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Poll: Boston-Area Catholics Believe Cardinal Should Face Prosecution

May 12, 2003 | AP

A poll of Boston-area Roman Catholics found that a majority have an unfavorable view of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, and think the former archbishop should face prosecution for failing to remove sexually abusive priests from the ministry.

A majority surveyed also want the church to settle the more than 500 claims brought by alleged clergy sexual abuse victims, and to deal with money problems in the church by selling chancery property.

The Boston Globe poll of 400 Catholics, conducted May 4-6 by KRC/Communications Research, found that 75 percent now have an unfavorable view of Law - compared to only 15 percent in a 1992 Globe poll, taken after the first highly publicized clergy abuse case.

The survey, published Monday, also found that 57 percent believe Law should be prosecuted for his handling of the sex abuse scandal.

Law presided over Boston's estimated 2 million for 18 years, before resigning Dec. 13, 2002, at the age of 71. He has since moved to a convent in Maryland.

The poll found that 88 percent agree with Law's decision to resign.

State Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has convened a grand jury to look into the church's handling of sexual abuse by priests, but has indicated he does not believe Law violated any state laws.

The survey found that 76.4 percent believe the church should negotiate settlements of the legal claims, while 16.9 percent believe the allegations should be fought in court. Meanwhile, 62.9 percent said the best way to address the church's financial woes is to sell chancery property.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, found that 38.5 percent have a favorable view of Bishop Richard G. Lennon, 56, the interim administrator of the archdiocese; 33.5 percent believe Lennon is doing a good job addressing the clergy sexual abuse problem, while 32.6 percent believe he is doing only a fair job and 10.7 percent say he is doing a poor job.

The poll also found that 51.4 percent have a favorable view of the lay organization Voice of the Faithful, formed in the wake of the priest sex scandal, while 13.5 percent view it unfavorably.

The group is banned from meeting in all or part of seven dioceses, including Boston, and Lennon has refused to accept money raised by the organization.

In an earlier poll published by the Globe on Sunday, Boston-area Catholics said the characteristic they would most like to see in a new archbishop is openness to change. Majorities said they want the church to embrace more "modern" attitudes on social issues, and want the next archbishop to work more closely with laypeople and priests.

Also, large majorities of Catholics in the archdiocese still look favorably upon their parish priests and Pope John Paul II, and 41 percent said their faith is very important to their everyday lives.


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