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Sunday, 10 April 2005 00:12

Cardinal Law's Role in Rome Sparks Outrage in U.S.

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By Greg Frost BOSTON (Reuters)

The Vatican's decision to let Cardinal Bernard Law lead a funeral Mass for Pope John Paul in come has prompted outrage back home, where the ousted Boston archbishop is seen as a symbol of a pedophile priest scandal.

Victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergymen were particularly harsh in their reaction, saying the decision to give Law a prominent role in the pomp and circumstance surrounding the pope's death came as a slap in the face. "I find it personally very insulting and one more instance of how the Roman Catholic hierarchy protects and promotes even the most egregious among them," said Ann Hagan Webb, a regional coordinator of the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "He (Law) protected priests at the expense of children over and over and over again, and this symbolically says: 'We don't care about these children; we'd rather honor him,"' Hagan Webb, a clergy abuse victim herself, told Reuters. Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after court documents showed that he and other leaders of the Boston church shuttled known pedophiles from parish to parish without informing worshipers. The scandal spread to other dioceses across the United States, prompting a drop in donations as attendance fell off at weekly Mass. The Archdiocese of Boston has since agreed to pay more than $86 million to settle legal claims filed by hundreds of people who said they were abused by priests. IN PUBLIC EYE AGAIN For a time after he left Boston, Law took up residence near Washington, D.C., and dropped out of the public eye. He later moved to Rome, where he was named archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a role that allows him to lead the funeral mass. He is also eligible to help choose a new pope. Law resurfaced in American media this week following the pope's death, granting a lengthy interview to ABC News and being photographed at numerous public events. "From the moment Law appeared on ABC, we have received an overwhelming number of e-mails and phone calls, for the most part from people very much upset by Law's visibility," said Suzanne Morse of the Catholic laity group Voice of the Faithful, which grew out of the scandal. The Rev. Walter Cuenin, a Newton, Massachusetts, priest who was a critic of Law before the prelate resigned in 2002, said that for many Boston-area Catholics seeing Law play a public role in Rome has reopened old wounds. "All the priests (who were accused of abuse) are off the job, so some Catholics feel that Law should be retired and not serving on active duty in Rome," Cuenin told Reuters. "And this week seeing him has brought it all back." However, Cuenin also said given Law's position at the basilica in Rome, it made sense that the Vatican would choose him to lead one of the nine funereal masses for the pope. "On that particular decision I don't think it's intended to make a statement but it's more that it would be logical to have one of those Masses there. The Vatican announced Thursday that Law would preside over one of the nine funeral Masses for the pope. Law was chosen because his church is one of the four major basilicas in Rome. The archpriest is the senior figure in a cathedral or basilica and is responsible for how it is run, so his appointment to this task follows protocol. The nine-day cycle began with the Pope's funeral in St. Peter's Basilica. As a cardinal under 80, the former Boston archbishop will also enter the conclave to elect a new pope that begins on April 18.

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