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Cardinal Law Resigns as Bishop of Archdiocese in Boston

Aired December 13, 2002 - 08:39   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: More on that breaking news we have been watching all morning out of Boston and the Vatican as well, Cardinal Law's resignation as bishop of the archdiocese in Boston. The cardinal says he now hopes his decision will help the archdiocese to heal and to move forward. Father Thomas Reese, editor and chief of "America" magazine and a CNN analyst is our guest in New York.
Father, nice to see you. Good move? It's about time? Your reaction is what?

REV. THOMAS REESE, CNN RELIGION ANALYST: Absolutely. This is the good move. It's good news for Boston. It should have happened a long time ago.

HEMMER: Why did it not happen a long time ago if that is the case?

REESE: Well, I think that Cardinal Law just didn't get it. He didn't realize that what he did was so egregious, and that there was no way he could fix the problem that he had created.

HEMMER: But it was not true back in April that he did offer his resignation, right?

REESE: Well, you know...

HEMMER: Is that not the truth?

REESE: You always wonder when you offer a resignation, it can be yes, I really, I want to go, or it can be, you don't want me to resign, do you? So I don't know exactly how this was phrased or what was done, but I think the overwhelming evidence that's come with all of these documents released I think convinced the Vatican he had to go.

HEMMER: The documents from last week were very incendiary in so many different areas. In addition to that, on Sunday, you had 58 priests in the Boston area essentially sign a letter and tell the cardinal to step down. Did the priest do that because they knew the inevitable was on the way, that we saw today, and did they do that as some sort of an impetus to make sure that it happens?

REESE: I think the priests did that to help move the resignation forward, that they felt they had an obligation to stand up and speak and say, the cardinal had to go. They didn't have any previous knowledge that he, in fact, was going to resign. HEMMER: Let's fan this out across the country right now. If you're not in Boston, perhaps you're maybe in San Francisco or Seattle, what's the message ultimately that is sent through this that Catholics right now need to hear and that priests need to hear in their parishes across the country?

REESE: I think the message is that the church has got it, finally. I mean, the message is out now to every bishop in the world that this sexual abuse crisis is top priority, the bishop has a responsibility to deal with it, and if he doesn't deal with it, he will be held responsible. I mean, if a cardinal can fall, then any bishop who does not do the job right will fall, too.

HEMMER: Yes or no -- does it make it a stronger church on the American side?

REESE: Definitely.

HEMMER: And if that's the case then, does the church now truly listen to the laity, men and women working in churches across the country, who say we need a stronger voice, we need a bigger hand? Does that now happen?

REESE: I think that every bishop in the country realizes now that he's going to have to spend a lot more time listening than talking to the laity. This is a real change in the church. And I think if they do that, I think we can have a healing process and move forward.

HEMMER: So do you think there is a doubt that they won't do that?

REESE: Oh, no, I think that they got it now.

HEMMER: As a priest, you're running a parish now, men and women come to you and say, what ideas do you incorporate from them?

REESE: Well, I think every pastor, priest and bishop has to listen to the laity, has to listen to people, ask their opinions, consult with them, get them involved in the church, because the people in the pews are the church; you know, it's not just the clergy and the bishop.

HEMMER: No question about it. Quickly here, do you think the Vatican felt this is an American problem, you built the pile, you stepped in it, you do the dirty work in terms of cleaning it up?

REESE: Well, certainly, this is the responsibility of the bishops. The pope is not, you know, supervising every priest in the United States. The bishop is the one who's responsible for supervising his priests and, clearly, I think the bishops realize that now, and they have policies in place, they have a zero tolerance policy in place, and I think we can now move forward.

HEMMER: Thank you, Father. Father Thomas Reese, have a good Christmas, OK. REESE: You, too.


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