March 14, 2005

How America's Catholic Church crucified itself

The Sunday Times Magazine


How America's Catholic Church crucified itself

4,000 paedophile priests identified
80 churches closed down
An archbishop forced to resign
$800m paid in lawsuits
100,000 child victims estimated — and thousands more still at risk

The archbishop's summer residence was the first to go. There had been questions: why does he need the picture-postcard colonial mansion, with its five bedrooms and private beach on the exclusive Cape Cod shoreline? Didn't he already have an opulent mansion in Boston? The three-story abode, resplendent in marble and mahogany to reflect its occupant's stature, had been built in the style of an Italian palazzo, and the archbishop's daily routine was catered for by a posse of nuns. The beach-house sale raised more than $2.5m, but it didn't stop there. His official Boston residence had to be sold too, and, along with 43 neighbouring acres, raised over $100m. But it didn't stop there either.

More than 80 Catholic churches in the Boston archdiocese were ordered to close their doors to save overheads. Parishioners occupied some of them, sleeping on pews, in a hopeless bid to save them. But still the inexorable rot ate away at the fabric of the church.

The archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, 74, was forced to resign. He had paid a heavy personal price. This only son of an air-force colonel, who joined the priesthood in 1961 and became one of the most powerful men in the United States after fighting in the front line of Mississippi's civil-rights movement, was ŇretiredÓ to Rome — a life's work sullied because he put the church's name before the protection of his flock. Law had spent 18 years effectively protecting paedophile priests, who went on, time and again, to re-offend and rape children entrusted to their care by devout parents. It emerged that Law's response to overwhelming evidence of paedophile activity was simply to move the priest to another parish, often allowing them to continue working with children, to write them glowing references and tributes, and to pay off victims' families. More than 1,000 children in the Boston area were sacrificed in the interests of protecting the diocese from scandal.

Posted by kshaw at March 14, 2005 08:09 AM