Abuse Victim Advocates Protest Bernard Law

Leaders of an advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse said Sunday they were flying to Rome to protest the Vatican's choice of Cardinal Bernard Law (search) to celebrate an important Mass mourning Pope John Paul II (search).

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (search) said Law's presence was painful to victims and embarrassing to Catholics. Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had allowed priests guilty of abusing children to move among parish assignments and had not notified the public.

On Monday, he will lead one of the nine daily Masses for the pope at Rome's St. Mary Major Basilica, the church where John Paul appointed him archpriest. Survivors Network representatives plan to be there to distribute fliers on how Law mishandled abuse cases.

"We certainly do not want to cause any additional pain or suffering to anyone attending the memorial service for the Holy Father," Barbara Blaine, the group's founder, said in a phone interview from the United States. "Our concern is that many Catholics going there don't know the history with Cardinal Law and that's why we want to inform them."

Law has apologized for his wrongdoing. A man who answered the phone at the basilica said Law would not comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also declined to comment.

Some in the Catholic Church have said the Vatican likely asked Law to preside over the service because he leads an important church, not to give him a personal honor. The church is one of four basilicas under direct Vatican jurisdiction.

Still, the assignment gives Law a position of influence. In their homilies, cardinals usually indicate what they consider the key concerns for the church. Observers scour the speeches for clues to how a cardinal will vote.

Some Catholics in Boston protested and said it was a sign that Vatican officials did not understand the betrayal parishioners felt that predators were not kept away from children.

The abuse crisis erupted in January 2002 with the case of one accused priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread throughout the United States and beyond. Hundreds of accused clergy have been removed from parish work in America over the last three years and the U.S. church says it has paid at least $840 million for settlements with victims since 1950.