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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 19:21 GMT
Abuse scandal forces out Boston cardinal
Pope John Paul II with Cardinal Law
Cardinal Law held a short meeting with the Pope
Archbishop Bernard Law of Boston has resigned amid accusations that he covered up paedophilia by Roman Catholic priests in his diocese.

To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness

Cardinal Bernard Law
The Pope accepted the cardinal's resignation on Friday morning after a short meeting in the Vatican.

Cardinal Law had faced calls to step down from some of his own priests over the child sex abuse scandal.

The Boston diocese faces some 450 lawsuits alleging child abuse and is considering filing for bankruptcy.

Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer representing many alleged victims, said the action would continue and Cardinal Law was scheduled for a deposition next week.

Critics have accused Cardinal Law of moving priests from one pulpit to another rather than confronting the problem.

Call for reconciliation

In a short statement after the Pope accepted the resignation, Cardinal Law apologised and begged forgiveness.


Cardinal Bernard Law
Bernard Law
  • Archbishop of Boston since 1984
  • Senior prelate in US
  • Considered a close ally of the Pope


  • He said he hoped his resignation would "help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed".

    But a spokesman for a Catholic pressure group in Boston said that merely apologising was not enough.

    "These are not the actions of someone who is repenting," Mike Emerton, a spokesman for Voice of the Faithful, told BBC News Online.

    People who say they were abused said they hoped the resignation would be a stage in the healing process.

    "We all feel sad, but we feel this is a major step in the right direction," Tom Fulchino said.

    Allegations

    The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the Pope's decision to accept the resignation was part of a "damage limitation exercise".

    The Boston diocese has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct by dozens of priests over decades.

    Documents released by the Church contained accusations that:

    • A priest had molested a 17-year-old on 21 consecutive nights as they drove across the country
    • Cardinal Law had recommended one of his priests for a job as military chaplain - saying there was no reason he should not work with young people - after the church paid $200,000 to the family of a youth allegedly abused by the priest
    • Priests had fathered children, traded cocaine for sex with boys and abused girls training to become nuns.

    The Reverend Paul Shanley, another Boston area priest, faces 10 charges of child rape. He was freed on bail this week.

    Consultations

    Cardinal Law spent a week in Rome meeting senior Vatican officials before handing in his resignation.

    He had offered it once before, in April, but the Pope refused it then.

    Richard Lennon
    Will serve as "apostolic administrator" of diocese
    Born 1947
    Priest since 1973
    Ordained a bishop in 2001
    The Vatican said Bishop Richard Lennon, who is an auxiliary bishop in Boston, would run the Boston diocese temporarily.

    Earlier in the week, Voice of the Faithful, which claims to represent more than 25,000 parishioners, called for the cardinal to resign, due to what it called "a pervasive pattern of behaviour to conceal and cover up... evil actions".

    Grand jury

    Cardinal Law has reportedly been ordered to appear before a Boston grand jury investigating the allegations of child abuse.

    A spokeswoman for the diocese said after the resignation that Cardinal Law would fulfil all his legal obligations.

    Bishop Richard Lennon
    Bishop Richard Lennon will run the Boston diocese temporarily
    On Thursday, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly accused the diocese of perpetrating a "cover-up".

    Boston newspapers have reported that Mr Reilly's office has spent months building a case against priests accused of child abuse.

    Cardinal Law remains a cardinal; he has resigned only as Archbishop of Boston. It is not clear what the 71-year-old prelate will do now.

    He is expected to return to Boston over the weekend.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Matt Frei reports from Boston
    "Here it is easy to forget the Catholic Church is still a force for good"
    Abuse victim Tom Fulchino
    "It will be a long process to heal the church"
    Father Tom Doyle
    "The church doesn't exist just for the cardinals and bishops"
    The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

    Boston cardinal quits

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    See also:

    05 Dec 02 | Americas
    04 Dec 02 | Americas
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