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Law's Quitting Won't Aid Church Finances

Dec 15, 2002 | AP Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation will not heal the finances of his former archdiocese, which is considering bankruptcy, even if the church gets more charitable donations locally, experts say.

"The resignation is a necessary but not sufficient reason for things to improve in the financial aspects of the church," said Chuck Zech, an economics professor at Villanova University. He said donors are still seeking greater accountability for how their money will be used.

"There's a lot of problems that have been uncovered since the scandal broke," Zech said. "And his resignation doesn't change any of that."

Pope John Paul II accepted Law's resignation Friday, making him the highest U.S. official toppled by the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

"I really think that what I have done is best for the church and I have to leave it at that," the cardinal told a Boston Globe reporter Saturday on a flight from Rome to Newark, N.J. "I think it is best that I return quietly."

Meanwhile, the legal and financial ramifications of the abuse crisis continue to unfold.

A lawyer representing alleged victims of clergy abuse said a deposition of Law, scheduled for Tuesday, would likely be delayed for a few weeks at the request of the archdiocese, and in deference to the trauma the cardinal has been through in recent days.

"We know his psychological state is probably not that great," said attorney Jeffrey Newman. "It's never been our intention to cause this man to be beaten. Given his request, we think it would be acceptable to delay for a couple of weeks."

The attorneys will also likely delay this week's scheduled deposition of New Hampshire Bishop John McCormack, one of several former Law aides in prominent positions around the country, Newman said.

Another victims attorney, Roderick MacLeish, said Saturday that he had been assured by sources close to church officials that bankruptcy was no longer being considered by the archdiocese.

He said church officials around the country were "enraged" when the archdiocese discussed bankruptcy because major donors began to fear their contributions would be lost if other dioceses followed suit.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said Saturday she had no information about the status of that decision.

Earlier this month, a financial panel of the archdiocese gave Law permission to file for bankruptcy, which would put litigation against the archdiocese on hold, but would put church finances in the hands of a court.

MacLeish and other attorneys who have filed sex abuse claims against the archdiocese said that the litigation and revelations will continue unabated.

"There are many more people here who are very culpable, such as Bishop McCormack," MacLeish said. "We're not going to walk away from this."

Attorneys rejected any suggestion that the departure of Law, who had become an emotional lightning rod in the case, would lessen the public pressure on the archdiocese to deal fairly with victims of sex abuse.

"The revelations in and of themselves are shocking," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian. "I believe the public will continue to have grave concern. This is the tip of the iceberg."

Law's absence may prompt the public to resume their financial support for the church, which has seen a major dip in donations since the scandal broke earlier this year, attorneys said.

"We would like the church to turn the corner from its dark days now and seek fair resolution for the clients," Newman said. "But every thing is sort of in flux right now."

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