Victims of clergy sexual abuse, their lawyers, and advocates condemned the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston for publishing an uncritical profile of Cardinal Bernard F. Law on his 80th birthday yesterday.
The lengthy story chronicling the cardinal’s life, one of a series of biographies of Boston cardinals being published by The Pilot, devoted two paragraphs to Law’s role in the clergy abuse crisis and ended by wishing him, “Happy Birthday, Your Eminence.’’ It was published yesterday, as controversy was already roiling over a party held in Rome for 100 guests to celebrate the cardinal’s birthday.
“There’s more about the abuse scandal on Wikipedia than there is in this article,’’ said Nick Ingala, a spokesman for Voice of the Faithful, the Catholic reform group formed in the wake of the crisis.
Bill Oberle, abused by a Neponset priest along with his two younger brothers when he was 12, said Law’s birthday honors were disturbing but “par for the course.’’
“I’ve seen it a thousand times before,’’ he said. “They don’t care. . . . All you can do is keep going in spite of it.’’
Oberle was abused by the Rev. Paul J. Mahan, whom the archdiocese reassigned to another parish after Mahan received treatment at a facility for priests who molested children.
The editor of The Pilot, Antonio Enrique, did not return a phone call from a reporter, but alerted a spokesman for the archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, who responded to the inquiry.
Donilon said via e-mail that the profile, like the others in the series, was a “biographical article on [Law’s] lifelong ministry’’ and “did in fact dedicate two paragraphs to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.’’ The archdiocese prints 23,000 copies of the weekly paper, which are sent by mail to subscribers and distributed in parishes.
The criticism of the story about Law was the second time in a week that the paper’s contents have sparked controversy.
A former high-ranking Catholic official in Massachusetts, Daniel Avila, resigned yesterday as a policy adviser to the US bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage in the wake of outcry surrounding an Oct. 28 opinion piece in The Pilot. In it, he suggested that homosexuality is the devil’s work.
Donilon said previously that the piece should not have been published.
Law’s successor, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, is the publisher of the paper, but leaves day-to-day operations to Enrique and does not review articles in advance, Donilon said by e-mail. In a statement issued earlier yesterday, Donilon said O’Malley did not plan to attend Law’s birthday party in Rome; O’Malley is spending a week in Rome to report to the pope. “We understand that some priests and friends of Cardinal Law will be attending this birthday event,’’ the statement said.
Law, the son of a Catholic Air Force colonel, was appointed the spiritual leader of 2 million eastern Massachusetts Catholics in 1984. He became a cardinal in 1985 and resigned in 2002, as accusations mounted that he had covered up priests’ sexual misconduct, transferring them between parishes as they assaulted more victims.
In 2004, a year after his conduct was harshly criticized by the attorney general in a report on clergy sexual abuse in Boston, Law was appointed by the pope to his current position in Rome, as head of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore.
Beyond the birthday party, Law’s continuing role in the church is the greatest affront to abuse victims, advocates said.
“This is a man who enabled the rape and molestation of countless boys and girls,’’ said Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog group that maintains a public archive of records documenting priest abuse. “If there were justice in the world, he should have been disgraced and forced to resign all of his prestigious positions years ago.’’
Jenna Russell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.