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Pope John Paul II Accepts Resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law

Aired December 13, 2002 - 08:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: First, breaking news out of the Vatican. Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of Boston's Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law. The two met earlier this morning.
Let's go live now to Boston for the latest reaction.

Bill Delaney joins us -- good morning, Bill.


Well, you know, the reaction here from Boston's two million Catholics, certainly a degree of sadness. This man has been their archbishop for 18 years. But, also, there will be an overwhelming sense among most of the two million Catholics here of relief that this virtually paralyzed archdiocese can now hopefully begin to move forward.

Here's the document many Catholics here thought they'd never see, Paula, the statement of His Eminence Cardinal Bernard Law, resigning. "It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston," he says, and then goes on to say, "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness. To the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity with whom I have worked in our efforts to fulfill the church's mission, I express my deep gratitude."

Now, for all the anger here, Paula, I think what you will begin to see now is a great desire for bringing some kind of closure to all this, some sort of reconciliation, and, indeed, I think you'll see a degree of forgiveness now from Catholics, who have been so infuriated by the archbishop's handling of the sexual abuse crisis here.

It came as a shock, this resignation. We spoke to experts with long experience with the Vatican yesterday here in Boston. We spoke to a number of them. To a man, they thought there would be no clear cut resolution to this. They thought that the Vatican would fudge it. Obviously the Vatican realizing finally, after many months...

ZAHN: Hey, Bill, sorry to cut you off...

DELANEY: I understand there's a press review now.

ZAHN: We need to break away to a news conference, yes. You can't see the shot. Let's drop in.

DONNA MORRISSEY, BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE: ... Cardinal Law and the Archdiocese of Boston. And I'm joined here by the Reverend Christopher Coyne, that's C-O-Y-N-E. And he is also the spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston.

I spoke to Cardinal Law briefly before the announcement was made this morning and he is doing well, considering the circumstances and the difficult days that we are all facing as a community. The cardinal is profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted his request to resign as archbishop of Boston.

His request was motivated by a desire to do what is best for the archdiocese. It is the cardinal's fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience healing, reconciliation and unity, which are so desperately needed.

To all those who have suffered from his shortcomings and mistakes, the cardinal both apologizes and from them he begs their forgiveness. To the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity with whom the cardinal has worked in their efforts to fulfill the church's mission, the cardinal expresses his deep gratitude. His gratitude extends, as well, to so many others with whom he has been associated in seeking to serve the common good. Those include people from the ecumenical, Jewish and wider inter-religious communities, as well as public officials and others in civil society.

The cardinal has expressed that it has been both a blessing and a privilege to serve as archbishop of Boston.

The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. The cardinal asks all of you to please keep him in your prayers, even as he will continue to hold all the people within the archdiocese of Boston in his heart.

On the appointment of Bishop Lennon, the cardinal congratulates Bishop Richard Lennon on his appointment as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston and the cardinal has expressed that Bishop Lennon has the assurance of the cardinal's prayers and the cardinal's willingness to be of whatever assistance he may deem helpful.

The cardinal will be returning to the United States some time this weekend. There are no plans for a press conference or interview opportunities, and he does not have a public schedule at this time. The Archdiocese of Boston is going to continue in its efforts to reach out to victim survivors, in part through the Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry.

I'm pleased to report that nearly all of our schools and parishes have signed up for the comprehensive educational and abuse prevention program that we launched that will ultimately train over 200,000 adults.

Today is a very difficult day for people throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. But we are going to continue in our efforts to implement comprehensive policies and education programs and outreach to victim survivors to make sure that we don't find ourselves in this situation again and that we can do whatever means possible to help in the healing process for the victim survivors and their families.

Father Coyne? REV. CHRISTOPHER COYNE, BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE: The resignation of Cardinal Law as archbishop of Boston is just one more moment of sadness over the whole time line of great sadness and grief that has touched the archdiocese beginning with the monumental tragedy of the abuse of children by priests and the failure and the flaws of the administration to deal adequately with those moments of abuse.

There's nothing that can come of any good that can come out of such an evil action as the abuse of children and it just shows to all of us how the effects of evil can just spread and become so encompassing in so many ways.

Upon the resignation of the cardinal, the Holy Father, John Paul II, has appointed Bishop Lennon apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston until an archbishop is named at a later date. Bishop Lennon has served the Archdiocese as rector of St. John's Seminary and auxiliary bishop of the west region of the Archdiocese for the past two years.

He will resign those positions so that he may turn all of his attention to the spiritual and administrative well being and direction of the Archdiocese. He at this time will not be available for media during the day. We're in the middle of trying to finalize plans for him to be the celebrant and preacher at the 11:00 mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this Sunday. We still have to work that out with the staff at the cathedral, so it's, that's still up in the air.

As administrator, Bishop Lennon would like to let everyone know that at this time he has made no changes and that all positions in the Archdiocese will still remain as they are. An apostolic administrator is someone who takes possession of a bishop until a new -- of a diocese until a new bishop comes and he has the rights and obligations as spelled out for him in the letter of the Holy Father.

At this point, Donna and I will available for any questions that you would like to raise.

QUESTION: Father Coyne, why isn't Bishop Lennon...

ZAHN: All right, as we stay on this picture, I just wanted to bring those of you just joining us quickly up to date on what the spokesperson for the Boston archdiocese are saying. They're describing the outgoing Cardinal Law as doing well, considering the circumstances. In one of the most pointed references to things that have happened under his watch, Christopher Coyne just pointed to the failures and flaws of an administration to deal with the abuse of children.

We've got Bill Delaney standing by. And one of the more curious references, though, Bill, I thought this is something that might upset the families, where it said Cardinal Law was profoundly grateful to the pope for accepting his resignation. It was, after all, Cardinal Law who resisted resigning just months ago.

DELANEY: Well, that's right. I mean in April Cardinal Law offered his resignation and the Vatican refused it. You know, I spoke to a number of players here in Boston, Catholics with long experience with the Vatican yesterday. And to a man, these people with long experience in how the Vatican handles things predicted no way they'll ever let him resign, no way the Vatican will give in to pressure.

You know, something's been started here that may be hard to put back in the box, Paula. Whatever fine words are said today, the appointment of Father Lennon and so on, something has begun here that's going to be challenging, to say the least, for this Archdiocese and for the entire Catholic Church in America to deal with.

The laity is demanding a greater voice. The laity forced the Vatican ultimately, because of its outrage, to accept the resignation, however reluctantly, of Archbishop Law.

We have a group here called Voice of the Faithful. They seemed to grow out of the earth earlier this year. They're now 25,000 strong. They're not going to go away. They're going to continue to demand a more democratic Catholic Church, Paula. And that is something, democracy, that the Vatican and an archdiocese like Boston, is not used to.

ZAHN: Bill Delaney, we're going to come back to you throughout the morning.

But first we want to join some Boston guests right now, a man you've seen a lot on our broadcast, Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has already settled for $10 million from the Boston archdiocese on behalf of some 86 clients alleging they were molested by priests. And Patrick McSorley, an alleged abuse victim and one of Garabedian's clients.

Good morning, gentlemen.


ZAHN: Thanks so much for being with us.

GARABEDIAN: Thank you.


ZAHN: So, Patrick, when you heard the news, I guess most of us were awakened by this news this morning, what went through your mind?

MCSORLEY: I had a good gut feeling that he was going to resign. It has been a long time coming and now that it's happened I do feel a sense of relief and I just hope the Catholic Church moves in the right direction.

ZAHN: I know in the cardinal's letter he apologized and asked for the prayers and begged the forgiveness of victims. Are you able to do that just yet?

MCSORLEY: No, I'm sorry, not just yet. These types of things, for us victims, take a long time. Forgiveness is one thing, but the memory will always remain and that's the whole problem. That's the whole thing that we have to go through with the healing process is these memories and, you know, it is a step in the right direction that the cardinal has resigned, but now we'll see what happens in the future and hopefully it doesn't ever happen to another little innocent child ever again.

ZAHN: Patrick, did it mean much to you that the Archdiocese acknowledged that the archbishop had some monumental failures and flaws in failing to recognize the abuse of children within the Archdiocese?

MCSORLEY: Well, these things should have been recognized a long time ago, even before we brought this to the public attention. Yes, it, like I said, it's been a long time coming and this should have happened a long time ago.

ZAHN: Well, that's the question I have for you, Mr. Garabedian, about the timing of all this. It was, after all, just yesterday afternoon that the attorney general of Massachusetts came out and said his investigation of the Boston archdiocese had found clear evidence of a cover-up of priests' criminal behavior.

Do you think that led to this resignation?

GARABEDIAN: I think a number of factors led to this resignation, one of those being what you just said. Another one being economic concerns. The archdiocese has been hit heavily economically because of the revelations about child abuse. Then they've been hit heavily through the months and I think they're concerned about economics. I think they want to get their image back on track and they want to appear to be doing the right thing.

Whether they're going to be doing the right thing only time will tell. This is a problem that's been built up over the past 40 or 50 years at least, and it's not going to be cured overnight. And what Cardinal Law has done in resigning is really an example for other diocesan leaders throughout the country to follow. The Vatican and those leaders have to turn within, look within themselves and determine whether those leaders should also resign. If there's going to be a pure cleansing here, if it's going to be more than cosmetic, those decisions have to be made.

You have many individuals who run dioceses outside of the Boston Diocese now, who were very powerful leaders within the Archdiocese of Boston and as the evidence indicates, they participated. They knew. They were negligent in allowing innocent children to be molested.

ZAHN: Mr. Garabedian, we've just got about 10 seconds left. We are hearing from some Bostonians through their e-mails, there's a great fear that perhaps Cardinal Law will not return home to Boston to face the music legally, that he could stay in Rome with another job within the Vatican.

Do you share that concern?

GARABEDIAN: Yes. That's a concern. But that will not prevent me with regard to my litigation -- with regard to litigation. I will depose him. I will continue to seek discovery. If I have to go to Rome to depose him, I will go to Rome to depose him. I represent many victims and many victims want to see these cases through to the end.

ZAHN: Mitchell Garabedian, as always, we appreciate your perspective.

GARABEDIAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And Patrick McSorley, I know this has been a very long haul for you. We appreciate your candor this morning.

MCSORLEY: Thank you very much.

GARABEDIAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: Best of luck to both of you.



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