Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic World News News Feature

Cardinal Law Meets Pope Friday; Resignation Widely Expected December 12, 2002

VATICAN, Dec 12, 02 ( -- Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law will meet with Pope John Paul II on Friday, December 13, and Vatican officials expect the embattled American prelate to offer his resignation.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the head of the Vatican press office, confirmed on Thursday that Cardinal Law would have a face-to-face meeting with the Pontiff. Navarro-Valls promised that the Vatican would release a statement after the meeting.

Cardinal Law, who has already been in Rome for several days, will see the Pope after first meeting with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

The cardinal faces mounting pressure within his Boston archdiocese because of a burgeoning sex-abuse scandal. His flagging credibility received another blow on December 12, when the local media learned that Cardinal Law, along with several of his auxiliary bishops, would be called to testify before a grand jury that is considering possible criminal charges in connection with the archdiocesan efforts to conceal evidence of clerical abuse.

Last week Cardinal Law sought and received approval from the archdiocesan finance council to enter bankruptcy proceedings, in light of the legal damages that have been sought by the victims of priestly abuse. Plaintiff lawyers estimate that the damages could be in the range of $100 million.

The cardinal slipped out of Boston for an unannounced trip to Rome last weekend, after the release of hundreds of new documents confirming the pattern in which archdiocesan officials covered up evidence of priestly misconduct. His sudden departure allowed him to escape a direct confrontation with several hundred protestors who had gathered on Sunday outside Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where Cardinal Law was scheduled to say Mass.

The protestors were demanding the cardinal's resignation. And on Monday they were joined by 58 Boston priests who took the unusual step of issuing a public call for their archbishop to step down. Later in the week the upstart group Voice of the Faithful also released a formal request for Cardinal Law's resignation.

It is widely believed-- but has never been confirmed-- that Cardinal Law offered to resign during a previous unscheduled trip to the Vatican, in April of this year. At the time, informed sources say, the Pope urged the American prelate to remain in office. But one Vatican official observed, "If he makes the offer again, this time I think the Pope has to accept it."

One possible outcome of the cardinal's visit to Rome could be the appointment of a coadjutor archbishop, who would share responsibility for leading the Boston archdiocese and allow Cardinal Law to make a more graceful exit.

Although no official announcement has been made regarding the discussions triggered by Cardinal Law's visit to Rome, talks earlier this week were understood to center on the question of bankruptcy. The Boston archdiocese cannot proceed with a bankruptcy filing without approval from the Vatican. That approval now seems unlikely.