April 19, 2005

Law's power a symbol of deeper crisis


The flap over Cardinal Bernard Law’s appearance as celebrant of one of the nine Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica during the period of mourning for the late Pope John Paul II may seem a minor dustup in the long trajectory of the clergy sex abuse scandals.

After all, only two people showed up to protest, the Mass went on as scheduled, the controversy was not expected to have an effect on the conclave, and the headlines faded quickly.

What will not fade, however, is the power of symbol to evoke deeper truths and to raise unsettling questions. Law’s presence in the limelight once more -- not before the media answering long-standing questions about the diocese he left in disarray, but as a representative of the church in a high-profile setting, a place of honor -- was an unbelievably inept and insensitive move.

Offensive as that was to victims of sexual abuse, even more damaging to the wider church is Law’s continuing membership on some of the most powerful congregations and councils in Rome. Someone who has caused such great damage to a major diocese through mismanagement and ultimately the cover-up of child sex abuse should not be allowed near the levers of power in the church.

Posted by kshaw at April 19, 2005 08:41 PM