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Boston reaction to Law’s resignation


As dawn broke here Friday Dec. 13 over the nation’s fourth largest diocese, with news Cardinal Bernard Law’s resignation, many Greater Boston area Catholics heaved a sigh of relief. Even before the sun rose, local broadcast media were on the air gathering local sentiments, as well as announcing a flurry of news conferences. Three major ones had been held by noon.

The first one was held at 8 a.m. at the chancery in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. Law’s two chief spokespersons, Donna Morrissey and Rev. Christopher Coyne, said they expected Law to return to Boston by the end of the weekend. But “the Cardinal has no public schedule,” Morrissey said, adding this is a “difficult day” for everyone.

With the announcement of Auxiliary Bishop Richard G. Lennon as the apostolic administrator, Coyne and Morrissey said there were “no changes,” with “all positions as they are.” Morrissey also added that the archdiocese would continue reaching out to victims and survivors. “They can’t be lost in this” resignation, she said, adding the situation here “is not over for a lifetime, for years to come.”

Coyne sounded a hopeful and positive note, saying that Law’s decision was based “on what is best for the archdiocese.” Coyne said he looked forward to working with Bishop Lennon, the apostolic administrator, whom he termed a “man of integrity.” Coyne also said that the Bishop Lennon is known to be “listener,” who in his days at St. John’s Seminary “always had an open door.”

Bishop Lennon, a native of the Boston area, was not made available for the media today, but he is expected to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday. In a written statement Lennon said, “I pledge to do all that I can with the help of bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity of the Archdiocese, to work towards healing as a church and furthering the mission of Jesus Christ within our community.” Lennon also asked for prayers for “all victims and families who have been hurt by the sin of sexual abuse by the clergy,” as well as for Law.

Spokespersons for lay-led church-reform advocacy group Voice of the Faithful also said they were looking forward to working with the new bishop. “The Archdiocese of Boston has endured a terrible suffering brought on by the clergy sexual abuse crisis,” said VOTF president Jim Post, at a 10 a.m. news conference held at the organization’s headquarters in Newton, Mass., a suburb west of Boston.

Nonetheless, “We need to emphasize that Cardinal Law’s resignation is only a first step,” Post said, adding, “sunlight of truth and reconciliation” is needed “in order to bring about healing.” Post urged Bishop Lennon to hear Voice of the Faithful and to “act in a spirit of collaboration and collegiality with the laity, survivors and clergy,” he said. “We are faithful Catholics who love our church and are working to restore its moral integrity. We are making a difference by supporting survivors, priests who are faithfully living out their vows, and working for structure changes in the culture of secrecy and authoritarianism that contributed to this crisis.” Post added: “Voice of the Faithful is a reality in the life of the Catholic church.”

At a third press conference, held at noon at the Boston Sheraton Hotel, provided an opportunity for survivors, their legal counsel, and victim/survivor advocacy-group members to speak. Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish of the law firm Greenberg and Traurig, a firm that has represented dozens of clients alleging clerical sexual abuse, said he viewed the “Holy Father’s acceptance of Cardinal Law’s resignation as meaningful and affirming.” MacLeish also went on to thank all the “brave priests” who continue “to do good parish work.”

Yet it was the survivors who spoke that captured the sadness and spirit of the hour. Tom Fulchino, a survivor of sexual abuse by former priest James Porter, expressed sadness, adding, “but today is a major step in the right direction.” Fulchino’s wife Susan and their son Christopher -- who, like his father, alleges sexual abuse by John Geoghan, were also present.

“This day is a blessing,” said Christopher Fulchino, unable to hold back his tears. Still, he said in an appeal to others who allege sexual abuse: “Be strong, don’t be afraid. It just gets better; every day gets easier.” He added, “I am glad this day has finally come. I am glad the Cardinal resigned.”

That same day, Christopher Fulchino celebrated his 26th birthday.

National Catholic Reporter, posted December 13, 2002