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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 18:13 GMT
Restoring Boston's faith
Bishop Richard Lennon
Bishop Richard Lennon is an experienced administrator

The job facing the temporary leader of the Catholic Church in Boston can be summed up in a single word: Healing.

Bishop Richard Lennon has the daunting task of taking over an archdiocese torn apart by the sexual abuse scandal.

By finally accepting the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, the Pope has bowed to the inevitable.

Churchgoers were shocked by the revelations of sexual abuse by priests in Boston, and the attempts by church leaders to cover up a scandal dating back many years.

The fact that more than 50 of Cardinal Law's own priests were urging him to stand down made his position untenable.

Cardinal Law says mass before his resignation
Cardinal Law came under massive pressure from his own priests
Cardinal Law's own future is now uncertain. The career of one of America's most prominent clergymen has ended in humiliation and disgrace.

"The resignation of Cardinal Law is very significant," said Father Thomas Reese, an authority on the administration of the church.

"His resignation shows that the church recognises how terrible sexual abuse by priests is.

"Never again can it go back to business as usual and simply move an abusive priest from one parish to another."

Cardinal Law is returning to the United States this weekend.

Although he now has no say in running the church in Boston, he remains a Cardinal of the church, giving him the right to vote in the next papal election.

Repairing damage

The man who now has to pick up the pieces has been selected in the hope that he has the ability to start repairing the damage sustained over the past year.

At 55, Richard Lennon is relatively young, although he is already an experienced church administrator, who knows the archdiocese very well.

It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed

Cardinal Law
He is described as someone who likes to consult others, but who can also act decisively. He will need all these skills in the days ahead.

"I pledge to do all I can to work toward healing as a church and furthering the mission of Jesus Christ," he said, after being told of his appointment by the Pope.

Bishop Lennon was ordained a priest in Boston in 1973. As an expert in canon law, he should be well equipped to deal with the financial and legal consequences of the present crisis.

About 500 people are now pursuing claims against the archdiocese, saying they were abused by priests. It is thought the total bill could reach $100 million.

Compensation claims

Before quitting, Cardinal Law asked church aides to draw up a plan to declare the archdiocese bankrupt, a move that would halt legal action against the church.

This is just one issue that his successor will have to grapple with.

Lawyers for the victims say the resignation of Cardinal Law changes nothing; the claims for compensation will continue.

One lawyer told the Boston Herald: "Law's departure is not the end - it is the end of the beginning."

As "apostolic administrator", Richard Lennon will be in charge of the archdiocese until the Pope names Cardinal Law's replacement as archbishop.

In the end, Bishop Lennon may just be a caretaker. But it is vital for the church, right across the United States, that he starts to restore its tattered reputation.

But while the Vatican may be hoping to draw a line under the scandal in Boston, some believe the resignation of Cardinal Law could have a "domino effect". If such a high-ranking member of the church can be forced from office, they ask, who might be next?

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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