It is repulsive and offensive, and it makes you wonder whether the Catholic Church has learned anything following the pedophile-priest scandals of the past four years.

Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in late 2002, following revelations that he had covered up the crimes of his Roman-collared rapists, and had reassigned many of them to new parishes where, inevitably, they raped again. His departure came nearly two long years after the first of a series of groundbreaking reports in the Boston Phoenix on Law’s culpability in the sexual-abuse crisis. (An archive of the Phoenix’s coverage is online at www.bostonphoenix.com/pages/cardinal.asp.) The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for public service by exposing the extent of Law’s culpability. Yet there Law was this past Monday, saying a mass of mourning for the pope at St. Peter’s Basilica, a clear signal that he remains a respected member of the Catholic hierarchy.

John Paul’s life has justifiably been celebrated for his many accomplishments: his courageous opposition to communism, his unprecedented outreach to the Jewish community, his opposition to unjust wars (including the war in Iraq), and his advocacy of such social-justice causes as abolition of the death penalty. Within the Church, though, his record was a bitter disappointment to progressives. His persecution of gay and lesbian Catholics, his refusal to ordain women and married men, and his continued opposition to birth control — even to the point of condemning the use of condoms to prevent AIDS — all speak to another, less attractive side of his papacy.

Nowhere, though, was the pope more in the wrong than in his passive approach to sexual abuse. John Paul made an example out of Cardinal Law, but it was precisely the wrong kind of example. Law was rewarded with a cushy sinecure in Rome and placed in a position where he could re-emerge, as he now has. The next pope has to get it right when it comes to pedophile priests. He could start by making a very different kind of example of Law, a preening, arrogant man whose willful negligence destroyed so many lives — and who virtually bankrupted the archdiocese for which he was morally, spiritually, and financially responsible.

Posted by kshaw at April 13, 2005 07:53 PM