John Allen writes in today’s Word from Rome:
On May 27, Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who resigned over his handling of sex abuse allegations, was named Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. The nomination means that Law, 72, will now reside and work in Rome.
I reported that such a move was under consideration in “The Word from Rome” on Feb. 13.
Each of the four major partriarchal basilicas in Rome has a cardinal-archpriest who is the administrator of the facility. Typically it is a quasi-honorary post given at the end of someone’s career.
In Law’s case, the dynamics were different.
In effect, this amounts to a recognition that Law cannot play a public role in the church in the United States, nor could he head a major Vatican agency given both his age and his baggage. This appointment allows him to be part of the Roman scene, continuing to serve as a member of the seven congregations and two councils to which he already belongs, and performing whatever other informal functions might be asked of him.
I seem to recall earlier news reports that he might actually do something more expected of a bishop who has uttlerly failed his flock, such as spend the rest of his life in a monastery praying and meditating on the concept of atonement.
As I wrote on Feb. 13: “I suspect that Rome is in some ways a more comfortable environment for Law than the States; he is not stalked by TV cameras here, and, rightly or wrongly,
many Roman observers regard him with sympathy, believing Law was unfairly made the scapegoat of the American sex abuse crisis.”
Back here at ground zero, for some strange reason, Catholics view this as a slap in the face, and not for the first time begin to wonder is there really any difference between the Vatican and, say, the board of Citibank?
In all seriousness, this scandal has brought home to even orthodox Catholics the sense that the clergy who run the Church really do set themselves apart (in not the best sense of the phrase) from those they are supposed to serve.