CNN Cardinal Bernard Law resigned from his position as archbishop of the troubled Boston Archdiocese, shaken to its foundations by charges that priests sexually abused children and the incidents were covered up.
Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation Friday and the cardinal issued an apology. The cardinal, who led the archdiocese for 18 years, now faces possible questioning from a Massachusetts grand jury.
CNN Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher is in Rome and spoke to CNN anchor Carol Costello on Friday.
COSTELLO: This meeting with the pope didn’t take long, did it?
GALLAGHER: No, it didn’t, and in fact, it’s assumed that the news was already prepared by this morning. The pope had agreed to accept the cardinal’s resignation.
Now, we should say that along with the official notification of the resignation came a statement from Cardinal Law apologizing for his shortcomings and his mistakes, and if those shortcomings made others suffer, he begged for their forgiveness.
So, on top of the resignation, we have an official apology from Cardinal Law.
Cardinal Bernard Law in a recent photo
COSTELLO: And what happens next now? The pope has appointed an interim leader for the Archdiocese of Boston. Who is it?
GALLAGHER: Well, that is Richard Lennon. He is the auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese, so presumably, he is the man best able at this point to administrate the diocese. It does mean that he becomes archbishop, but it means that for temporary measures, he will be taking control of the diocese.
COSTELLO: Another question that I’m wondering about. Cardinal Law offered to resign before. The pope did not accept his resignation. Why did he accept it this time?
GALLAGHER: Well, that’s the question everybody’s asking. But the answer seems fairly clear that in April, the pope gave the cardinal a mandate to go back to his diocese and see what he could do. Nine months have ensued, and there has been no resolution. In fact, the problem has gotten even more difficult.
So, it’s clear that the pope understood the gravity of the situation, and that the cardinal’s presence in the archdiocese was doing the church as a whole no good.
COSTELLO: Now, I know that the cardinal has to come back here and answer a number of legal questions. He has depositions scheduled to be taken in the Paul Shanley case, and he’s also set to appear before a secret grand jury investigating criminal charges against the church. But what will happen to him within the church, within the Vatican? Will they offer a job to him, let’s say?
GALLAGHER: Well, absolutely. It’s important to make the distinction that he remains a cardinal. He has resigned from being the archbishop of Boston, but he will be a cardinal until he dies. So, he will be given another position in the church. In fact, the pope holds this cardinal, despite all of the problems, in high esteem. So, it’s very likely that the pope and the Vatican will attempt to find him another position within the American church. There is a possibility that he would come over to Rome and work here in the Curia, but I think that’s a long shot.
In the short term, he will have to answer the charges in Boston, he will have to take a break and let the furor die down, and in the long term, we’ll see him back at work certainly in some administrative capacity.
COSTELLO: Delia, give us some historical perspective. Has this sort of thing ever happened before?
GALLAGHER: Well, cardinals do resign. The latest case was the cardinal of Vienna, who resigned because of molestation charges brought against him. In Europe, of course, there tends to be less media attention on these issues. And of course, nothing like what the states has experienced in the past year has ever been experienced in any country.
So, the fact that the cardinal has resigned at this point doesn’t come as much of a surprise to many of us over here, although it is not historically something that the Vatican likes to do, to accept resignations from bishops or cardinals.
COSTELLO: Oh, definitely. I want to ask you about the bankruptcy issue, because I know that the cardinal was going to ask the pope, too, whether the Boston Archdiocese should declare bankruptcy in light of all of these claims against it.
GALLAGHER: Well, that’s presumably an issue that he discussed in his Curial meetings that is with other Vatican officials this week. It wouldn’t really be something for the pope to decide.
And the word from those meetings is that they did encourage the cardinal not to declare bankruptcy. The church, and the Vatican in particular, is very concerned about any possible interference on the part of governments with the church, and they would not look kindly on a diocese that went into bankruptcy, unless strictly necessary.
COSTELLO: Do you think the pope will come out and say anything publicly about this?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think that the pope has made allusions to the crisis, and certainly he will not say anything publicly about the cardinal himself. The pope always speaks a bit more generally than that. But we can be sure that in the next few days, the allusions to the crisis will come back up in some of his speeches.