Cardinal Law’s birthday bash

He turned 80 over the weekend, and the Boston Herald takes us to the celebration in Rome:

Cardinal Bernard Law was treated to a lavish birthday spread, the company of a conclave of clerics and even the music of a mariachi band in a four-star Italian hotel, where guests rolled up in Vatican Mercedes sedans and left singing the praises of the fallen prelate promoted to his Holy City post after decades of covering up clergy sex abuse in Boston.

The resplendent reception that marked Law’s 80th birthday sent shock waves an ocean away in Boston, where the mere mention of his name still sparks seething anger in clergy abuse victims whose attackers he protected during his years as archbishop.

“He’s closing in on his remaining years, and as a man of faith I know he believes in a final judgment. I’m curious if he’s getting nervous,” said Phil Saviano, who was abused by a Worcester priest almost five decades ago…

With a pair of guards in colorful habits standing silent sentry at the gate, Law and his cloistered concelebrants wined and dined at the Al Chiostro restaurant in the four-star Palazzo Rospigliosi hotel facing the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where Law serves as archpriest.

Beyond the gate, a cobblestone path led to the airy courtyard, where two banquet tables offered dozens of bottles of vino and meat-stuffed pastry d’oeuvres. Inside, a mariachi band played and sang the well-known ranchero refrain, “Cielito Lindo,” as guests devoured a main course of lasagna and snacked on cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and fine prosciutto, piled in a pyramid and placed on a pedestal. The party drew high clergy and laymen alike; guests sat six to a table.

“The meal was spectacular,” said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Archdiocese of Rome. He twirled his hand in the air, a common Italian gesture for satisfaction. He said Law appeared to enjoy the feast as well.

“Of course,” Ruini said. “He threw the party himself.”

“He’s a good friend of mine,” he added before heading toward his cab. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico was all smiles as he left in the company of two nuns.

“Everyone enjoyed the party,” he said. “It was very animated. Everyone was very, very happy.”

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53 responses to “Cardinal Law’s birthday bash”

  1. I have left the Roman Catholic Church, so I am a bystander. Nonetheless, a couple of observations.
    Cardinal O’Malley, Law’s successor in Boston, stayed away from the celebration.
    The real reason to celebrate Laws 80th birthday: he is no longer eligible to vote in the papal conclave

  2. A mariachi band playing “Cielito Lindo” probably the most frequently played Mexican song? Why?

    Aha! Cardinal Law was born in Mexico.

  3. Cardinal Law should be in jail for his actions in the sex abuse cover up.

    “Law and Connolly had left Boston for Washington just hours before state troopers assigned to the office of Mass. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly arrived in Brighton with subpoenas seeking the grand jury testimony of Law and six other bishops who presided over what Reilly has called a massive coverup of child abuse.”

    “The beginning of the end may have been Nov. 25, when Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney declared that the archdiocese’s records contradicted Cardinal Law’s sworn testimony that he and his aides did not return some abusive priests to parish work without first determining that they posed no risk to children. Not only did the judge suggest the cardinal was lying, she ordered the release of 11,000 pages of church documents about the abusive actions of priests, and the actions of the cardinal and others to hide those crimes from public view.”

  4. Wonder if Bishop William Morris was on the guest list . . . or were his crimes too unforgivable?

  5. I found this very hard to read and take in. I think of the Prodigal Son but then I think of all those whose lives are in ruin. It makes me very sad. It is not hard for me to consider that someone would throw him a party; it is hard for me to think that he would be able to enjoy it. I wish him no ill, but so much pain left in his wake, so much awful pain and we don’t know at all what he thinks about it.

  6. not trying to be argumentative or dispute anything, just suggesting it would be more useful if there was attribution to those quotes, instead of just dropping them in there

  7. Seems to me, it is none of your business! We’re all free to celebrate our birthdays as we see fit, including Cardinal Law!

  8. Tom Kumar is absolutely right.

    Second, people who blame Cardinal Law should take a moment and realize that the criminal priests were ordained by the beloved Cardinal Cushing and the saintly Cardinal Medeiros. Then they should take another moment to realize that during Cardinal Law’s tenure the number of rapes and molestations per year dropped from 28 in the years before he arrived to zero in his last two years. Yes, he and his advisors misjudged some cases; some true accusations were not believed; some priests who were considered cured turned out not to be; and matters were handled internally, rather than being referred to law enforcement. But he was not the uncaring monster some people want you to think he was.

  9. Just remember the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man was wining and dining at his table while he was alive, leaving nothing to Lazarus. They both died, and well Lazarus got his feast in Heaven, while the Rich Man went to Hell.

    So let Cardinal Law eat drink and be merry and have his proscuito now. For someday he will die. And if Jesus’ mercy is not upon him in heaven, and by His judgement he is judged not in His friendship or Law has not truly repented of his sins (that aren’t venial, as there is always purgatory), well then I guess that saying about skulls of bishops paving Hell will get a new edition. Let the Lord decide where he goes, and Law with whatever time he has left.

  10. Like Eugene in comment #1 I am an ex Roman so my opinion may be of limited interest here. But FWIW I find this whole thing disturbing in the extreme. That a man who, as others have noted, was fortunate to escape criminal prosecution is being honored in such a manner really goes beyond poor taste. This is simply disgusting.

  11. The grand jury empanelled by the Attorney General investigated and found no crime to indict him for. Why is someone who has not committed a crime lucky to escape prosecution? What information about criminal activity on his part do you have that wasn’t available to the grand jury?

  12. Your line about not having truly repented of his sins implies that he has sins that are more than venial that he needs to repent of. How are you in a position to know that?

    Just thank God that you are a good man, not like that Cardinal over there.

  13. I guess I missed that – I must admit, I found it hard to read and I will say that I don’t like to comment on things that I have not fully read. Mea culpa.

    That however, makes me more sad.

  14. I am not saying that he was an uncaring monster of any sort. I am saying that he never, in my opinion, fully addressed what happened. It doesn’t matter who ordained them, it does matter that it kept happening, the transfers and the shuffling.

    Now clearly, at that time, there was a tragic misunderstanding about recidivism, but as more and more unfolded, there was also clearly a divide.

    The intersection of truth and loyalty is a true moral challenge for all of us and no one navigates it with perfection. That said, Cardinal Law might do well to have the humility of Pope Benedict XVI and actually address his own contributions, by action or omission, to this scandal.

  15. The venom in the Boston papers’ reporting of this story is poison to us all. If Cardinal Law made mistakes (and I will never believe that he deliberately encouraged the abuse of children), he will answer to God for them. So, too, will all those have to answer to God who have mocked and derided a man who devoted his life to the Church, those who have refused to forgive, those who have been guilty of calumny and those who have sought to bring down the Church by bringing down this one man. It is time to move on, folks, and leave the judging to God. Shame on you.

  16. I find the references to Law’s final judgment and his possible fate rather unsettling. I thought it was God alone who judges us at the end of our lives. Since no one knows exactly what alledged sins Law committed let’s leave the judgment to the one it belongs–God.

  17. all of the pediophiles should be in jail-Law first of all–shows that the Church is lacking in humility and judgement-i left long ago————-lot of worthless pieces of baggage wearing the collar———-

  18. The defense of Law above is completely untrue according to prosecutors and the courts.

    Example: Cardinal Law knew that certain priests (John Geoghan) were pedophiles, lied to parish priests that they were okay, and once in the new parish they victimized more children.

    “Judge Constance M. Sweeney wrote that, contrary to Law’s testimony, the records show that some priests who had molested children were given new parish assignments even though church officials had reason to believe the priests were continuing to abuse children.”

    “It was another (Judge) Sweeney order that sealed Law’s fate. Three weeks ago, Sweeney declared that the archdiocese’s own records suggested Law was lying when he testified that he and his aides did not return abusive priests to parish work when there was any chance they could abuse children.”

    “Cardinal Law came to personify the clergy abuse crisis. He was the first member of the Catholic hierarchy shown to have actively covered up clergy abuse. Immediately after the Boston Globe broke the abuse story in 2002, Law refused to step down. But 11 months later, when priests’ records were released by court order showing that Law took elaborate steps to cover for abusers, he stepped down.”

  19. The church, the catechism, speaks of “giving scandal to the faithful.” None of the hierarchy read the catechism? Or at least not the many who celebrated Cardinal Law with style.

    Some real contrition from Cardinal Law would be nice. The sort of contrition that goes beyond the fact that he fled the country so he wouldn’t have to face the consequences of his (in)action. In other words–real contrition.

  20. Kathy, I do not disagree about leaving the judging to God. I simply continue to express my own personal sadness about his response. I also agree that he most likely never intended for anyone to get hurt, that there is nothing nefarious about Cardinal Law in regard to this. I am certainly not the Boston papers, but as I expressed some thoughts, I am replying to your comment in good fellowship in Christ and in the name of Christ.

    If you find me guilty of anything, please feel free to correct me with charity, to exhort me if you will, in that same name of Christ, to a right place. You can also address me personally; through Facebook or email. I am not that hard to find.

  21. sure we do, and i found it shortly after i posted that, but just dropping quotes without attribution is frowned upon if you want to be taken seriously. It takes 5 seaconds to write “-the boston globe” after a quote to keep your reader from wondering where the quote came from.

  22. It just seems to me that as one gets older and closer to the end of life, one ought to be more simple, humble, and penitent, no matter who one is or what one has done.
    It seems an awful lot considering both his position, his age, and the on top of it, his exile.
    “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Ps. 90.

  23. I am acquainted with the deacon who was given the task of searching the files of the archdiocese in response to the scandal. He told me that from 1985 until 1992, Cardinal Law’s policy was that if an accusation was believed, the priest would be sent for psychological treatment and returned to parish ministry only if the treating psychologist said it was safe to do so. After 1992, he had a review board which included lay as well as clerical members. He followed their recommendations in every case except one, in which his decision was stricter than the recommendation.

    I don’t think these policies were very much different from those in other dioceses at the same times, because the Porter case had been a wake-up call for the American hierarchy. First the bishops responded with psychological treatment. When that didn’t work, they tightened up. It was the adoption of these practices in Boston that led to the reduction in the number of incidents over the years of Cardinal Law’s tenure.

    We all know that there were some spectacular failures, such as the Geoghan case. One serious problem was that Bishop McCormack, the delegate who reviewed accusations for a number of years, believed that priests who were guilty would admit it when confronted, and so he believed them when they denied the accusations. No doubt, that led to a lot of true accusations being disbelieved. And of course, if an accusation was considered false, it is not surprising that the priest would be moved to another parish.

    Yes, there were serious mistakes in Boston, but the record still shows that Cardinal Law was trying to deal with the problem and had a good measure of success alongside those spectacular failures.

  24. I’m with RomCath. In the words of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, we should not be “so quick to deal out death and judgment.”

  25. Naturgesetz, you have (to your credit) acknowledged that there were “spectacular failures” in Cardinal Law’s approach to people who were raping and otherwise abusing children. Yet, if I’m reading your reflection on Card. Law correctly, you’re defending his approach as reasonable, given the times. I can’t help asking: How many spectacular failures, when it comes to the protection of children, are acceptable?

    You’ve mentioned the John Geoghan case. That case is famous for a couple reasons–one, because of the number of children Geoghan victimized (upwards of 80, I believe), and two, because Law went far beyond simply making some errors of judgment about Geoghan. You owe it to yourself to google the letter that Law wrote to Geoghan after Geoghan had been reassigned (not for the first time, if I recall) in order to avoid the heat of parents who didn’t want him molesting their children. Law’s tone is sympathetic to Geoghan for the suffering he is enduring with his reassignment. He goes pretty far toward validating Geoghan’s likely self-rationalization that he was being persecuted by petty people. And yet Law knew, by that point, exactly WHY Geoghan was being reassigned. It boggles the mind how Law could get up every morning and say Mass after writing such a letter.

    I’m just not ready to buy the argument that Law was just doing his job as well as he could. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to accept that. There’s no way Law’s defenders can simply pass the buck to his underlings. This issue was important enough that Law should have been all over it. It should have been his hand reaching for the phone to call the police — not anyone else’s. Yes, he was a VIP in his archdiocese and in the American church and he had many things to tend to in his daily planner, I’m sure. But I can’t imagine any issue could have been more pressing than this one.

    I pray that Card. Law manages to make peace with God before he comes to the end of his days. And I pray as well for the children — now middle-aged adults — whose lives were forever changed thanks to Law’s terrible, terrible approach to his job.

  26. A relative of mine born in Pennsylvania said about the recent Penn State scandal: “Paterno had misplaced loyalty.” I think that the same thing could be said about Cardinal Law.

    Greg: This is my first post today. When I posted it for the first time, I had this statement come up: You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down. (a WordPress error tab)

  27. ** Young Canadian RC MALE
    Purgatory is an ” unbiblical belief ” and in the opinion of many others an invention of the rcc. Faith alone , apart from any action ( the only action is that you believe
    Jesus and His redeeming ” work ” on the Cross by the shedding of His blood .)
    He said : ” it is finished “. The debt was paid for once and for all !
    Good works are a by-product of being genuinely saved. sola scriptura / sola fide

  28. Selective quoting.

    “Mr. Reilly placed the blame for the scandal directly on the leaders of the Boston Archdiocese, including Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned under pressure last December, and a number of his top aides who have gone on to become bishops in cities around the nation, including Thomas V. Daily, now bishop of Brooklyn.

    ”When they had a choice between protecting children and protecting the church, they chose secrecy to protect the church,” Mr. Reilly said at a news conference today. ”They sacrificed the children for many, many years.”

    You left out the reason why Law was not charged and it was not that he was innocent.

    “The attorney general’s review did not lead to any criminal charges against Cardinal Law or anyone else in the archdiocese because Massachusetts did not have a law requiring church officials to report suspected child abuse until last year and because the state had weak child protection laws, Mr. Reilly said.

    ”No one is more disappointed than me and my staff that we can’t bring criminal charges,” Mr. Reilly said. ”If we could have, we would have.” ”

  29. Penn State is being ‘cleaned up’ in a week after the grand jury report and indictments. And here the ‘defenders of the abuser cover ups” are still posting hierarchy excuses 25 years after the first cases came to light. Basta.

  30. So they asked: how many times must I forgive one who offends me Lord, as many as seven times? Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven.” Matt. 18:21

    Seems to me our calling, difficult as it may be, is to forgive. The question of (real) contrition is, in the words of some elected guy, “up to someone in a higher pay grade” than us.

  31. Your response reminds me of the response the high priests / military and sadducees made to Peter and John in Acts 4 ( specifically verses 16-18. )

  32. Steve —
    When I googled the two names John Geoghan and Cardinal Law, I found this:
    and I read everything from the time of Cardinal Law’s arrival, except for a few which were from secretaries concerning changes of address.

    I didn’t find any letter from Cardinal Law that fits your description of validating any rationalization Fr. Geoghan may have had for his behavior. Most are simply businesslike. One notes in a roundabout way, but clearly enough for Geoghan and us to understand that, Fr. Geoghan has problems that must be addressed. In that one, Cardinal Law writes, “I realize that at this point it is impossible for you to attend to the personal concerns which you have and at the same time be available to care for others and their needs. It would be my hope that this action which relieves you of parish responsibilities would also relieve you of any stress that might arise from feeling obligated to duties which are difficult to fulfill at this time.” If that’s the letter, I see nothing to support your interpretation, which strikes me as really far-fetched

    Also, in reading the file, I see several attempts to get Fr. Geoghan straightened out and I see assurances from medical and psychological professionals that it was okay for Fr. Geoghan to be in parish ministry. One vague memo contains the words “clip his wings” but it’s not clear whose idea that was.

    Bottom line: I see absolutely nothing in this file from Bishop Accountability that would suggest to any reasonable person that Cardinal Law knew that he was putting people at real risk when he reassigned Fr. Geoghan. Indeed, what comes across to me from this file is that this is one of the cases where, following the understanding at particular times, they made repeatedly removed him from ministry so he could get help to overcome his problem, and upon receiving assurances that he was fit for ministry, reinstated him. Finally, they realized that the therapy wasn’t working, and they removed him from parish ministry, then from all ministry, then from the priesthood.

  33. Naturgesetz,

    Yes, that’s the website I was looking at as well. Here are a couple snippets I found in those same letters from Card. Law to John Geoghan — all of them written after Law was aware that Geoghan had molested children; several of them written a decade or more after the first allegations had been reported to the archdiocese of Boston.

    11/13/89: Law looks forward to a time when Geoghan will “once again be able to render fine priestly service to the people of St. Julia’s.”

    “Thank you again for all that you do.” (Truly? What sort of message did Law think such a sentence would send to Geoghan the child molester? No place for a meaningless pleasantries, not when Geoghan clearly was oblivious to the fact that he had gone way off the rails.)

    “I realize this is a difficult time for you and those close to you. If I can be of help in some way…”

    12/12/96: “Yours has been an effective life of ministry, sadly impaired by illness…I would like to thank you. I understand yours is a painful situation. The Passion we share can indeed seem unbearable and unrelenting.” Geoghan’s felonies were merely an “illness.” (Easy to throw out that euphemism if you’ve sent a known child molester to a shrink whom you know will give him a clean bill of “health” after a few months. The alternative, of course, would have been to call the police right away rather than to conceal evidence of the series of crimes Geoghan had committed.) Geoghan’s crimes amounted to his suffering in Christ’s suffering on Calvary? Isn’t it the victims who should have been seen as suffering through no sin of their own, rather than Geoghan?

    Sorry, but I do see plenty of sympathy on Law’s part for John Geoghan. Plenty of affirmation; plenty of massaging the truth until the crimes committed by Geoghan are treated in a fashion analogous to how a priest’s alcoholism might be viewed. (The difference? Alcoholism is not a crime. Raping children, obviously, is.) I’m sure some will defend Law by saying he probably did not personally draft the letters; he merely signed his name, CEO-style. But even if that were the case, perhaps Card. Law should have said, “No way” and torn the letter in two and set to work writing a letter in which he called a felony a felony. Or, once again, he could have simply done the right thing and called the police so they could arrest someone he had every reason to believe was violating innocent children.

  34. Steve —
    I agree that some of the phrasing is cringeworthy, but seems to me that the sorts of things you quote were really nothing more than an attempt to cushion the blow of removal from one ministry or another. If Card. Law really thought Geoghan was okay he wouldn’t have taken him out of ministry for treatment and finally had him laicized. Of course he hoped treatment would be successful.

  35. When I look at what I know of Cardinal Law’s policies in dealing with sexual abuse by priests, it seems to me that he was pretty much doing the same sorts of things most American bishops were doing: handling matters “in house” rather than going to the civil authorities; keeping things quiet in order to avoid scandal (which a previous commenter has quoted the Catechism about); sending priests for treatment; reinstating them in ministry if the treatment was said to have been successful; and finally realizing that treatment rarely worked and permanently removing abusers from parish ministry.

    In becoming the focal point of public anger at the failure of those well-intentioned but ineffective policies for many years, it seems to me that Cardinal Law, perhaps even willingly, “took the fall” for his fellow bishops. I think it is noteworthy that he has not issued the sort of public defense that could be mounted on the basis I have stated: namely that he was doing what the vast majority of his brother bishops were doing, but it was just his misfortune to have had a large diocese with many pedophile and ephebophile priests whom he inherited from his predecessors. In other words, he could have taken a lot of people with him, but he chose not to. If you think that the bishops acted out of evil intent, you will probably think it was wrong of him to take the fall for them. But if you think, as I do, that for the most part they were well-meaning but misguided, then you may agree with me that it is noble of him to have endured the hatred in silence over the years.

  36. Disgusting. Law and his Roman cronies spend their days being chaufferred around Rome to take places of honor at Tridentine Masses. It is a grotesque caricature of Christianity.

  37. AG Reilly’s spin on the matter is unimpressive. Bottom line is the Cardinal committed no crime. He speaks the truth, no doubt, when he says he wishes he could have found something, anything, to charge the cardinal with. Cynics might think that he would have loved to have a conviction as part of his record when he would run for governor. Whether or not that was part of his motivation, his spin on the matter is outrageous.

    “”When they had a choice between protecting children and protecting the church, they chose secrecy to protect the church,” Mr. Reilly said at a news conference today. ”They sacrificed the children for many, many years.”” To speak of having to choose between protecting children and protecting the Church, is a false dichotomy. One can do both.

    Thinking clearly about protecting the children, we must recognize that it can only be done prospectively. One cannot protect anybody from what has happened in the past; one can only protect from potential future occurrences. When Cardinal Law and his staff sent priests for treatment, it was for the purpose of getting them cured of their pedophilia and making it safe for them to return to ministry. If the treatment had been successful, it would have protected the children. When they were advised that someone could safely be returned to ministry, they would have thought that they had protected the children.

    And protecting the church at the same time is not an illegitimate undertaking. There is a real moral obligation to avoid scandal. You can find it in the Catechism. So when the cardinal and others thought they had successfully dealt with the priests, so that they could safely minister, it would have been wrong to spread the word of past failings.

    The real problem in the whole mess wasn’t a choice to protect the church and not the children. IT was the mistaken belief, shared by clergy and psychologists/psychiatrists, that psychological treatment was effective, when it wasn’t. It was an honest mistake, not some monstrous unconcern.

    So for Mr. Reilly to claim that Cardinal Law and others “sacrificed the children for many, many years” is an outrageous calumny.

    Again, he is not an objective, neutral observer in all this. He is an adversary, frustrated because his hoped-for trophy turned out, when all was said and done, not to be a criminal and thus escaped his grasp.

  38. “Cardinal” Paterno was cut lose in a day or so and he had 60 winning seasons.. The rioting supporting students have more dignity and excuse then the fawning people at the Law Birthday bash.

  39. Disgusting. Law and his Roman cronies spend their days being chaufferred around Rome to take places of honor at Tridentine Masses. It is a grotesque caricature of Christianity.


    I think we settled that issue with who, the Donatists? some 1500 years ago.

    (Reminds me of the time when I was studying at Catholic University Law School and we had to take a class on The Law of Hearsay Evidence. I thought it was about Heresy and didn’t understand why I got an ‘F’ when I told the judge that the prosecutor’s question constituted Nestorianism.)

  40. “The good news to everyone is that God is just.
    “That is also the bad news.”

    Actually, Richard, the good news is that God is merciful and forgiving, but some people think it’s the bad news.

  41. I wish you would dedicate the same effort in your defense of child molesters and their enablers — toward the victims. You defend the institution and leadership blindly that has bankrupted parishes, closed schools, and driven the faithful away.

    You forget that court documents show that Cardinal Law was informed by Church paid psychiatrists that these pedophiles should not be around children, yet Law continue to shuttle them around unsuspecting parishes for decades even after new claims of molestation were reported.

    You can spin that.

  42. “You forget that court documents show that Cardinal Law was informed by Church paid psychiatrists that these pedophiles should not be around children, yet Law continue to shuttle them around unsuspecting parishes for decades even after new claims of molestation were reported.

    You can spin that.”

    At Steve’s suggestion, I googled the two names John Geoghan and Cardinal Law, and I found this:

    I read the file from the time Cardinal Law arrived in Boston. What I find is that on several occasions Fr. Geoghan was removed from ministry, and those who treated him then stated that he was fit for ministry. I find no recommendation that he be permanently removed from ministry around children. Yet that is what Cardinal Law did, removing him from parish work and assigning him to work at the residence for retired priests in 1993, removing him from all ministry in 1996, and having him dismissed from the priesthood.

    Perhaps you can give me a link to the court documents to which you refer. I’d be especially interested to know the time the psychiatrists made their blanket recommendation — the reason being that in 1992, Cardinal Law changed diocesan policy from sending priests for treatment and reinstating them if the psychologists said they were now fit for ministry, to having a review board (which included lay members) make recommendations, which he consistently followed.

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