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Cardinal Law apologizes, begs forgiveness

Law: "... the most effective way that I might serve the church at this moment is to resign."

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Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, apologizes for mistakes in handling allegations of abuse by priests in his diocese (December 16)
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- In his first public statement after his resignation, Cardinal Bernard Law apologized and begged forgiveness Monday from those who he said had suffered from his mistakes.

While not specifically mentioning the scandal involving alleged sexual abuse by priests and the cover-up by church officials, Law, 71, said it is his prayer that the Archdiocese of Boston will experience healing, reconciliation, and unity.

"During these past 11 months," Law said, "decisions have been made and policies strengthened which ensure the safety of children as the archdiocese moves forward."

He said the church has begun a commitment to a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems, and he had hoped to participate in the process.

However, he said, "it came to be ever more clear to me that the most effective way that I might serve the church at this moment is to resign."

Earlier this year, Law wrote a letter to priests in the archdiocese acknowledging there were problems but saying he would not resign. He issued the letter after a meeting with the pope.

But criticism and damaging details continued to mount, and Pope John Paul II accepted Law's resignation Friday at the Vatican. It ended the cardinal's 18-year tenure as Boston archbishop.

"To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and from my mistakes, I once again apologize, and from them I beg forgiveness," Law said.

The pope appointed the Most Rev. Richard Gerard Lennon, 55, auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese, to take over interim duties as "apostolic administrator" for the archdiocese. The pope will appoint a permanent replacement later.

Law said he has not developed plans for the future, other than to take a short vacation after Christmas with some friends who are priests and then to go on retreat at a monastery.

"Following that, I will take up residence outside the archdiocese and continue my responsibilities as cardinal," Law said. "Needless to say, I will continue to be available as necessary in the legal process."

Hundreds of people who say they suffered sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese have filed pending lawsuits. Depositions given by Law as part of those suits have revealed details about how allegations of abuse were suppressed by those in the church.

Law's resignation was seen as a "ray of hope" for the victims by James Post, president of the Voice of the Faithful, a group of lay Catholics formed in the wake of the scandal.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for many of the abuse victims, has cautioned that Law's resignation "doesn't mean everything is OK." He has called for a "substantive change" in the archdiocese.

The resignation came amid recent allegations by Massachusetts' attorney general that the Boston archdiocese engaged in "an elaborate scheme" to keep quiet the issue of child sexual abuse by priests.

Law and several other bishops were subpoenaed to appear last summer before a grand jury looking into the case.

The archdiocese released extensive documents last week detailing startling examples of clergy sexual misconduct related to claims priests molested children.

In addition, the archdiocese finance council authorized Law to seek bankruptcy protection for the archdiocese, which faces an estimated 450 claims from alleged abuse victims.

Law was ordained in 1961 and assigned to the Natchez-Jackson, Mississippi, diocese. In 1973, he was appointed bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri. He was named archbishop of Boston in 1984 and became a cardinal in 1985.

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