- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

VATICAN CITY — An American advocacy group said it would protest today outside a church where the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, was to preside over a Mass in honor of the late Pope John Paul II.

The support group for victims of sexual abuse planned to distribute fliers decrying the public role of Cardinal Law, who stepped down in Boston under fire for shielding priests accused of molesting children.

Members of the group are “terribly upset about Law’s high visibility and his apparent willingness to exploit the pope’s death for his own selfish rehabilitation purposes,” leader David Clohessy told the Agence France-Presse wire service.

The protest introduces the first discordant note into the meticulously planned funeral and mourning period for the pope, who received a nudge toward sainthood yesterday when a miraculous cure was attributed to his touch.

Today’s Mass, to be attended by most of the cardinals in Rome for John Paul’s funeral, is the fourth in a series of nine Masses to be celebrated before the church leaders seclude themselves in a conclave April 18 to elect a new pope.

Cardinal Law’s posting qualifies him to officiate at this particular Mass. In line with church tradition, it was to take place at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, where John Paul installed Cardinal Law as archpriest after he resigned his Boston post in December 2002 over his handling of the issue of sexual abuse by priests.

Unsealed court records revealed Cardinal Law had allowed priests guilty of abusing children to move among parish assignments and had not notified the public.

Many Catholics expected that Cardinal Law would drop from public view, perhaps working as a priest in a remote parish. The post in Rome to which John Paul appointed him is largely ceremonial but brings some prestige and a comfortable apartment.

The Vatican declined to comment on the cardinal’s celebration of today’s Mass, but church sources said the service could be seen as underlining the importance of a spirit of forgiveness when recalling John Paul’s pontificate.

Leaders of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), however, said in interviews before flying to Rome that they found the planned service painful to victims and embarrassing to Catholics.

“We certainly do not want to cause any additional pain or suffering to anyone attending the memorial service for the Holy Father,” Barbara Blaine, the group’s founder, told the Associated Press in Chicago.

“Our concern is that many Catholics going there don’t know the history with Cardinal Law, and that’s why we want to inform them.”

Another SNAP leader, Mr. Clohessy, told Agence France-Presse: “We feel compelled to be there to remind people that his leadership role continues to rub salt into the wounds of already very, very deeply hurt people.”

Yesterday’s Mass, the third in the series of nine, was led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, head of Italy’s bishops conference, who told a crowd of Rome residents in St. Peter’s Basilica that John Paul had “prevented a clash between civilizations” during his pontificate.

The huge church was filled to overflowing in spite of rainy weather, while thousands more watched on a huge TV screen in St. Peter’s Square.

As pilgrims called for John Paul to be elevated to sainthood, the first reports of apparent miraculous cures attributed to the Polish pope began to emerge. In most cases, a person must be found to have performed three miracles to be sainted.

The process also does not usually begin until five years after the person’s death, a rule John Paul himself waived in the case of Mother Teresa.

Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, disclosed in a homily Saturday that after being touched by the pope he had been cured of a paralyzed vocal chord. The condition had badly hampered his ability to speak following a surgical error during an operation.

“Because of a doctor’s error, my right vocal chord remained paralyzed, obliging me to speak almost imperceptibly,” the Italian cardinal said.

“The pope caressed my throat at the point where I was operated, saying that he would pray for me. A short time later, I began speaking normally again.”

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