The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Law's supporters counter protests outside cathedral

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 4/22/2002

Since the sexual abuse crisis began rocking the Roman Catholic church, protesters have become a fixture at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, as much a part of the grand church on Sundays as its prominent stained-glass windows.

They were there again yesterday, nearly 40 strong, their demands for Cardinal Bernard F. Law's resignation still fierce. But Law's supporters were there, too, clamoring to be heard.

Following Law's Mass, during which he compared the church's crisis to the effect that Sept. 11 wreaked on the nation, about two dozen counterprotesters, mostly Hispanic, gathered on the cathedral's steps.

Law's most vocal supporters in recent weeks have been members of immigrant communities, particularly Haitian, Hispanic, and Vietnamese. He acknowledged those groups during Mass yesterday, saying that they ''have been very supportive during these days.''

In Spanish, they sang: ''I will give praise to my Lord. I will give praise to my Lord.'' They held signs, in Spanish and English, saying: ''Stop the attack on the Church'' and ''True Catholics seek unity, love and forgiveness.''

One woman attempted to summon the Virgin Mary.

''He who is without the first stone cast it,'' she said in Spanish. The anti-Law protesters booed her. From a distance, a man screamed, ''What a shame.''

With dozens of cameras from around the world trained on them, the protesters seemed reinvigorated and more forceful than they have been during the last several weeks.

Some were first-timers.

''I just had to come here today,'' said Patty Munn of Reading. ''I am afraid the people who have suffered have been lost in all this. That's not right. The people out here - we are the church. The people in the pews are the church. We need to bring change and reform.''

The Coalition of Concerned Catholics, which was created this year as the clergy sexual abuse crisis developed, set up a podium outside the cathedral and invited victims of clergy abuse to speak while Mass went on inside.

Susan Renehan of Southbridge held up a picture from her First Communion, saying that she was sexually abused just 50 feet away from where the photo was snapped.

''Why did they do that to Susan?'' a woman cried out as Renehan spoke. She was comforted by other demonstrators.

Stephen Lewis, another victim, said Law was ''no shepherd,'' adding that the cardinal had ''lost the credibility of the people.''

Another woman, who declined to give her name, said nightmares of past sexual abuse by clergy have required her to take sleeping pills for the last 40 years. It's the only way, she said, that she can sleep peacefully.

This story ran on page A12 of the Boston Globe on 4/22/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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