Cdl. Law in Rome


A look at His Eminence's re-emergence in connection with his new title at St. Mary Major.


Law's appointment is a sad and disheartening disgrace. The public record is quite clear. He knowingly covered up and repeatedly reappointed aggressive, repeat homosex predators to parish after parish. His claims that he relied on psychologists, etc., even if he really means them, are a sign of criminal negligence.

Basic papa-bear instinct tells one that two weeks at St. Luke's Tennis Club & Spa in Maryland for the third time doesn't cure deep-seated sexual criminal tendencies. You don't keep putting such men around trusting teenage boys in a fatherly capacity. Documents show that Law almost certainly perjured himself repeatedly in court in the Geoghan trial.

I recognize that some of y'all may get a bit tired of my recounting details whenever Law or one like him comes up. But it is so important to remember what this man did, and why it is a disgrace that he ever holds even a ceremonial post again. Because it is a disgrace. Rome erodes the Church's credibility by giving Law a golden parachute. And nothing, it seems, will change unless faithful Catholics repeatedly denounce such moves.

The Patristic fathers knew how to handle clerical reprobates: they excommunicated them, and called them to repentance, and did not entrust them with high positions.

Beregond, for all you know, Cardinal Law has already repented. The Church is here to show Christ's mercy, not to do whatever's politically correct whenever it's demanded. The Church is here to offer Christ's forgiveness to all -- even Cardinal Law, even when the world is shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The Church is not Pontius Pilate.

One thing we agree on is that he should not be given any prominent position. He hasn't been. This is a nothing position. It will not earn him prestige, it will not give him power, it will not increase his wealth. It's ceremonial. Was it prudent to give him this ceremonial position? I don't know, maybe not, but I don't know that we need to "repeatedly denounce" it. Maybe we should instead focus upon our own sins, particularly the sins of the lay faithful that helped contribute to the sexual abuse scandal (believe it or not, it was not all the Bishops' fault).

I don't particularly like Cardinal Law either, and I admit that I was pretty angry when I first read about this, but it's frankly time to get over it. If Cardinal Law repented, then it is for the Church to show him mercy, not to do what the world wants done with him.

Whether or not Cardinal Law has repented of his crimes isn't relavant to this sort of matter. Appointing him to an in-fact posh retirement with a $20,000-month stipend in the Eternal City--where he's out of reach of nosy prosecutors who could ask him to testify at the upcoming Shanley trial--is inappropriate. There's certainly a motive, though. Law could either disclose damaging information, or perjure himself, and Rome likely doesn't want to see either spectacle occur.

"Getting over it" is exactly what the USCCB, and perhaps curial officials, want us to do. This idea that somehow insisting the Church not pamper clerical criminals is "crucifixion" or a "lack of mercy" boggles my mind. True mercy means that as long as Law isn't in prison where he belongs, that Rome ask him to spend the rest of his life doing penance in a monastery--in the United States where he can be called to account in trial if needed.

I for one would be incapable of, for instance, telling the family of Wichita, KS abuse victim and suicide Eric Patterson, whose abuser was repeatedly covered by two different bishops, that we should "get over it."

Princes of the Church should be subject to the same laws as everyone else, and higher standards--as Christ and the apostles all modeled for us. That's something that says that the Catholic Church is something different. That she has a message that all humanity needs to hear: God has redeemed us from sin and opened the gates of Heaven through the death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Regarding the role of the laity: I agree that lay people in these situations bear some responsibility. The trouble is, in a lot of cases, the homosex predators pick on boys who lack confidence in themselves. Boys who have tough family situations, and might not easily recognize that they have a responsibility to the common good. A responsibility to go straight to the police, not just the diocese.

Also, it is terribly difficult for a teenage boy to admit he's been abused sexually by a man--especially if his body responded physically to the abuse. That doesn't mean he's gay, just that he's human and going through adolescence. But the abuser could say it on the stand, adding to the boy's already terrible humiliation.

So there are lots of complicating factors on the lay end. Thus, it is the responsibility of bishops and priests to be especially vigilant along with parents. Canonical trials are needed in abuse cases, to ensure due process for both accuser and accused. Neither the priest nor accuser should be left hanging in limbo, especially if the victim doesn't press charges and thus the civil avenue isn't taken.

Unfortunately, as Boston documents showed, dioceses often don't want canonical due process because it would generate documents that could be subpoenaed. Thinking like what Gov. Keating called the mafia, rather than the Church.

Did I miss something in the article, Beregond? It says the Cardinal gets 4000 Euros a month. I don't know if there's any truth to that 20K figure.

A journalist who writes regularly on the issue told me that it was $20K US. I'll check the figure.

Haven't heard back from my friend yet but googled on my own. New York Times reported on May 28 that Law would get his basilica predecessor's $12,000/month stipend. WorldNetDaily's Bill Press, for what it's worth, reports that figure also.

The Globe article that RC attached to this posting reports a $4,900 US (4,000 EU) monthly salary "as a Vatican cardinal" which is supposed to cover car, help, and living expenses. Status as a Cardinal attached to the Vatican is distinct from the specific task Law has taken on; it may well be that he's being paid for both.

The Globe article does not say that the $4,900 is all the compensation Law gets. It If both the NY Times and the Boston Globe are correct he gets both--which would add up to $16,900 a month. Not shabby, even in Rome.


You're reading too much into sloppy reporting and terminology:

Status as a Cardinal attached to the Vatican is distinct from the specific task Law has taken on; it may well be that he's being paid for both.

Cardinals do not receive a salary from the Vatican simply for being a Cardinal. In fact, they are expected to bring in money to Rome through fundraising.

The phrase "Vatican Cardinal" is practically meaningless - every Cardinal is a "Vatican" cardinal, in that they all have positions on various commissions. But those committee posts "go with the territory", so to speak. They're not paid positions.

Cardinal Law does not have a posting in a Vatican dicastery, and so will receive no salary as "Vatican Cardinal". He's receiving a salary for his appointment at St. Mary Major. The article said he receives the same salary as a Vatican cardinal, which would fit with the way they structure clerical compensation there. I know a little about this because I know a couple of priests and a bishop who work in Rome.

The Vatican actually pays its episcopal employees pretty poorly. The highest Vatican posts (like Cardinal Ratzinger's) do, in fact pay about $4,000-$5,000/month. There's no way Law is getting 3-4 times that. The Vatican is notoriously tight-fisted, as any priest who has worked there can tell you. And it is in fact true that bishop's and cardinals have to pay for their staff (secretaries, housekeepers, etc.) out of their own pockets.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on July 4, 2004 10:27 AM.

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