VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as archbishop of Boston, in the wake of clergy sex scandals.
“It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed,” the 71-year-old U.S. cardinal said, in a statement published today by the Vatican Press Office.
The announcement took place after Cardinal Law was received in audience by the Pope, who appointed Boston’s Auxiliary Bishop Richard Gerard Lennon, 55, as temporary apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.
Cardinal Law’s statement is also a public petition for forgiveness. “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness,” he said.
“To the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, with whom I have been associated in serving the common good; these include those from the ecumenical, Jewish, and wider interreligious communities as well as public officials and others in the civil society,” he added.
“The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. Please keep me in your prayers,” Cardinal Law concluded.
His visit to the Vatican this week came as he was under intense criticism in the United States for his supervision of sexually abusive priests.
John Paul II is “deeply saddened” by the resignation, a Vatican representative told the press.
Cardinal Law’s resignation takes place following last week’s decision by the archdiocese’s finance commission to allow him to begin bankruptcy proceedings, for which the cardinal would have needed Vatican approval.
Some 450 plaintiffs have sued the archdiocese over cases of sexual abuse by priests.
The Holy See has not revealed what public function Cardinal Law will now carry out, although sources of the Vatican Press Office said he might remain as a member of some of the Vatican congregations and commissions.
Born in Torreon, Mexico, on Nov. 4, 1931 (his father was an aeronautics official), he was ordained a priest in 1961. Law was appointed bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on Oct. 22, 1973. John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Boston in 1984, and made him a cardinal the following year.
In recent years, Cardinal Law became a significant figure of the Church in the United States and exercised notable influence abroad, as demonstrated by his missions to Cuba in 1985, Nicaragua in 1988 and Vietnam in 1991.
He has often intervened publicly in political, social and ethical debates in the United States on issues of social justice and the defense of life.