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Spokeswoman for Boston Archdiocese Holds Press Conference

Aired April 12, 2002 - 15:59   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Orlando, Florida. We want to take you now to Boston, where the Boston Catholic Archdiocese is holding a news conference. The spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Donna Morrissey, is talking with reporters.

I'm told that they're just about to get ready there. CNN's Jason Carroll is on location. Jason, what do we know at this point about what the archdiocese is going to be announcing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you is that just a few moments ago, we received a letter. This letter, coming from Cardinal Bernard Law, where he seems to suggest in this letter that he will not step down as the archbishop of Boston.

And as you know, Judy, for quite some time he's been under heavy criticism for his handling of the church scandal here in Boston. There were many people in the community who have been calling for his resignation, saying that he is not the person to lead the church. I believe that Donna Morrissey is speaking. Let's listen in.

DONNA MORRISSEY, BOSTON, MASS. ARCHDIOCESE: ... and then I'd be happy to take any of your questions. This afternoon, his imminence, Cardinal Law, released a letter to the priest of the archdiocese of Boston. He sent to them information which talked about the difficult times that the archdiocese of Boston and the faithful and victims of the families are going through.

Clearly, the brother priests, who the diocese are the people who communicate on a local level with the faithful of the diocese. And in the letter, Cardinal Law is clear that he, at this time, will continue as archbishop of Boston, as long as God gives him the call to do so. I have copies of the text of the letter, which I would release to all of you. And it speaks for itself.

I have received many questions asking about public events this weekend, so I did want to communicate with you that Cardinal Law, right now, is in private meetings. He is also reflecting and spending a good deal of time in prayer. He derives his strength from prayer. And he is consulting with advisers to determine the best way that he is able to serve the church and serve as archbishop.

He also -- I spoke to him briefly before coming out to address you. And he asked for your prayers for the victims and their families, for the faithful, the archdiocese. But also for Cardinal Law, as he considers the best way that he can serve the church and the faithful.

QUESTION: Donna, did the cardinal offer his resignation to the Vatican?

MORRISSEY: I would not be privy to any discussions the cardinal may have had or not had with the Vatican. But the letter is self- evident that he is continuing as archbishop of Boston. And I would refer you to the text of the letter.


MORRISSEY: I would be happy to take your questions, but one at a time, please.

QUESTION: Donna, can you give us a sense as to his mood today, the past couple days?

MORRISSEY: Well, the cardinal is -- the cardinal is clearly very concerned. He continues to meet with victims and their families. The letter addresses the fact of how troubling it is when there is division. And there needs to be unity. And he is in private meetings and in prayer to find the best way to serve the church and serve the community during this difficult time. And he is committed to making sure that we don't find ourselves in the same situation again.

QUESTION: Does it trouble him that some of his bigger supporters in the past have now said they can't support him anymore? What does he say about that?

MORRISSEY: I spoke to the cardinal briefly before coming out here. And clearly, when he hears people have lost trust in his leadership, that is troubling. But on the other hand, he has also received an outpouring of support from people who are asking for his continued leadership, or asking for him to help us out of this difficult time and help us through this difficult time.

QUESTION: Where are these meetings with victims taking place, Donna?



MORRISSEY: Well, Cardinal Law, in the past has provided communications in various manners. He's provided communications with -- if I could finish -- with the media. He's announced communications through letters and other means. This is an ongoing communication to his brother priests during this difficult time.

And right now, due to the complexity and the pain, he feels that he needs to spend time reflecting, consulting with people in private, so he can determine the best way to serve the church and the community.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the Shanley documents that were released? MORRISSEY: I will give you any further word about communications as I receive word.

QUESTION: Is there a definitive response, in any way, to the growing chorus of people asking for his resignation?

MORRISSEY: The letter is intended to be a communication that follows other communications in recent weeks, to the priests of the diocese and to the faithful of the diocese. It is not...

QUESTION: Is he pondering his resignation?

MORRISSEY: The cardinal is considering the best way that he can serve the diocese and the church.

WOODRUFF: Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Catholic archdiocese in Boston, announcing -- passing out to reporters a copy of the letter that Cardinal Bernard Law has given to priests in the archdiocese this day. In effect, saying that he will not resign his position, despite calls that he step down, calls that he resign.

She went on to say that he is in prayer, that is he meeting with victims and family members. But reiterating that he will not step down.

Jason Carroll, what's the reaction been so far? We know this letter has reached many of the priests, is that correct?

CARROLL: It has. The letter is -- actually, I have a copy of it right here. It's addressed to "my dear brother priests," and it has been sent out to all of the priests within the Boston archdiocese. This is really a situation that has divided the community here in Boston. So it's going to be interesting to see what the reaction is from the community, once everyone gets a chance to read through the letter.

I want to give you some of the highlights here, some of the things that I've highlighted. Cardinal Law says that as long as he's the archbishop, he's determined to provide the strongest leadership possible. He also says that he was distressed, being a lightning rod of division. He says he wants to lead a ministry of unity.

He blamed many of the problems in the past in this letter to a poor bookkeeping system within the archdiocese. He says that it is the desire of the church to protect children. Also, he says it is his desire to serve the archdiocese "as long as God gives me the opportunity." Again, you heard Donna Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, mentioning that.

Just to backtrack a little bit what's been happening here in Boston. Cardinal Law has come under a lot of fire, increasingly, over the past week because of his handling of the case, specifically dealing with Father Paul Shanley. This is an accused pedophile priest who was transferred from parish to parish. Cardinal Law coming under heavy fire for that this week. Many people calling for his resignation. Closing out in this letter, he says, "Looking back, I see we were too focused on the individual components of each case, when we should have been more focused on the protection of children." Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jason Carroll reporting from Boston. And just to reiterate, Bernard Cardinal Law, the Catholic archbishop in Boston, saying he will not resign his position. Saying that he is thinking about the best way to serve the church and the faithful, but he will not step down.




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