Victims demand US Church reform


People who say they were abused by paedophile priests have welcomed the resignation of the Archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law.

But they demanded that the Roman Catholic Church across the US continue to address the sex-abuse scandal which has rocked it since the beginning of the year.

Cardinal Law has been accused of covering up abuse by priests and of moving paedophile clerics from parish to parish rather than addressing the accusations against them.

The Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Law as the head of the Boston Church after a short meeting at the Vatican on Friday.

Click for Boston scandal timeline

Cardinal Law - who remains a cardinal - issued a statement saying he hoped his action would foster "the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed".

He said: "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness."

But the cardinal, 71, and the man named as temporary replacement in the archdiocese - Bishop Richard Lennon - will remain in the spotlight, victims and their advocates vowed.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the Pope's decision to accept the resignation was part of a "damage limitation exercise".

The Boston diocese faces some 450 lawsuits alleging child abuse and is considering filing for bankruptcy.

'It's not over'

Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer representing more than 200 people suing the archdiocese, said the legal action would continue and that a deposition from Cardinal Law scheduled for next week would go ahead.

He said many of his clients took comfort in the resignation and hoped it was a step on the way towards healing.

But he warned: "There is great fear that, with respect to the resignation of Cardinal Law, this will be used by some to believe that this problem is over.

"It's not over, it's not over by a long shot," he said.

"This wasn't about a bad day in Sunday school - this was about... being raped, in some instances by your parish priest when you were six years old."

Mr MacLeish, flanked by victims and their families at a news conference, praised the many good priests who had been unfairly tarnished by the scandal and urged people to be positive.

"This is a good Church, it does many great things," he said.

"It has a major, major problem right now and it's not confined to the Archdiocese of Boston."

A victim's wish

One of his young clients, Christopher Fulchino, made an emotional speech urging victims to be strong, to acknowledge what had been done to them and not to be afraid.

His father, Tom, who was himself abused by his priest allowed his children to attend church though he tried to ensure they were never left alone.

But one day, Christopher says he was called out of Sunday school class and abused by Father John Geoghan, now in prison for molestation.

"I'm glad that the cardinal did resign, I'm glad that this day has finally come," he said.

Other activists said the resignation had to lead to more action to combat priestly abuse - an issue which has rocked churches in the US and other countries and which led to an unprecedented condemnation of paedophile priests by the Pope earlier this year.

Mike Emerton, of the Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful, told BBC News Online: "Just because there is a new person in the chair doesn't mean it's over."

Mark Serrano, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest (Snap), said: "It's sad that it would take the Church this long to remove the man responsible for so much devastation."

adam on Saturday 14 December 2002 - 01:14:06