Bishop Law Steps Down Under Public Pressure

Dec 20, 2002 05:43 PM EST

BOSTON, Ma - Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston under the pressures of the publicized clergy sex scandals.

Law, the nation's most influential prelate who led the nation's forth largest archdiocese since 1984, played a major role in picking bishops with loyalty to the pope. He was also a steady advocate for conservative causes, especially antiabortion issues. According to the pubisher and editor of Crisis, a conservative Catholic magazine, Deal Hudson, Law was "the most deeply networked cardinal" with close ties to the White House since the first President Bush.

In spite of arising sex-scandals within the cardinal's reign, the pope rejected Law's first resignation in April, hoping the crises would die down. Since then, the scandal intensified as even more sordid details came to light, including allegations of priests using drugs, fathering children and molesting children by telling them it was God's will.

In light of the growing public outcries against the scandals, 58 priests signed a petition, calling for Law to step down. When Law offered his second resignation, December 13, the Pope accepted it, yielding to the pressures of the pubic Christian forum.

"Once a cardinal loses the confidence of the clergy," says Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, the editor of Commonweal, a liberal Catholic biweekly, "it doesn't take much to convince the Vatican [that he should resign]." If the pope had let Law stay on, says McBrien, "there was a risk of a complete breakdown of authority in the Archdiocese of Boston."

The problem for Law, says Gerald Fogarty, a professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia, "was that he was not his own man. It was the pope's idea that he had to muscle it through."

By Paulina C.