Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bernard Cardinal Law: the myths about his resignation

A little over five years ago, my pastor and friend, Bernard Cardinal Law, resigned from his position of Archbishop of Boston after a year of near hell for everyone concerned, including me.

National Catholic Reporter made this event its cover story, which is fine...this article by John Allen is not a bad one...particularly given the publication. (John Allen generally does good work.)

But another article, written five years ago by George Weigel, bears re-reading...or reading if you've never done so.

It exposes two myths. Please read the whole article...I'm quoting a few snippets.

Myth #1: Cardinal Law was forced from office by the Vatican in response to irresistible pressures from Boston clerical and lay activists.

In brief, the chief factor in Cardinal Law's resignation was...Cardinal Law. Whatever you hear to the contrary from Voice of the Faithful*, the Boston Priests' Forum*, Newsweek or the Boston Globe is myth-making, usually agenda-driven.

Myth #2: Rome's decision was heavily influenced by the public letter signed by 58 Boston-area priests, asking Cardinal Law to resign.

The first thing officials in Rome likely noticed was that there are some 1,650 religious and diocesan priests in the Archdiocese of Boston; thus the signatories represented about 3.5 percent of the Boston presbyterate. Not exactly a landslide, that.

The second thing to be noticed and pondered were the names on the list. However slow it has sometimes been to measure accurately the breadth and depth of the crisis in the American Church, the Vatican is not clueless. Officials in Rome could see that the signatories included priests who had never truly accepted Cardinal Law's authority; their request for him to lay down an authority they had rarely acknowledged rang rather hollow...

The third thing no one in Rome could have missed was the text of the priests' letter itself. It praised Cardinal Law for his ecumenical and inter-religious initiatives, his work for immigrants and the homeless, and his opposition to capital punishment. But what was blatantly and (it could only be assumed) deliberately missing was any reference to Cardinal Law's major public policy concern for 18 years - his defense of the right-to-life of the unborn.

Bernard Cardinal Law, perhaps unlike the pundits and the critics, made mistakes. I can relate...I've made them myself.

And although I correspond with him on occasion, I miss him.

*These are groups you may not be familiar with. Five years ago, they were considered by themselves and by the mainstream media as Big Deals. Today they are dead.