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Background: Law Steps Down

December 13, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: It was the second time in eight months that Cardinal Bernard Law had tendered his resignation. This time, after a meeting in Rome, Pope John Paul II agreed.

The 71-year-old Law, Boston’s Roman Catholic leader for 18 years, is the highest-ranking cleric to resign as a result of the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Church this year. Through a spokeswoman, the Cardinal begged forgiveness and said he hoped his action would bring healing.

DONNA MORRISSEY: The Cardinal is profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted his request to resign as Archbishop of Boston. His request was motivated by a desire to do what is best for the archdiocese.

RAY SUAREZ: Heavily Catholic Boston has been the focal point of the Church’s sexual abuse scandal since it erupted last January. Several offenders served in the Boston archdiocese. Many Catholics there were outraged when they learned Law had not disciplined molesters in the clergy and had even allowed them to transfer to other dioceses.

The scandal grew earlier this month with the release of thousands of personnel documents detailing what Law and other Church officials knew about past sex abuse and other priestly misconduct.

Last week, Law was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury looking into possible criminal violations by the Church in those cases. This week, a group of priests and an influential lay group called for the Cardinal to resign.

The release on bail of former Boston priest Paul Shanley, who’s been charged with ten counts of child rape, further angered victims and fueled the calls for Law to step down. A father and son who were both victimized by Boston-area priests said today’s news was a blessing.

CHRISTOPHER FALKINO: And I’m glad that the Cardinal did resign. I’m glad that this day has finally come.

RAY SUAREZ: But other victims weren’t so sure. And one of their lawyers, Mitchell Garabedian, said Cardinal Law’s resignation would not cure the problem overnight.

MITCHELL GARABEDIAN: At best this is a step in the right direction, but you have many pedophile priests within the organization, allegedly many supervisors who negligently supervised. It’s not going to be cured in six months or a year or a couple of years. You have a problem that’s been built up over 40 to 50 years at a minimum. You have thousands of children who have been sexually molested, some of them repeatedly for years.

RAY SUAREZ: Attorneys have said the Boston archdiocese could be hit with 60 to 70 new lawsuits in the coming months.