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Boston's Cardinal Law resists calls for his resignation

Plans weekend of 'reflection and prayer'

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Resisting calls for his resignation, Cardinal Bernard Law said Friday he wants to serve the Archdiocese of Boston "with every fiber of my being." But he acknowledged that church leaders had failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests.

Angry families who say their sons were molested and many shocked Catholics have faulted Law for what they have described as his failure to keep pedophile clergymen away from children -- even though he knew of the problem.

Law responded to mounting calls for his resignation Friday in a letter to "my dear brother priests." He said he wants to help solve the crisis rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

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"Looking back, I see that we were too focused on the individual components of each case, when we should have been more focused on the protection of children," Law wrote.

"This would have changed our emphasis on secrecy as part of legal settlements. While this focus was inspired by a desire to protect the privacy of the victim, to avoid scandal to the faithful and to preserve the reputation of the priest, we now realize both within the church and in society at large that secrecy often inhibits healing and places others at risk," he wrote.

While Law never explicitly rejected the demands for his resignation, he made clear he wants to stay.

"As long as I am your archbishop, I am determined to provide the strongest leadership possible to this area," Law wrote. My desire is to serve this archdiocese and the whole church with every fiber of my being. This I will continue to do as long as God gives me the opportunity."

Law: Shanley case 'particularly troubling'

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey told reporters that Law is now "reflecting and spending a good deal of time in prayer.... and he is consulting with advisers to determine the best way that he is able to serve the church and serve as archbishop."

Morrissey also said the cardinal will not celebrate Mass as usual Sunday at Holy Cross Cathedral and plans no other public appearances this weekend.

"Take a deep breath," she said. "This is not a story that is going to end today or tomorrow. Those who have been in pain have been in pain for a great many years, and we need to make sure that to the best of our ability we can get the resources to those victims, their families and the other people in the Archdiocese of Boston who are in pain."

Law, 70, is the senior figure among U.S. 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.

The demands for Law's resignation multiplied this week following the release Monday of hundreds of internal church documents detailing the archdiocese's knowledge of abuse allegations against one now-retired priest, Paul Shanley.

Law called that case "particularly troubling." The church documents show that Shanley was moved from parish to parish in the Boston area and later transferred to California without any warning to church officials there about his behavior.

Wrongful death lawsuit

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

Law said a lack of records and of an "institutional memory concerning allegations" contributed to the problem.

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. Geoghan was convicted in February of indecent assault and battery against a 10-year-old boy in 1991.

The archdiocese has revealed that it has quietly settled dozens of cases involving other priests accused of molestation.

And Thursday, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the archdiocese by the parents of a teen killed in a 1981 car accident in New England.

Harold and Sheila Francis said the death of their son, James, could have been prevented had church officials removed a priest long accused of molestation. That priest, Ronald Paquin, was driving the car the night of the accident and allegedly molested James and other youths while on a trip with them.

Paquin refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Voices of support and diminishing donations

Two influential New England newspapers -- The Boston Globe and The Union Leader in Manchester, New Hampshire -- called for Law to resign, as did Thomas O'Neill III, a former Massachusetts lieutenant governor.

"It's really incumbent upon him to step aside and allow this church to breathe easier and to kind of reclaim itself," O'Neill said.

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.

Law insisted that the archdiocese had the best of intentions in its handling of the cases, believing for years that sexual abuse of children was solely a moral failure. But he said there is a medical "pathology" that needs to be acknowledged, as well as a criminal aspect.

It was not clear whether the letter would appease those who had grown increasingly vocal in their demand for Law's resignation.

The archdiocese's own Catholic Charities reported that donations are down about 10 percent during the Easter appeal.

Joseph Doolin, president of Catholic Charities in Boston, said some potential donors say they will not donate to Catholic Charities until there is a change of leadership in the church.

There have been a few voices of support.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, "The Cardinal has made that decision, and I think it's time for us to get on with it, get on with supporting, like I said the pastors, the priests and the victims."

Ray Flynn, a former Boston mayor and ex-ambassador to the Vatican, said it would be in the "best interest" of the church "for Cardinal Law to stay, implement a no-tolerance policy, so, what happened here with these pedophile priests, will never, ever, ever happen again."




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