"Working together for a free Cuba"




Cardinal Law, Ousted in U.S. Scandal, Is Given a Major Role in Rites.
By Laurie Goodstein

ROME, April 7 - Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign in disgrace as archbishop of Boston two years ago for protecting sexually abusive priests, was named by the Vatican today as one of nine prelates who will have the honor of presiding over funeral Masses for Pope John Paul II.

To many American Catholics, Cardinal Law is best known as the archbishop who presided over the Boston archdiocese as it became the focus for the sexual abuse scandal involving priests.

But to Vatican officials, Cardinal Law is a powerful kingmaker who traveled internationally for the church and whose favorite priests were regularly appointed bishops by John Paul. After he stepped down in Boston in 2003, he was given a spacious apartment and a prestigious although honorary post in Rome as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

It is by virtue of this position that he was given the high-profile role of celebrating Monday's funeral ritual, the third in the nine-day mourning period that follows a pope's death. It is expected that most of the cardinals will attend the Mass, which will be open to the public. Cardinal Law will deliver a homily that many Vatican watchers will parse for clues about the cardinals' thinking on who should be the next pope.

By permitting Cardinal Law to take the limelight in Rome just when the church is mourning the death of John Paul, the cardinals have reminded American Catholics that their most painful recent chapter barely registered in the Vatican.

"It's yet another example of the gap between how the Vatican sees things and how the U.S. church sees things," said the Rev. Keith F. Pecklers, an American Jesuit who is a professor at the Gregorian, a pontifical university in Rome. "This kind of thing can open the wounds for people just when the healing was beginning."

Cardinal Law resigned after a judge decided to unseal court records that included a letter from the cardinal commending priests even though he knew they had been accused at one time of abusing children. After saying for a year that he would not resign, he finally stepped down and cloistered himself for a while in a monastery until his appointment in Rome.

More than 600 people who say they were victims have come forward in the Boston archdiocese, the fourth-largest in the United States. The church there has paid settlements of more than $90 million, and Cardinal Law's successor, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, has had to consolidate parishes and close Catholic schools to cope with the resulting financial problems.

In Boston, Bernie McDaid, one of as many as 50 people who have accused the Rev. Joseph Birmingham of sexual abuse, said he and others among them were "infuriated" to learn Thursday of Cardinal Law's prominence in the papal funeral and transition.

"He never lost power, even though he stepped down from Boston," Mr. McDaid said. "In any other corporation if you lost your rank and left, you'd lose your power and you'd be stripped of your title." But, "here he is in Rome, still as powerful as he was before."

The nine days of mourning begins on Friday, with the requiem Mass, over which the dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, will preside.

As a member of the College of Cardinals who is under age 80, Cardinal Law is eligible to vote in the conclave that will elect the next pope. The conclave is scheduled to begin on April 18.

In Rome, neither Cardinal Law nor Archbishop O'Malley responded to interview requests. Cardinal Law was among the American cardinals who attended a reception this evening with President Bush and his wife, Laura, at the United States Embassy residence. At a news conference on Thursday, Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York said he believed that Cardinal Law had been chosen to preside at the funeral Mass because of his status as archpriest in the basilica. He declined to say whether he approved.

The list of the nine prelates selected to celebrate funeral Masses for the pope was announced Thursday by Archbishop Piero Marini, master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

One senior Vatican official familiar with the workings of the College of Cardinals, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cardinals approved the list during their meetings this week.

When asked whether Cardinal Law's role in the American scandal was taken into consideration, the official said, "I don't think so." He said that Cardinal Law was not acting as a former Boston archbishop in celebrating the Mass but in "another capacity - he's one of the senior cardinals."

However, one Vatican expert said that by tradition, the cardinals had no choice but to select Cardinal Law to preside at one of the nine funeral Masses. Dr. John-Peter Pham, author of "Heirs of the Fisherman," a book about papal succession, said it was customary for the archpriest of one of three patriarchal basilicas in Rome, St. Peter's, St. Paul's and St. Mary Major, to celebrate a novemdiales Mass.

Two of the archpriests are already celebrating Masses in different ceremonial roles; having them celebrate two Masses would violate protocol, Dr. Pham said.

Source: New York Times, Published: April 8, 2005
Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting from Rome for this article, and Katie Zezima from Boston.