Sex scandals place doubt in Catholics

By Laura Van De Pette
April 14, 2005

Shawn Rice

Black smoke continues to rise from the conclaves, offering little hope to millions of mourning Catholics. The 115 member conclave is debating over who will resume the role of the late Pope John Paul II. While Catholics around the globe anticipate the sight of white smoke and the announcement of a new pope, I am still mystified that one of the votes for our new pope will come from a man who casually disregarded more than 550 molestation claims involving priests in his archdiocese.

According to the New York Times, Cardinal Law is best known by Americans 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 II.

Law resigned from his position as Cardinal of Boston in 2003, after unsealed court records revealed he had moved predatory clergy among parishes without alerting parents that their children were at risk. More than 550 people have filed abuse claims in Boston in recent years and the archdiocese has paid more than $85 million in settlements. As America became engrossed with this scandal, Law left Boston for Rome where he was given a spacious apartment and a prestigious 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. 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.

I am shocked that such a man would be appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. This is an honorary position that should be filled by an honorable man. According to the New York Times, the cardinals had no choice but to select Cardinal Law to preside at one of the nine funeral Masses as it is customary for the archpriest of each of the three patriarchal basilicas in Rome, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s and St. Mary Major, to celebrate a novemdiales Mass.

I am not supporting the breaking of tradition but I am baffled that the Vatican would consider putting such a man in a prestigious position. Cardinal Law knowingly turned his head while priests in his diocese were molesting boys in the Boston area. Law ignored the immoral actions and subsequently caused emotional turmoil for over 550 boys in the Boston diocese. This man is responsible for allowing the molestation scandal to become a scandal. If Law had taken action after learning of the molestation accusations than American Catholics would not view clergymen as perverts and pedophiles. Law aided in forever changing the way in which American Catholics would view the church and its leaders.

As the world continues to mourn the loss of one of our greatest popes, I cannot help but wonder whether we will ever see a pope as popular and loved as Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. The Vatican has easily dismissed the wrongful doings of Cardinal Law, inspiring anger and infuriation with the church by many Americans, especially those involved with the molestation scandal.

How will such twisted men, like Cardinal Law and the men who appointed him Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, elect a pope that will be able to unite Catholics across the globe despite scandal and controversy, when they themselves cannot escape the scandals?

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Laura Van De Pette

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