Cardinal Bernard Law secretly flew to Rome for talks with Vatican officials about how to settle litigation by victims of clergy sexual abuse, whether the archdiocese should file for bankruptcy and whether he should resign as archbishop of Boston, a top official of the Boston Archdiocese said.
Law is seeking advice from a number of church leaders about how to manage the extraordinary sexual abuse crisis that is engulfing the Archdiocese of Boston, according to the official, who asked not to be named.
The official said he expected Law to resign eventually as archbishop, a post he has held since 1984, but not until after resolving the legal and financial crises facing the church.
Law’s spokeswoman, Donna Morrissey, confirmed Sunday that Law had gone to Rome, but she said she could not provide any details about the duration or purpose of his trip.
In Boston, nearly twice as many people showed up to protest as came to worship at the cathedral where Law usually celebrates Mass about 300 outside the church and 150 inside. Law’s episcopal throne in the church, known by its Latin name, cathedra, sat empty, but his face adorned numerous placards wielded by demonstrators with slogans such as “How can you lead us if you won’t even face us?” and “Bernard Law, you are fired.”
The homilist at the cathedral, Monsignor William Roche, did not refer to the crisis that has Catholics in an uproar, but many priests around the archdiocese did. In Charlestown, the Rev. Robert J. Bowers called from the pulpit for Law to resign, adding his name to a growing list of priests who have taken the extraordinary step of publicly challenging the man to whom they have promised obedience.
More than 50 priests, out of some 600 active in the archdiocese, have signed a letter calling for Law to resign, but the letter will probably be held so the language can be revised before it is sent to Law, according to the Rev. Robert W. Bullock, a leader of the Boston Priests’ Forum.
Bullock said a number of priests also objected to the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by the archdiocese. He called such a proposal, which has already been approved by the archdiocesan finance council, “blasphemous,” saying “it would be outrageous and unbearable pastorally and theologically and spiritually disastrous.”
Voice of the Faithful, a large organization representing lay people, said its leadership on Wednesday was expected to ratify a resolution calling for Law to quit. The group is also expected to approve a letter to the pope asking him to appoint a new archbishop of Boston and a letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking for his help in persuading the pope to replace Law.
Around the archdiocese, some Catholics who attended Mass expressed fury at the man who leads their church, and many priests added their voices.
“I’m very angry at all the people . . . within the church that are acting so abhorrently and the people in authority who excuse them,” said Paul Moran, 44, an English teacher from Salem.