Magazine article Newsweek

The Wound Is Not Healed: For America's Catholics, Law's Resignation Is but a Beginning

Magazine article Newsweek

The Wound Is Not Healed: For America's Catholics, Law's Resignation Is but a Beginning

Article excerpt

Byline: Kenneth L. Woodward

Last September Boston College invited me to address the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church--my church. Four thousand people turned out, not because I was speaker, but because their anger and frustration over the sex-abuse scandal had found no other better outlet. Cardinal Law's resignation last week lanced a festering boil; it will not heal the wound. Indeed, it was typical of Law that he chose to resign in Rome, at a safe distance from the faithful he and his subordinates (several now bishops themselves) had so haughtily ill served.

The fall of this country's senior Catholic prelate sends notice: no one is immune from justice, whatever the color of his robes. The sight of Thomas Reilly, a Catholic attorney general, reprimanding a cardinal of the church has been both sobering and salutary. All too often, our bishops look up and over their shoulders--in the direction of the Vatican--before deciding how to act. Unlike their European counterparts, American Catholics have never been an anticlerical breed. But the continuing trauma puts this tradition to the test.

So far, I think, Rome has spoken wisely. The Vatican was right last October to demand of the American bishops due process for priests accused of sexual abuse. Victims' groups cried foul, as did The New York Times, but neither seems to understand that a bishop's bond with his priests is one of father to sons. Fathers do not automatically throw their sons out of the house when they are accused of wrongdoing. …

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