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Finneran: Cardinal Law

Friday, December 22, 2017


The simple utterance of his name causes Catholics to grind their teeth.

He was one of us.

Even more than that, he held a position of very high honor and responsibility within a precious and global faith.

He seemed to enjoy the honor part. He failed--miserably, spectacularly, and criminally--at the responsibility part.

The crimes that he covered up remain a raw and gaping wound for the victims. The crimes that he covered up stand as a colossal and eternal shame on the Catholic Church. Faithful Catholics shudder at the damage and degradation enabled by Mr. Law.

The first order of his victims are the young innocent and vulnerable children who were sexually abused by predator priests. Rather than the receiving the guidance and protection they deserved, they were groped and raped and threatened by people whom their parents revered and whom they themselves trusted. The crimes committed against them were and are a profound betrayal of everything decent and everything Catholic.

The second order of victims were the hundreds and hundreds of good priests whose calling to a life of faith became an object of ridicule and contempt. Law’s cowardice and criminality washed over these good men, staining their lives and reputations, making them targets of suspicion and shame. That many of these good and honorable priests would have throttled and jailed the handful of abusers who shamed the Roman collar, I have no doubt. Their righteous anger would have mirrored Jesus’ biblical anger at the money-changers who defiled his house of worship. Law had no such sense of honor. Any sense of indignation he may have held for the predators got subordinated to his desire for the red hat. Such a precious trinket was the red hat, now and forever cheapened by his dark secrets and grotesque crimes.

The third order of victims are the faithful parishioners who make up the heart and soul of the Catholic Church. To say that they were stunned by the revelations of predator priests and Law’s willful cover-up is the understatement of all time. Their faith was shaken. Indeed, their faith was shattered that such evil had cloaked itself within the shrouds of the “leaders” of their faith. Many of them left the Church, never to return. Others wept, stunned at the magnitude of the crime, but holding on for dear life to the teachings of Jesus which animated their lives. Many still weep.

The fourth order of victims is the Church itself. The history of the Catholic Church needs no embellishment. No organization in the history of the world has done more to feed, to clothe, to house, to educate, and to heal millions of people around the globe. Catholic education is renowned. Catholic hospitals and clinics are legendary outposts of humane care. Catholic priests and nuns are the embodiment of a living faith, a faith brought to life in Matthew’s gospel of ministering to the least among us. Law’s crimes spread an indelible stain on those good people and their good works.

Faithful Catholics believe that a sincere act of contrition and penance paves the way for passage into the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. Perhaps Cardinal Law reflected on his crimes and made such contrition and penance. I just wish that there had been a more visible and humble life of faithful service—in a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter—rather than spending his remaining days in a Vatican palace. More Mother Teresa and less red hat nonsense would have gone a long way with some of us.

The Lord’s Prayer is part of the service at every Catholic Mass. The eternal challenge of that prayer is forgiveness—“....forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.......”. Many faithful attendees tremble at the thought of forgiving those whose crimes know no bounds, those who could have stopped the predator rampage with one word. That Law failed to stop it leaves me cold and unforgiving, in a very un-Christian like fury.

Lucky for Law, I leave his final judgement to Jesus.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio


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