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Calls intensify for Boston cardinal to resign
Cardinal Bernard Law is the senior figure among American Catholic archbishops.  

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Calls mounted Thursday for Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation in the face of criticism that he knew of sexually abusive priests within the Archdiocese of Boston and did little, if anything, to keep the clergymen away from children.

"It's really incumbent upon him to step aside and allow this church to breathe easier and to kind of reclaim itself," said Thomas O'Neill III, a former Massachusetts lieutenant governor.

O'Neill said until Law "removes himself," the Roman Catholic Church -- which has been rocked by allegations of priests molesting children -- won't be able to mend.

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"I don't think he's going to have the moral authority or the support of his people to help clear up the mess," said Thomas Groome, a professor of religious education at Boston College.

Law, 70, is the senior figure among American Catholic archbishops, having served as spiritual leader of Boston's large and influential Catholic community since 1984. He oversees 362 parishes serving 2.1 million members.

In 1985, Pope John Paul II made Law a cardinal, one of just 13 Americans holding that office.

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, on Wednesday called the allegations "the deepest wounds against the church in my lifetime," but he declined to say whether he thought Law should step down.

"As to what I think about Cardinal Law's tenure and service, this must be private between the cardinal and me," said Kennedy, the patriarch of one the country's most prominent Roman Catholic families.

The calls for Law's resignation have intensified this week, following the release of damaging internal documents about how church officials handled an allegedly abusive priest.

The documents showed that Law and other church officials were aware of numerous child sex abuse allegations against the Rev. Paul Shanley but, instead of defrocking him or removing him from ministry, simply moved him from parish to parish.

Two influential New England newspapers -- The Boston Globe and The Union Leader in Manchester, New Hampshire -- called for Law to resign this week.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly also announced that his office would conduct a review of the Shanley documents to see if any criminal charges were warranted.

Attorneys for one of Shanley's alleged victims, Greg Ford, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, obtained the documents as part of a lawsuit against the Boston Archdiocese, which unsuccessfully tried to block public release of the information.

Ford's attorney, Roderick MacLeish, also alleged that Law did not tell church officials in California about the accusations against Shanley when he was transferred there in 1990.

In January, revelations that Law had moved another Boston-area priest accused of abuse, John Geoghan, from parish to parish touched off a firestorm, prompting abuse victims to come forward not just in Boston but around the country.

Ignoring calls to resign in January, Law issued an apology to the victims, expressing his "heartfelt sorrow." Church officials in Boston also turned over information about priests accused of abuse to local prosecutors and established a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue.

In his Easter homily, the cardinal lamented "the effects of the sickness and infidelity of some clergy" on the church and said Catholics "carry in our hearts those who bear the wounds of betrayal through abuse inflicted by others, especially by clergy."




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