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Spiritual Leader of Boston's Catholic Community Facing Mounting Pressure to Resign

Aired April 11, 2002 - 11:13   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: One other big story this morning is closer to home here, and it is calls for Cardinal Bernard Law to step down. The spiritual leader of Boston's Catholic community is facing mounting pressure to resign, this after his handling of priest sex abuse cases.

Our Jason Carroll has been covering this from Boston. He joins us now live with more -- hello, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Leon. You know, yesterday, there was much speculation floating around media circles that perhaps Cardinal Law would resign as early as today, but so far there has been no word from Cardinal Law. However, there have been plenty of calls within the community for Cardinal Law to step down.

Boston College announcing they do not want him to attend graduation ceremonies. Editorials in the major papers saying he should step down, because he cannot be an effective leader.

Law most recently has come under fire for allegedly allowing an accused pedophile priest to have access to children. Documents show that Law allowed Father Paul Shanley to be transferred from parish to parish for many, many years. Now, one of Cardinal Law's former supporters says it is time for him to resign.


THOMAS O'NEILL III, FMR. MASS. LT. GOVERNOR: It's really incumbent upon him to step aside and allow this church to breathe easier and to kind of reclaim itself. As I said, it's time to figure out the future role for our youth in the Catholic Church, the role of women and the role of lady (ph) frankly. As we look at the dysfunctional aspects of so much of our clergy, we must bring into question the role and the look of the priesthood in the Catholic Church, and until he removes himself, we are just not going to be able to ask ourselves those questions.


CARROLL: Again, so far there has been no word from Cardinal Law. He was, very popular in New England for many, many years before this church scandal sort of broke out, and Law supporters are now saying that having him resign really would not do any good to affect real change in the Catholic Church.

One more thing that I want to point out here, Leon, there is one thing that's really hard to convey in this story, and that is really the pain that you get a sense of here in the Catholic community in Boston. There are some 2 million area Catholics who live here, and whether or not -- regardless of what side of the issue that you're on on this with regards to Law, you really get a real sense of the pain on both sides of the issue -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, you know, Jason, those of us who talk to so many people on either side in this case, we do get that sense. And we sure hope that people who are watching can through us get a sense of that pain that people there are feeling.

But let me ask you this. We have been hearing this morning that the call for Bernard Law to step down, Cardinal Law I should say, to step down may actually come -- is being so strong right now the call that he may actually respond to that today. Have you talked to anyone who expects that to happen today?

CARROLL: I'm sorry, Leon, I really couldn't understand the tail end of your question -- if you could give it to me one more time.

HARRIS: I'm sorry. Have you talked with anyone who expects the cardinal to step down today? We have been hearing that the pressure for him to do so and do so before the sun sets today has been mounting.

CARROLL: Well, I can tell you, Leon, that I have spoken to a source within the archdiocese. And what's basically going to be happening is Cardinal Law is listening to his advisors, and I'm sure being advised in both ways. And before anything happens with regards to this, Cardinal Law is going to make sure that he speaks to all of those who are closest to him before he makes any sort of decision.

HARRIS: Yes. So it's obvious that the cardinal is very concerned about his legacy as well, so we will be watching to see what decision he makes. Jason Carroll -- thank you very much -- we'll talk with you later.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the same topic in Boston's large Catholic community of the sex abuse stories, one that will not go away. Robin Washington is a reporter with the "Boston Herald" and has been covering this story from the beginning. He joins us live from our Boston bureau -- Robin, good morning -- thanks for joining us.


KAGAN: What word are you getting? Do you expect the cardinal to step down today?

WASHINGTON: Well, I don't know about today. There are strong indications that it could happen by this weekend. Perhaps there is one theory that it could happen Sunday at the pulpit. That's an interesting sort of colorful way of doing it, and perhaps it's one that gives the most control.

We do hear that he has summoned some priests to the chancery, I believe today, and he does have regular meetings that he goes to in all the three different districts with priests. But usually he goes to them, so this a little bit different indeed they are visiting him.

KAGAN: And in stepping down, what does that mean? Does that just mean stepping down as cardinal or leaving the church altogether?

WASHINGTON: Well, that's a good question. I highly doubt it would mean leaving the church altogether. You have heard I am sure many times people saying that, you know, he can't really do it. He has to be relieved from his...

KAGAN: It has to come from the Vatican...

WASHINGTON: Right, from the Vatican.

KAGAN: ... from the pope.

WASHINGTON: But I mean, this is, of course, not the first time this has happened. In the scandal of child sex abuse that occurred in the 1980s in Louisiana, the bishop there was actually a co-adjutant bishop showed up then, who really ran the place while the bishop who was responsible or deemed responsible for the abuse sort of faded away slowly. So I mean, there are some scenarios where that could happen.

KAGAN: Well, meanwhile, this continues to escalate. There are some hints that this could turn into legal matter, and there could actually be legal charges against the cardinal and other church officials.

WASHINGTON: That, again you also have to look nationally on that. But one of the major national civil attorneys on it, Jeffrey Anderson (ph), filed suits, which of course you covered a couple of weeks ago and then again last week, naming the church Enricko (ph) allegations, and then secondly naming the Vatican, attaching the Vatican to a civil suit. His reason for doing so was the whole practice of moving a priest around from one place to another.

Also, when you get into things outside of diocese, the order priests, the Franciscans, Dominicans or whatever, who could actually move a priest outside of the country or something like that. So these are the areas that are being explored certainly by civil attorneys. And the question is, will the criminal prosecutors follow suit? But so far, they do not seem to be willing to stick their necks out on that completely.

KAGAN: And finally, Robin, I want to pick up off of a point that Jason Carroll was talking about and get kind of a hometown person, the esteem in which Cardinal Law has been held in this community to really -- for people across the country to really appreciate how far this has gone and how far it's possible that this man will have fallen.

WASHINGTON: Right. I mean, he is -- definitely has been beloved, and also, he is the senior prelate in the United States too. So I mean, he is not just any cardinal. I mean, a cardinal is a big deal, but he is the biggest deal. But that esteem was also held for his Cardinal Medeiros, his predecessor, and when an allegation came out a couple of weeks ago naming him for having groped a kid, people went kind of berserk, and then yet that has kind of cooled down with some other rumblings that, well, you know, maybe it was possible. So things absolutely do change.

KAGAN: The next step in this story will be whatever Cardinal Law decides to do, I imagine.

WASHINGTON: And unfortunately, you know, it doesn't end there, because obviously you got so much, as you mentioned earlier with your reporter, pain and suffering and so many sides here that will take years, decades to heal.

KAGAN: Absolutely. And I know your paper will be covering it. Robin Washington with the "Boston Herald" -- thank you so much.

WASHINGTON: Thank you, Daryn.


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