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March 23
Law's words frame new play

March 2
Wary Catholics return to church

January 25, 2004
Churches report attendance up

January 4, 2004
Dot parish struggles to survive

December 28
Hudson fill-in priest welcomed

December 12
Law prays daily for diocese

November 22
Assignment for Law expected

November 20
Policies on VOTF reconsidered

September 19
Crisis issues in church's future

September 18
Meeting ban at parish is lifted

August 4
O'Malley given warm welcome

August 1
Lawmakers see shades of gray

July 31
An angry protest, and prayers
Voices of protest and support
Three in crowd bound in hope
At BC, optimistic students watch

July 29
Lay group to engage O'Malley

July 24
Many outraged after AG's report

July 21
Law to skip bishop installation

July 18
O'Malley invites Law, victims

July 11
Bishops seek private opinions

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

A respite, then firestorm ignites

By Kevin Cullen and Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff, 12/14/2002

 About Cardinal Law
Career timeline: Priest to cardinal
Changing statements on abuse
Coverage of his career in Boston

 Photo gallery
Photo gallery: Cardinal Law through the years
Cardinal Law through the years

 Official statements
Cardinal Law on his resignation
Groups, officials, clergy react

 Related stories
The resignation
Law steps down, pope accepts
Scandal eclipses a long record
In cardinal's final days, a firestorm
Admission of awareness damning
Rare speed displayed by Rome
Focus moves to Law's deputies
The successor
Pope's choice to receive scrutiny
Lennon called a skilled manager
Memo cited in '90s abuse case
Reaction
Abuse victims react with relief
Catholics cling to hope of rebirth
Priests see sadness and hope
Many Latinos find foregiveness
Only Ch. 4 cut back coverage
Investigations
Law deposition may be on hold
Archdiocese faces 'mess' in court
Scandal's impact
Abuse patterns found nationwide
Around world, scandal takes toll
Opinion
Editorial: The cardinal's departure
Op-ed: Law captain of his own fall

 Timeline
A tumultuous year for archdiocese

 Message board
Boston.com readers react to Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation.
Read messages

Ten days ago, Olan Horne left his home in Lowell and drove down to Brighton to talk with Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

It was an uneasy relationship. Horne, who as a boy in the 1970s was sexually abused by the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, had become the personification of Law's nagging conscience. Two months ago, he had persuaded Law to meet with about 75 people who said they were victims of Birmingham, a tearful, emotional encounter in the basement of a Dracut church.

Horne appreciated Law showing up, but he wasn't done with the cardinal. And so on Dec. 4, with Gary Bergeron, who also said he was abused by Birmingham, at his side, Horne strode purposefully through the ornate vestibule of the cardinal's Italian Renaissance mansion into a conference room.

Sitting behind a huge mahogany table, the cardinal looked exhausted. Portraits of his two immediate predecessors, Cardinals Richard Cushing and Humberto Medeiros, hung over his shoulders, creating the image, from where Horne sat, of weighing him down. Barbara Thorp, the cardinal's liaison to sexual abuse victims, and the Rev. John J. Connolly Jr., Law's burly and amiable chief secretary, joined them at the table.

''How are you?'' Horne asked Law.

''I'm OK,'' the cardinal replied.

Horne, who had become accustomed to challenging the cardinal, didn't accept the answer.

''No. Really,'' Horne said, leaning forward, fixing his stare on the cardinal. ''How are you?''

The cardinal removed his glasses, rubbed his tired eyes, then looked at Horne and said, ''I'm lousy.''

Horne said he felt some sympathy for the cardinal, but also impatience. For months, Horne and Bergeron had been urging Law to match his remorseful words with decisive action.

''You've run out of time,'' Horne told the cardinal 10 days ago. ''Do something bold.''

Law looked him in the eye again, but said nothing.

Two days later, Law was in Washington, D.C., meeting with the papal nuncio, the pope's representative in the United States. Two days after that, Law was in Rome to begin a weeklong process of secret meetings in the Vatican that culminated yesterday with a brief audience with Pope John Paul II and the announcement that the pope had accepted his resignation.

Law and Connolly had left Boston for Washington just hours before state troopers assigned to the office of Mass. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly arrived in Brighton with subpoenas seeking the grand jury testimony of Law and six other bishops who presided over what Reilly has called a massive coverup of child abuse.

By leaving town and going to see the papal nuncio, Law was following the same path he took in April when, amid cries for his ouster, he had gone unannounced to Rome to tender his resignation. Then, the resignation was not accepted, apparently because the Vatican feared being seen reacting to public pressure or creating a precedent that would have left other bishops vulnerable.

But this time the pope's most senior aides did not dissuade Law. When a group of prominent Boston Catholics found out on Monday that Law had gone to Rome, they proposed traveling to Washington to make sure the papal nuncio understood the depth of feeling among those who wanted Law to step down. The trip turned out to be unnecessary. When a New York business associate called Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to tell him about the proposed trip, McCarrick told his friend to tell the Bostonians to stay put.

The die, it seems, may already have been cast.

The cardinal and his loyal aide de camp, Connolly, flew to Rome last weekend. On Sunday night, Law was spotted dining at Ristorante Cecilia Metella with Bishop James Harvey, an American priest who heads the papal household. Law stayed at Harvey's residence, behind the guarded gates of Vatican City, far from a growing media contingent.

Meanwhile, the news from back home was ugly. When 150 people arrived at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End last Sunday, they learned that the cardinal would not be saying Mass. Outside, there were twice as many people as inside, as demonstrators expressed their outrage over recent disclosures and amplified their call for Law to resign. Seven miles away, parishioners at a Newton church cheered their outspoken priest, who had been punished by Law for defying the cardinal.

The numbers were not stacking up in Law's favor.

In an extraordinary act of rebellion, more than 50 priests - 10 percent of those serving in the archdiocese - signed a letter calling on Law to resign.

That Law's own priests, who swear obedience to him, were calling on him to step down reverberated in the Roman Curia.

Jack Connors Jr., the advertising executive and Catholic philanthropist who once had Law's ear but over the last year concluded the cardinal had to go, said he believed the public revolt by the archdiocese's priests was the final straw.

''All those priests, that got Rome's attention,'' he said.

Law's admission before he got to Rome that he felt ''lousy'' was a rare bit of candor about his emotional state. It was also understandable.

Just a month earlier, Law had appeared to some to have weathered the worst of the storm created by disclosures, beginning in the Globe last January, that he had not dealt forcefully with sexually abusive priests and, in an effort to avoid scandal, had moved them to other parishes, where they often abused again.

Tentatively, Law had begun to emerge more regularly from the bunker that his splendid residence had become. In October, he shared a stage with Bruce Springsteen at the dedication of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, named for the late director of the Anti-Defamation League of New England, with whom Law had worked to overcome Boston's history of anti-Semitism.

Four days later, Law held a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for striking janitors, harking back to the days when the cardinal won praise for advocating for immigrants and the poor.

Even some of his peers seemed willing to give him a second chance. Last month, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, some of whose members wanted Law to resign in the spring, gave him a bully pulpit to denounce a possible war with Iraq as immoral.

Some critics such as the Rev. Robert W. Bullock, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Sharon and a leader of the Boston Priests' Forum, who believed that the crisis would not subside until Law stepped down, began to despair.

''He feels it is God's will for him to stay,'' Bullock said last month.

While most of the archdiocese's 2 million Catholics remained convinced that the cardinal needed to go, there was no indication that the only person whose opinion mattered - the pope - shared that view.

But the litigation that first pushed Law into hot water, and the salacious details contained in the court documents pried free by civil lawsuits, came back to haunt the cardinal.

The beginning of the end may have been Nov. 25, when Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney declared that the archdiocese's records contradicted Law's sworn testimony that he and his aides did not return some abusive priests to parish work without first determining that they posed no risk to children. Not only did the judge suggest the cardinal was lying, she ordered the release of 11,000 pages of church documents about the abusive actions of priests, and the actions of the cardinal and others to hide those crimes from public view.

Law appeared to be unworried or unaware of the implications of Sweeney's Nov. 25 order to release more documents. The next day, an upbeat Law spoke with Jack Shaughnessy Sr., a construction equipment mogul whose family is among the archdiocese's most generous patrons.

''He thought things were starting to look a little better. And I agreed with him,'' Shaughnessy said yesterday, noting Law's increasing public appearances and his meetings with victims. After what Shaughnessy described as last week's ''sickening'' revelations, he said he concluded Law must have been unaware that these documents were so damaging.

''He must have been blindsided,'' said Shaughnessy.

Still a booster of Law for what he called the cardinal's ''innumerable good works,'' Shaughnessy said those disclosures finally changed his mind.

''I felt at that point that he didn't have any choice but to resign,'' Shaughnessy said.

On Dec. 3, lawyers for alleged victims released the first 2,200 pages of the 11,000 Sweeney ruled on. The documents portrayed a rogue's gallery of priests who fondled teenagers preparing to be nuns, traded drugs for sex with minors, beat up their housekeepers, and fathered children.

Besides the burdens of continued litigation, Law faced the prospect of leading the archdiocese into bankruptcy, with hundreds of lawsuits pending. On Dec. 4, Law got permission from his Finance Council to seek Vatican approval to file for bankruptcy. On that same day, Olan Horne and Gary Bergeron urged him to match his words with deeds.

By the time he got to Rome, Law was apparently determined to do that.

Law held a series of meetings with powerful aides to the pope from Tuesday through Thursday. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the pope's spokesman, confirmed that Law met with the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, and with the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

The meetings with Re focused on the legal crisis engulfing the church and whether Law would have to resign and whether the pope would accept such a resignation. The meetings with Castrillon focused on the financial crisis that mounting litigation from clergy sexual abuse law suits has created and the possible filing of bankruptcy.

Law had been a loyal prince of the church, soldiering on for nine months after he first indicated a wish to step down. During his meetings with Vatican officials this week, Law asked that one of his closest aides, Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, succeed him as caretaker head of the archdiocese until a new archbishop is selected. What seemed a modest request was denied.

The meeting yesterday between Law and the pope appears to have been merely a formality. On Thursday night, Navarro-Valls prepared an official announcement of the resignation, including Law's statement that he was ''profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Boston'' and his apology ''to all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes.''

At about the same time, Bishop Richard G. Lennon was informed that the Vatican had selected him to serve as caretaker administrator until a new archbishop of Boston was appointed.

Yesterday, at 11:20 a.m., Law waited with Harvey in the Apostolic Palace to be received by the ailing pontiff. In keeping with protocol, Law knelt and kissed the pope's ring. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church and his protege, whom he had made a prince of the church 17 years before, sat opposite each other and there was a discussion of Law's formal offer to resign and the deepening crisis.

A senior Vatican official said it was a ''very emotional'' meeting, but it was not a long one. The meeting lasted between 15 to 30 minutes.

At approximately 11:50, the Vatican Press Office ''Bulletin'' announced what had been a foregone conclusion: The pope had accepted Law's resignation. The man who a year ago was the most influential American cardinal in Rome was now a cardinal without diocese to call his own.

Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A20 of the Boston Globe on 12/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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