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Spotlight Report

Mattapan pastor calls for cardinal to resign

By David Abel, Globe Staff, 4/23/2002

In a continuing erosion of support for Cardinal Bernard Law, the Rev. William Joy, a respected community leader and pastor of St. Angela's in Mattapan, has publicly called on the embattled prelate to resign, saying Law finds himself in an ''untenable position'' and only his departure can bring ''healing and a new vision.''

What's noteworthy about Joy's statement is that St. Angela's includes a large Haitian membership, a community that, along with Latinos, has strongly supported Law. Joy is one of only a few priests who have publicly called for the cardinal to step down. ''Despite all the good Cardinal Law has accomplished, despite the many innovative ways he has prepared us to approach the future,'' Joy wrote in a letter delivered to parishioners on Sunday, ''the mistakes in judgment and pastoral care, that are now so obvious, call for a change in leadership.

''Change is never easy. This particular change I, personally, find paralyzing. However, it must take place.''

Joy, who has served as the archdiocese secretary for community relations and as an official at Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, was traveling yesterday and did not return calls for comment.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese declined to comment.

Prominent priests from the archdiocese yesterday said they believed Joy's statement could have a snowball effect, prodding more and more priests to request Law's resignation.

''There's growing pressure for priests to speak out,'' said the Rev. Paul E. Kilroy, pastor of St. Bernard's in West Newton and a member of the steering committee of the recently formed Boston Priests' Forum. ''It's just getting more difficult to move ahead. We're trying to find ways to advance the healing process.''

The eight-member steering committee is meeting tomorrow, and it's possible they will make a joint statement calling for the cardinal to resign, Kilroy and others said. If not then, they said, priests may speak out at a May 3 meeting of about 100 area priests.

At Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, pastor Walter Cuenin feels the pressure. When Cuenin learned yesterday of Joy's stance on the cardinal, he said, ''Wow. If he speaks, it's something that people have to listen to. He is really respected by many. I think people will notice his remarks.''

Four in five people questioned in a national poll last weekend said Law should resign, including three-fourths of Catholics. The ABC News/Washington Post poll of 1,207 adults taken Friday through Sunday was released yesterday.

Three-quarters of Americans now disapprove of the church's handling of the issue, compared with two-thirds who felt that way in early March.

Feelings were divided among parishioners at St. Angela's yesterday. ''The people I've spoken with were overjoyed by Father Joy's statement,'' said Jacques Dady Jean, 40, a parishioner at St. Angela's for five years. ''We think the only way the healing process can go ahead is if the cardinal resigns.''

Romeo Estinvil, 42, a social worker, strongly disagreed. One of about 800 St. Angela's parishioners who attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Palm Sunday as a show of support for the cardinal, Estinvil argues that priests should leave that decision to the church hierarchy.

''It should come from the top,'' he said. ''It's not the right for anyone else to ask for the cardinal's resignation.''

The Rev. John Morin, a vicar at St. Angela's who helped organize the Palm Sunday show of support, said he doesn't expect his parish to support any further rallies on behalf of the cardinal. Like many throughout the archdiocese, he had mixed feelings about Joy's statement. ''If the papers just left him alone, I think Cardinal Law could solve the problem,'' he said. ''But the media won't leave him alone, so the only solution is for him to go. I don't think that's the best solution; it just seems like the only practical thing to do.''

Globe correspondent Andrew C. Helman contributed to this story.

This story ran on page A12 of the Boston Globe on 4/23/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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