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Cardinal Law Resigns

Dec 13, 2002 | UPI

Embattled Boston Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of Boston, the Vatican announced Friday.

The Vatican issued a statement saying Pope John Paul II had appointed the Rev. Richard Gerard Lennon, auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese, as an administrator who will run the archdiocese until a new archbishop is chosen.

Law's resignation comes after months of speculation about his fate in the wake of the sex scandals involving priests under his authority. Law is said to have covered up the scandals rather than address them directly.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the 71-year-old Law, who is expected to return to Boston over the weekend, in part to face criminal charges tied to the scandals next week.

On Thursday, Law and top subordinates who worked with him in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston were subpoenaed to testify before a state grand jury investigating possible criminal violations in their mishandling of priests who allegedly sexually abused children.

Although his resignation as archbishop does not affect Law's standing as a cardinal, no official word has been released about his future role. Speculation before the resignation centered on two main possibilities: Law would take a symbolic role in the United States with a group such as the Council of Bishops or he would be reassigned to some unnamed post within the Vatican.

Law has at 9 years until the mandatory retirement age for cardinals.

In a statement released by the Vatican press office, Law said he asked for forgiveness and said he hoped his resignation would start a healing process in his archdiocese.

"It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed," Law's statement read. "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness."

Although the Vatican had not characterized the purpose of Law's visit there earlier this week, reports said he had been discussing the possibility of filing for bankruptcy to protect the assets of the Boston archdiocese in the wake of more than 400 lawsuits filed on behalf of alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, as well as his resignation.

In church history it is extremely rare a cardinal offers to resign for any reason not related to his health, and even rarer that the pope accepts such an offer. In April, Law offered to resign, but the pop refused to accept it and instead convinced him to return to Boston and battle to repair the damaged reputation of the church.

But amid more recent allegations that one Boston area priest had fathered two children, another had intimate relations with young girls studying in area convents and another traded cocaine for sexual favors from young boys, Law's position became untenable.

Last week, more than 50 priests in Law's archdiocese signed a petition calling for his resignation, a development Vatican officials said was a major factor in the resignation.

"How can he continue to lead the archdiocese when he own priests want him to resign?" one Vatican official asked United Press International earlier in the week.


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