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Law's words frame new play

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Spotlight Report

Regis head defends invitation to Law

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 4/4/2002

The new president of the only Catholic women's college in the Boston area is defending her decision to invite Cardinal Bernard F. Law to preside over a worship service at her inauguration ceremony in the face of anticipated student protests against the embattled prelate.

Mary Jane England, who tomorrow is to be formally installed as the first lay president of Regis College in Weston, yesterday issued a statement saying that Law was invited to speak last summer ''as befits his role as the leader of the Catholic community in this region.''

But England also offered support for students, saying that she respects their right to demonstrate and supports their chief objective, to persuade the cardinal to meet with college students to hear their concerns.

England, a child psychiatrist and former commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, has been critical of the archdiocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse cases. She is serving on Law's commission charged with critiquing the church's child-protection policies.

''The students, like everybody else, are very concerned about the current situation,'' said M.J. Doherty, England's top aide, referring to the clergy sexual abuse crisis that is roiling the church. ''The college, and President England, are very much in support of our students being able to be the articulate and thoughtful women we are trying to educate them to be, and we know they'll be gracious, because he is the bishop, and he is a human being, and we owe respect to the office.''

The students plan to hold a prayer vigil for victims tonight, and plan to demonstrate silently outside the worship service in which Law is participating tomorrow morning. The students say they will not have signs and will not disrupt the worship, but will give Law a letter seeking a meeting.

''There was some concern among students who felt that Cardinal Law did not represent Regis, because we are predominantly studying social work, nursing, and education, and we give voice to those who don't have one, and here is a man who has been silencing voices,'' said Noelle Roop, a Regis senior who is helping to organize the demonstration. ''We will represent those who have been silenced. But we're going to do this in a peaceful and respectful way, because not only are we outraged with what has been going on, but we truly love our school.''

A spokeswoman said Law would consider the students' request for a meeting.

''We welcome the request of the students to schedule a meeting with Cardinal Law,'' said Law's spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey. ''The cardinal continues to meet with people, including victims of abuse, as it is an effective way to both listen and share information.''

Among the participants in England's inauguration will be Rosalynn Carter.

Michael Paulson can be reached by e-mail at mpaulson@globe.com

This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 4/4/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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