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Spotlight Report

Law will not say homily as scheduled

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 12/8/2002

 Related stories
A draft statement is now circulating among Boston priests, who plan to deliver it to Cardinal Bernard F. Law if they gather 50 signatures.
Read statement
Cardinal Bernard F. Law abruptly canceled today's regularly scheduled appearance at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as six groups representing victims of clergy sexual abuse plan to protest at the church.

Law's spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey, said last night she had no further details about why Law would not attend the Mass. It would have been his first public appearance since the church crisis reignited last week with allegations that Law and other Boston bishops failed to remove priests who not only sexually abused minors but, in some cases, were violent, delusional, or drug-abusing.

The organizations representing victims of clergy sexual abuse are planning to demonstrate at the cathedral, calling on state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly and local district attorneys to prosecute bishops and priests. Voice of the Faithful, a large lay organization, has encouraged its members to attend to show support for victims.

Yesterday, a group of Boston priests began circulating a draft letter calling on Law to resign. In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, the priests would praise Law for his many positive contributions to Boston, but say "the events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston." A priest who is helping to circulate the letter said that the group hopes to gather 50 signatures before delivering the letter to Law. Some priests are reluctant to support the letter either because of fear or because they believe it is inappropriate.

Meanwhile, Voice of the Faithful leaders are discussing an attempt to contact Pope John Paul II to ask him to intervene. The group's president, James E. Post, said the organization would argue that the Archdiocese of Boston is now effectively leaderless, and that the pope should appoint a new spiritual leader for Eastern Massachusetts.

"We are a diocese without a bishop," Post said. "There is no shepherd left in the Archdiocese of Boston, and that leaves the people in the archdiocese in a state of spiritual and moral crisis. That's what the Vatican has to come to recognize."

Also yesterday, a member of the church's national lay review board said that his panel will question cardinals, other bishops, and lay people about the scandal.

"The board is very troubled about the most recent revelations that show that the abuse and its handling was more aggravated than we thought before," Robert S. Bennett, chairman of one of the National Review Board's subcommittees, told the Associated Press, confirming a report in The New York Times.

Michael Paulson can be reached by e-mail at mpaulson@globe.com.

This story ran on page A32 of the Boston Globe on 12/8/2002.
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