I have a question regarding Cardinal Bernard Law, once residing in Boston and now in Rome. It seems evident from the notoriety of the sex abuse scandals in Boston that Cardinal Law was not only complicit but probably also instrumental in the moving around of priests (which many of us faithful and life-long Catholics call the Catholic Shell Game, i.e. under which shell is the real abuser).
In light of this assumption, and if this assumption is indeed valid, it is hard for those of us who try to faithfully to “follow the rules” to understand how his conduct seems to be 'rewarded' by his assignment to one of the major basilicas in Rome. Sackcloth and ashes in a remote monastery with perpetual prayer and penance would seem to be more appropriate!
Two of the major components of our beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation are penance AND reparation. I see nothing that gives evidence to this in the life of Cardinal Law, nor does he have to return to the scene of his crime and see everyday the people who he has wounded and whose lives he has destroyed. I saw a suggestion in an article by Father James Martin, S.J. that to fulfill the reparational aspect of Reconciliation wouldn't it be a beautiful and healing gesture by the bishops in this country to offer, every Friday, the Stations of the Cross in reparation for the victims who suffered abuse at the hands of priests.
I especially need help in understanding the gold ring that it appears Cardinal Law has grabbed as he rode the Vatican merry-go-round, and on the lack of public compassion for victims exhibited in my mind, by the church as a whole.
I would appreciate your views on these matters.
Thank you very much for your question, but be careful with assumptions! You express sentiments of simmering resentment which are very common today. I can only offer suggestions, but I can not answer completely, because I do not know all the facts, or circumstances, or intentions, of the parties involved.
First, as for Father James Martin, S.J’s advice to bishops – if in fact that is the case -- I think his advice would be more credible after he has served as a bishop for 10 years or so. He would do better to walk in their shoes, before offering advice.
Second, I can not and do not want to judge Cardinal Law’s actions, because I do not know all the facts and I am skeptical of the veracity and the intentions of the secular media, contingent fee attorneys, Voice of the Faithful, and SNAP, while at the same time admitting that the Lord is using them to help cleanse the Church. All I will say is that there is no room in the priesthood for men who commit sins against the sixth commandment with minors. How anyone could ever think that there is room in the priesthood for such unfortunate creatures, is beyond me. And if a priest can not behave chastely with adults, he should reform or resign.
Third, when Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop of Boston only to be appointed as rector of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, is not considered a reward or a “light” sentence. I would think it to be rather embarrassing and humbling to be exiled to a foreign country, far from close friends and family. Why the Holy Father did not condemn Cardinal Law to “sackcloth and ashes in a monastery” as you suggest, is for two reasons: first, we have a time-honored tradition of extending mercy in the Church. That’s what Jesus did. And that’s what Jesus taught us. Secondly, from what I can gather, Cardinal Law is not guilty of crimes; from what we know, he simply exercised bad judgment in his episcopal governance.
Finally, to put this entire sad chapter of recent Church history into context, we must honestly admit that morality collapsed when priests and faithful abandoned the frequent and sincere practice of sacramental confession, reverent devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, and affectionate veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It all collapsed when Catholics started taking the pill. Fortunately, and this is reason to rejoice, the Holy Spirit is renewing the Church, and Catholics are returning to confession, devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and love for the Blessed Mother. In the wake of this development, we are witnessing a resurgence in vocations and openness to life.
Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio. Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University. His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.