The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Many Latinos look into hearts and find forgiveness

By Cindy Rodríguez, Globe Staff, 12/14/2002

Every morning, when Wilson Sanchez wakes, he kneels beside his bed and prays to God: ''Give me the strength to continue on the right path, Lord. And, if I fall, please help me up.'' Yesterday morning, knowing Cardinal Bernard Law's removal was likely, he added these words: ''Look after Cardinal Law.''

An hour later, Wilson heard the news on Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network, that the pope accepted Law's resignation, and he cried.

''It hurts me so much,'' Sanchez said yesterday afternoon while sitting in a pew in the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in East Boston. ''I was never in favor of him stepping down.''

Like many immigrants, especially those from Latin America, Sanchez remained supportive of Law even as the clergy sexual abuse scandal triggered a tidal wave of demands for his resignation.

He knows Law made grave mistakes, and he's sickened by the thought of priests sexually abusing children, but he said he can't allow himself to be angry at Law. He said that only through forgiveness can people really heal. Above that, though, he said it's impossible to dislike a man who has done so much good for others - especially Latinos.

For them, ''el cardenal,'' holds a special place in their hearts.

When Hurricane Mitch pummeled Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998, Law raised more than $1.5 million to help families there. When earthquakes ravaged El Salvador and Colombia in 2001, ''el cardenal'' again went into action.

In fluent Spanish, Law has consoled Latino parishioners when they needed it. The cardinal speaks lovingly of his birthplace: Mexico City.

While some people may question the strong support expressed by many immigrants, the Rev. Robert Hennessey, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer, said it makes perfect sense.

''They have great capacity to forgive,'' Hennessey said. ''They have a different view.''

He likens that view to how families handle a crisis at home: ''When you have a loving father that did something wrong, he's still your loving father.''

Hennessey said congregants were disappointed by the revelations of last week, which included court documents that showed that in 1999 Law wanted to keep a priest who had admitted sexually abusing boys - one of whom committed suicide. Law also reassigned a priest, the Rev. Robert V. Meffan, even after the church had received reports from women who alleged that Meffan abused them when they were teens.

The revelations hurt parishioners at churches such as St. Patrick Church in Lawrence, but the Rev. Paul O'Brien, pastor of the church, says he doesn't expect to see a decline tomorrow at Mass.

''People who are vulnerable - this includes the working class, the poor, immigrants - they have a greater quickness to forgive,'' O'Brien said. ''They have a closeness to God and an openness of heart that some of us, who are more privileged may not have.''

If there is any truth to the old Spanish saying, ''Those who are cheap with money are cheap with the hearts,'' the evidence is in the churches. O'Brien said the parishioners of his working-class church give more, proportionally, to the church than people in upper-middle class communities.

''People who are recent immigrants have the same intelligent questions and the same emotional reaction as people who were born here,'' O'Brien said. ''But there are patterns of differences in how they process those thoughts and emotions. Here, it's viewed with a more open heart.''

This story ran on page A17 of the Boston Globe on 12/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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