DALLAS – Boston's embattled Cardinal Bernard Law listened solemnly Thursday as the leader of America's Roman Catholic bishops confessed he and his colleagues have not done enough to protect minors from sexually abusive priests.
Law was one of the first priests to stand and applaud as Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, urged the clergy to "contribute to full reconciliation and healing in the church."
Among the hundreds of church leaders attending the bishops' meeting on clerical sex abuse, Law has probably been the most damaged by the crisis.
The nationwide scandal erupted after church documents were made public in Boston, revealing that Law knew of accusations against former priest John Geoghan but still transferred him between parishes. Geoghan is now serving up to 10 years in prison for molesting a boy, and has been accused by 130 people.
Law has apologized to abuse victims and tightened sex abuse policies in the Boston Archdiocese.
The cardinal has been an influential player among Roman Catholics, meeting with U.S. presidents and still serving as the only American with the Vatican agency that nominates bishops to the pope.
But so far he has kept a low-profile in Dallas since his arrival Wednesday afternoon.
During the emotional opening session of the bishops' meeting Thursday, Law stayed focused on Gregory and several other speakers, including abuse victims, from his spot at a long table near the middle of a large banquet hall. He was surrounded by fellow bishops, but didn't appear to talk to them.
Russell Shaw, former press secretary for the bishops' conference, said Law may speak out before the meeting ends Saturday. There is pressure on Law to address the bishops, preferably in a public session.
"It's quite important that he say something and that what he says is quite public," said Shaw. "People want to know and they are entitled to know what he says on this issue."