The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Catholic judges advise Law

Cardinal told to cooperate

By Gloria Rodriguez, Globe Correspondent, 7/15/2002

After attending Cardinal Bernard F. Law's first Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in more than a month, nearly a dozen Catholic judges from around the country met with the embattled church leader to discuss the legal impact of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The judges, in Boston for the annual meeting of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said that they advised Law to cooperate with legal authorities on sex abuse cases, rather than trying to keep them within the Church.

''You respond immediately. You don't mess around - you do it,'' retired Cincinnati judge David E. Grossmann said he told Law at a reception after Mass. Grossmann said Law told him, ''That's exactly what we're doing now.''

District Court Judge Gordon A. Martin invited Catholic judges participating in the convention to attend yesterday's Mass, and arranged the informal reception with Law that followed. Because of their legal experience, Martin said, the judges attending the conference have a special interest in Law's travails.

''We've all dealt with child abuse - we're all very sensitive to it,'' said Martin. He said he has admired Law since both were in Mississippi in the 1960s and Law was a civil rights activist, and that his respect for the cardinal hasn't waned as a result of the scandal.

Martin defended Law's handling of the sex abuse cases and said he hopes the Church's troubles will awaken people to child abuse in other areas of society.

The judges said Law raised the sex abuse issue during the reception, which was closed to the media, and offered an explanation of his actions. Judge Michael Gibbons of Minden, Nev., asked Law how he was holding up personally. Law answered that it was difficult, Gibbons said, but that the scandal had helped him connect with people and their feelings in a more meaningful way.

Gibbons described Law's attitude as ''amazingly upbeat considering what's going on outside.''

The Nevada judge was referring to the nearly 30 protesters outside the church - compared with about 100 worshippers inside - who were chanting and holding signs. One man stood away from the crowd, shouting into the open doors of the cathedral before Mass started.

''Cardinal Law, we are victims of sexual abuse,'' bellowed Robert Hatch, who alleges that a Hull priest sexually abused him when he was 16. ''You are no bishop! You are a hypocrite! You ought to resign now,'' he said, holding a poster with Law's picture and the word ''SHAME.''

A bearded man with strands of gray in his hair held a poster with his picture as a smiling 6-year-old - the age when he was sexually molested, he said. Another protester, Joe Gallagher of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, handed out fliers to parishioners as they walked up the steps to the cathedral, as he has been doing since January at churches where Law appears.

''We've seen little progress to date, there are a million miles to closure,'' he said.

Inside the church, parishioners listened intently to Law, who didn't mention the scandal during the service. The worshippers gave Law a round of applause after the Mass.

But for Ann Gillis, who has been a parishioner at the cathedral for nearly 25 years, the impact of the scandal was evident in the thin crowd of worshippers; the church was less than half filled.

''It hurts to see people dwindling down to fewer and fewer,'' said Gillis, who hopes that summer vacations - and not disappointment with Law - was to blame for the empty pews.

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 7/15/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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