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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Rome post for disgraced cardinal
Cardinal Bernard Law (archive image)
Law still divides opinion back in the Boston Archdiocese
Pope John Paul II has appointed the disgraced former archbishop of Boston to a prestigious church post in Rome - archpriest of St Mary Major Basilica.

Cardinal Bernard Law resigned from his US job in December 2002 as critics accused him of seeking to hide sexual abuse of children by rogue priests.

He had been serving as a chaplain in a convent in Maryland when the Vatican announced his new appointment.

The news has outraged people in Boston, who are still reeling from the scandal.

The Vatican either doesn't understand the problem of clergy sex abuse or it doesn't care
Mitchell Garabedian
victims' lawyer

The archdiocese revealed this week it is to close one-sixth of its parishes. Church officials say the move was prompted by declining congregations, a dwindling supply of priests and a shortage of funds.

However, it was the series of abuse scandals two years ago that proved most costly, with the Church there paying out $85m in compensation to alleged sexual abuse victims.

The present Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, has insisted the parish closures are not linked to the lawsuits.


St Mary Major is one of four basilicas under direct Vatican jurisdiction and has an international staff of priests for the many tourists who visit Rome.

As archpriest, Cardinal Law will be the senior figure in the basilica, responsible for how it is run and presiding at many of the services.

The cleric stepped down in Boston after dozens of his own priests publicly called on him to go, amid allegations that priests suspected of abuse were shuffled around instead of being defrocked.

"It's an utter disgrace and the people of the archdiocese are being burdened by this," said one Boston clergyman, the Rev Bob Bowers of St Catherine's Church in Charlestown.

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represents more than 130 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, said the Rome appointment appeared to be "some sort of reward".

"The Vatican either doesn't understand the problem of clergy sex abuse or it doesn't care," he commented.

However others, like Boston businessman Jack Shaughnessy, welcomed the news, saying the cardinal had borne too much of the blame.

Massive church closures in Boston
27 May 04  |  Americas
Timeline: Boston sex scandal
13 Dec 02  |  Americas

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