Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Cardinal Law's knowledge of the abusers for whom he was responsible continues to be more evident.

For links to all the Boston stories about the most recent deposition records, go to Poynter.

The Boston Herald has a particularly helpful summary:

The late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, who is alleged to have molested 50 or more boys over a 29-year career at parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell, Gloucester, Brighton and Lexington.

Birmingham, a seminary classmate of Bishop John B. McCormack, one of Law's former personnel subordinates and now bishop of Manchester, N.H., died in 1989.

Law reassigned him twice in the 1980s despite multiple allegations.

The Rev. Eugene J. O'Sullivan, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a St. Agnes Church, Arlington, altar boy in 1985, yet was allowed by Law to take an assignment with the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., in which O'Sullivan worked with children.

Law admitted he was not aware of any steps by Boston to alert parishioners in New Jersey to O'Sullivan's crimes, saying of the priest ``he worked evidently well'' there.

He was recalled to the Archdiocese of Boston in 1992 and banned from serving as a priest.

The Rev. George J. Rosenkranz, who served at Blessed Sacrament Church in Saugus in the 1970s and was arrested in a public men's room in 1981 and charged with lewd conduct - charges later were dropped after church intervention.

Law said he did not remove Rosenkranz in the 1980s, letting him serve at St. John's Church in Salem until 1990, when the priest, who faces multiple suits, was put on sick leave amid abuse allegations.

The Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro, who was placed on administrative leave from the Chelsea Soldiers' Home and Quigley Memorial Hospital in August after accusations surfaced that he sexually abused a child 30 years ago.

In March 1984, charges surfaced that Rebeiro had exposed himself and masturbated in front of a parishioner's wife while her husband was at a funeral.

Law testified the charges were ``terribly serious,'' yet wrote to the alleged victim's husband saying ``I find this matter is something that is personal to Father Rebeiro and must be considered such.''

Law claimed to have no recollection of seeing that letter sent over his signature, and stated later in the deposition he signs many ``routine'' letters without reading them.

`Did I on April the 3rd, 1984, three days into the job, read every letter that was put before me?'' he said. ``Probably not.''

The Rev. Daniel M. Graham, whom Law allowed to remain as a parochial vicar on the South Shore until mid-2002, though the priest admitted to molestation in 1988.

MacLeish asked Law why Graham, who was not supposed to ``be involved in ministry that involves minors,'' according to church's own requirements for his readmittance, was given such a post.

``Do you have any explanation?'' for the apparent special treatment of Graham, MacLeish asked.

``No, I really don't,'' Law said.

It is all just too outrageously pathetic. Before you start helping the Cardinal come up with his excuses, put yourself in his place, back then in the 1980's and beyond. A priest credibly accused or even admitted to have abused a minor is brought to your attention.

What is your first instinct?

Yeah. That's what I thought. It's not to reassign to another parish, is it? No, it's not. You may not have degrees in theology and you may not be ordained, but when you're presented with a child molestor in a collar, your own sense of what it means to faithful to Christ tells you what to do.

(Hint: turn the guy into the law would be a good start)

It's quite obvious to me what was going on here. In one sense, Law is telling the truth - he had all of these subordinate bishops, and dealing with these issues really was their job. He is, of course, ultimately responsible, but I have no doubt that these other bishops were almost totally entrusted with the task of figuring out what to do with these cases before they presented them to him.

That said, you would think the Cardinal would get suspicious when, time after time, these bishops were telling him that everything was okay, and, to all appearances, not a single accused abuser was being removed from ministry.

(By the way, that strikes me as another way to state this problem, and one that highlights its seriousness: Up until 2002, most, if not all, priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, continued to be supported in their ministry by the Archdiocese.)

But he didn't, and he keeps telling us that gosh, he doesn't know why.

So what we're left with is this: The Archdiocese of Boston was ministered to by a crew of bishops who protected their classmates and friends accused of child molestation. They seem to have consistently misrepresented the problem to the Cardinal, probably assuring him that their buddies had promised never to do it again, and so on. Add to the mix the fact that the Cardinal seems to have his own terrible blind spot in regard to victims and an indifference to the impact of these cretins, and, oddly enough, no interest - not even, it seems, the mildest curiosity as to the details of these cases, or even the slightest inclination to view them as matters for serious investigation. I mean, if your auxilary bishop came to you and said, "Hey, Fr. Creep exposed himself in a public restroom, but we're taking care of it," wouldn't you, if you were ultimately responsible for the Archdiocese, want to call Fr. Creep in yourself for a talk, put him under evaluation and see if maybe there's another job he could find - like at Home Depot or something?

So yes, what we have here is a culture - a system in which priests were protected, no matter what, until they had all been backed up against the wall either by the law or by plaintiffs' lawyers. It is a culture that came to be because some had evil intent and others were afraid of their own darkness being exposed, quite frankly.

There's no defense here. None. And I don't know why anyone even tries to continue defending Cardinal Law. But believe me, they will.

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