- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

VATICAN CITY — Six U.S.-based cardinals stayed away from a mourning Mass for Pope John Paul II celebrated by Cardinal Bernard Law, whose mishandling of the clergy sex-abuse scandal forced his resignation as archbishop of Boston.

Neither Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick nor Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler attended the Mass, but aides denied that their absence was a snub and said no conclusion should be drawn.

The representatives noted that attendance at the Masses, held on each of nine days in the mourning period called Novemdiales, is not required and only a small number of the 115 cardinals who will elect the pope participate. More cardinals attended yesterday evening’s Mass because it was followed by a visit to John Paul’s tomb underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Law stepped down from his post in Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he moved predator priests among church assignments without notifying parishioners.

Two victims from the United States traveled Monday to the Vatican to protest Cardinal Law’s high-profile role in mourning the pope. The Mass was not disrupted.

Eleven members of the College of Cardinals are Americans, seven of whom have worked with Cardinal Law leading archdioceses in the United States. The three other American cardinals — none of whom attended Monday’s Mass — have been based in the Vatican.

Cardinal McCarrick had other plans Monday and could not attend, said spokeswoman Susan Gibbs. He has other meetings and events leading up to the conclave and did not plan to attend any more Masses after last night, she said.

“Each Mass is a two-hour Mass, and this week, many of them have meetings and dinners as well,” Miss Gibbs said.

Cardinal Keeler planned to participate in only one of the nine services, said spokesman Sean Caine. Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali was the only U.S. cardinal with Cardinal Law on Monday.

New York Cardinal Edward Egan had other plans Monday, too, but also had not attended Sunday’s Mass, spokesman Joe Zwilling said, adding that there was no hidden meaning. Cardinal Egan, speaking at a press conference last week, declined to comment on Cardinal Law.

Aides to Chicago Cardinal Francis George and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who did not attend Monday, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida, who also was absent, could not be reached.

Revelations that Cardinal Law had protected priests accused of molesting children sparked a national crisis in the American church that has dragged on for more than three years. Soon after Cardinal Law’s resignation, John Paul appointed him archpriest of Rome’s St. Mary Major Basilica, a ceremonial but highly visible position.

Church leaders said Cardinal Law likely was chosen to lead the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica because he heads such an important church, not as a personal honor.

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