Several American Cardinals chose to avoid a special service in honor of Pope John Paul II on Monday conducted by Cardinal Bernard Law, the controversial former archbishop of Boston. Cardinal Law was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002 due to his mishandling of priests who were accused of sex abuse, according to the LA Times. Law has admitted to allowing sexually abusive priests to remain in the ministry, moving them from parish to parish rather than investigating the allegations, and failing to inform parishioners. An unnamed source told the Los Angeles Times that the absence of several US cardinals was significant. “You’d have to be blind not to see that,” the source said, “The fact is, they voted with their feet.”
After his resignation, Law was transferred to the Vatican in 2004 when the pope awarded him the honorary position of archpriest of St. Mary Major, one of Rome’s four main basilicas, the Los Angeles Times reports. Because of his current position, he was designated to perform Monday’s service and give one of nine eulogies for the pope. According to the Associated Press, this honor gave Law a rare opportunity to influence the decision of who will become the next pope, as those who are allowed to give eulogies generally highlight what they believe to be current concerns for the Catholic Church, as well as which characteristics the next pope should possess in order to address them.
Leaders from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) flew to Rome to protest Law’s participation in funeral services for the pope. David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, told the Washington Post, “It feels like Cardinal Law is exploiting the pope’s death for his own self-aggrandizing rehabilitation. It is just rubbing salt into our wounds and the wounds of other caring Catholics.” The Associated Press reports that over 11,000 claims of sexual abuse have been made against Catholic clergy since 1950, and the abuse claims have cost the Catholic Church roughly $840 million in payment to victims.