Vatican planning for Law’s ouster?
Catholic dissident group joins call for removal
of Boston archbishop
Dec. 11 — The Vatican is considering naming a special administrator to run the Archdiocese of Boston if and when Cardinal Bernard Law resigns, a significant indication that he could be on his way out because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Roman Catholic Church sources said Wednesday.
THE PLANS became public as a prominent lay Catholic reform group, Voice of the Faithful, joined the calls Wednesday for Law to resign.
Members of the group, which has been banned from meeting in most parishes by bishops skeptical of their motives, said during a meeting in Newton, Mass., that recent revelations detailing the extent of the abuse crisis had left them with no choice but to publicly declare the archdiocese in need of new leadership.
Law’s leadership is a “moral cancer,” said Jim Post, president of Voice of the Faithful. He said that in the last couple weeks, the scandal “has accelerated in dangerous and unprecedented ways.”
“There is a state of spiritual and moral crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston,” he said. “In my judgment, the Archdiocese of Boston has effectively been without a bishop.”
Law slipped into Rome secretly over the weekend as the crisis over his leadership intensified. He is believed to be holding talks with Vatican officials on the archdiocese’s plans to declare bankruptcy to deal with about 450 lawsuits it faces from alleged victims of clergy sexual assault.
Law has not been seen in public since Sunday.
Catholic theologians and historians have used terms like “revolt” and “rebellion” to describe the situation in the archdiocese after a letter was delivered to Law’s residence Monday in which 58 priests asked him to step down. It was the first time that a group of clergy formally called for Law to resign after it emerged that he and other church leaders shuttled priests accused of pedophilia from parish to parish.
NBC affiliate WHDH-TV in Boston reported Wednesday that more than a dozen other priests intended to add their names to the letter. The Rev. Robert Bullock of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Sharon said he expected the group that sent the letter, the Boston Priests Forum, to discuss a second letter, which would be more widely circulated.
The scandal erupted earlier this year when files in the case of defrocked priest John Geoghan, a convicted pedophile, showed that Law knew of accusations against him but instead chose to transfer him from parish to parish without warning parents.
APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR CONSIDERED
Church sources in Vatican City told Reuters on condition of anonymity church leaders were considering appointing an apostolic administrator to govern the Boston archdiocese in Pope John Paul II’s name.
“When a bishop’s see is vacant, the diocese’s college of consultors elects its own ad interim administrator, unless the Holy See appoints an apostolic administrator,” a church law expert said.
“In either case, the administrator takes over the duties of the bishop with certain restrictions,” he said.
The Boston Globe quoted two senior Vatican officials Wednesday as saying Law’s visit to Rome could culminate in an intense private conversation with the pope as early as Thursday to discuss his future.
Law was believed to have met already with the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, and with the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Globe reported.
The church sources who spoke to Reuters said there were several possible outcomes of Law’s visit to Rome:
* Law could resign and the pope would appoint an apostolic administrator.
* Law could resign and the pope would appoint a permanent successor immediately.
* Law could remain in office with diminished authority, subject to an enforced partnership with a “coadjutor” who would eventually replace him. Church law allows a coadjutor to deal with “certain personal problems experienced by the diocesan bishop” in special cases. ‘SMOKING GUN’ ALLEGED
Pressure continued to build on Law after critics claimed Tuesday that had uncovered a “smoking gun” that showed that Law and other U.S. Catholic leaders who have been accused of covering up sex-abuse allegations were acting on the pope’s orders.
A group called the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors said it had come across the document from among thousands of personnel files the Boston archdiocese made public last week. A court hearing lawsuits against the archdiocese had ordered the release.
Joseph Gallagher, a co-founder of the group, said the document spelled out a Vatican policy of placing image ahead of child welfare.
In the document, John Paul says that a defrocked Catholic priest who had a history of molesting boys should leave the areas where his “condition” was known — or stay put as long as it caused no scandal.
“That would explain why [other] bishops have done the same thing as Cardinal Law — they’ve moved sexual offenders from parish to parish without notifying the parishioners,” Gallagher said.
The May 25, 1999, document is a translation of the pope’s order removing Robert Burns, a convicted pedophile, from the priesthood.
Donna Morrissey, a Boston archdiocese spokeswoman, said she could not comment on matters of litigation.
Roderick MacLeish, a Boston lawyer who last week released the archdiocese’s file on Burns along with those of other priests accused of sexual misconduct, said the order was noteworthy not only because it was relatively recent but also because of its use of the word “scandal.”
“Now, for the first time, we’ve seen documents from the Vatican that emphasize the word that we’ve seen so often here in Boston: ‘scandal,’” MacLeish said.
“This document says he is to be relocated to another place where presumably they wouldn’t know about him, unless the bishop or the cardinal of the appropriate diocese determines it will cause no scandal,” he said. “What about the children?”
MacLeish has said the files, which a judge ordered the archdiocese to turn over, help prove a central claim in his lawsuits against the archdiocese — that the church reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse without warning parishioners.
At the time the memo was written, the archdiocese said it was aware of at least six young men whom Burns allegedly molested while he worked in Boston from 1982 to 1991.
Burns came to Boston from the diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, where his problem had been noticed.
Burns pleaded guilty in 1996 to criminal charges that he had sexually assaulted two boys in New Hampshire. He was sentenced to two consecutive four- to eight-year terms in jail.
Meanwhile, a central figure of the scandal, the Rev. Paul Shanley, posted $300,000 cash bail Wednesday. Shanley, 71, has been charged in Boston with 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery for allegedly abusing boys at a church in Newton from 1979 to 1989.
A former Boston Archdiocese leader, the Rev. Thomas Daily, now the bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a sworn deposition that the church knew Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys when it promoted him to lead a parish in 1983.
MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. From http://www.msnbc.com/news/844789.asp?vts=121120021030
If this proves true, the PR nightmare for the Roman Catholic Church has just begun and I would forsee a large number of people leaving that Church and the Churches in communion with it.