Pope memorial mass protest planned

US activists have planned protests in Rome to express outrage that a cardinal who resigned in disgrace after failing to discipline priests who sexually abused children has been chosen by the Vatican to lead a memorial mass for the late pope.

    For many in the Catholic Church, paedophilia is a lesser issue

    Officials with the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (Snap) said they were dismayed that Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the former archbishop of Boston, has been chosen to preside at a mass for the pope on Monday, and said the group's leaders would distribute leaflets outside the event in protest.
    "We plan to pass out flyers outside the mass where Cardinal Law will be presiding," Barbara Blaine, Snap's president, told journalists on Sunday.
    "We're disappointed he's doing this, and we plan to make that clear. It's rubbing salt into the wounds of victims. We feel at this time he should be taking a backseat and not being in the limelight," said Blaine, who said that other protest actions might be added over the course of the coming week.
    Law was tapped to lead the Monday's mass marking the fourth day of the "novendiales" - the nine-day period of formal mourning which began with the pope's funeral mass on Friday.
    After Law was forced to quit in late 2002 over a series of paedophilia sex scandals involving priests in his diocese, he was chosen by the pope to head one of Rome's great basilicas, St Mary Major, where he will lead the memorial mass on Monday.
    For many Catholics in the US, Law continues to symbolize a church hierarchy that protects priests instead of their young victims. 
    Snap comment

    "We are terribly upset about Law's high visibility and his apparent willingness to exploit the pope's death for his own selfish rehabilitation purposes," David Clohessy, Snap's national director told journalists on Sunday. 

    "For the one billion Catholics throughout the world, this is not the most important issue"

    David O'Connell,
    president of The Catholic University in Washington

    "We feel compelled to be there to remind people that his leadership role continues to rub salt into the wounds of already very, very deeply hurt people," he said.
    Another group representing victims of sex abuse by priests, Voice of the Faithful, said Law had, by and large, been given a pass during the scandal that had cost the church millions of dollars in legal settlements and undermined the church's authority for many US Catholics.
    "I think (the pope) perceived the gravity around some of the issues of clergy sexual abuse, but I do think he had a blind spot in understanding Cardinal Law's culpability," said Voice of the Faithful spokeswoman Suzanne Morse. 

    Clohessy said Snap hoped that the group's presence in Rome would ensure that cardinals choose a compassionate successor to John Paul II who might be to sensitive to the paedophilia issue.
    "We want to try to make sure that the clergy sex abuse crisis is on the cardinals' radar screen, and is a part of their decision-making around the next pope," he said.
    "When an 85-year old grandmother whose daughter was repeatedly raped by a Massachusetts priest turns on her television to watch the ceremonies, she ought not to be hurt again ... by seeing Law in a position of honor and respect."
    "It's just grossly insensitive. The most charitable explanation is that Vatican bureaucrats are out of touch," said Clohessy.
    But speaking on CNN television on Sunday, US Catholic clergy said the sex abuse scandal, while serious, should not be allowed to overshadow the conclave.
    "For the one billion Catholics throughout the world, this is not the most important issue," said Father David O'Connell, president of The Catholic University in Washington, DC.



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