There is some degree of controversy surrounding a Mass for Pope John Paul II that will be held at the Vatican today. Cardinal Bernard Law will preside over the Mass of mourning in St. Peter’s Basilica, one of nine eulogies at the Vatican. Being selected is an honor bestowed only on the most influential members of the church’s hierarchy.
Now, even non-Catholics have probably heard of Cardinal Law. A few years ago, at the height of the sex scandal that rocked the church, it came to light that Cardinal Law transferred priests who had been accused of sexual abuse to other parishes — without informing anyone at either the outgoing or incoming parish. Or, to put it a little more bluntly, he took priests that were likely abusing children at one church and moved them to another.
While Cardinal Law wasn’t specifically selected to perform this ritual (instead, it was merely appointed to the Cardinal that holds his current position), it does seem to reopen some barely closed wounds.
“He’s the symbol of the scandal. This is a clear sign that the church is not taking its history of sexual abuse seriously, and that it is not at all in touch with the pain in the American church,” said David Clohessy, national director of a group representing about 5,000 church-sexual abuse victims.
Church officials and other experts — including The Rev. Keith Pecklers, a U.S. priest who teaches at Gregorian University in Rome — defend Law.
“The Vatican sees Cardinal Law as a cardinal in good standing, and moreover, he is a cardinal elector in the conclave and has every right to preach,” Pecklers said.
Personally, though Law didn’t commit any abuses himself, his inaction almost certainly allowed it to continue, so it’s difficult for me to excuse him or forgive him for his conduct. I think forgiveness is generally a simple thing; you just get over it and move on. But when someone takes advantage of or hurts children, forgiveness becomes monumental. And I don’t blame the victims for being unable to offer that forgiveness to Cardinal Law.