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Catholics Seek Hope From Boston Bishop

December 16, 2002

BOSTON (AP) _ Maureen Fallon didn’t mince words about why she made the trip to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for Mass.

Her faith was at stake, and to remain a Roman Catholic, she said she needed a message of rebirth from Bishop Richard Lennon, the man appointed to shepherd the Boston Archdiocese out of a storm of scandal.

``We’re looking forward to a new beginning, a fresh beginning,″ said Fallon, 60, her grandson, Kevin, sleeping in a bassinet by her side. ``I’m just very happy that Cardinal Law has left, and maybe we can get back on our feet.″

Catholics from city neighborhoods and suburbs alike turned their eyes Sunday to the cathedral pulpit, where the man replacing Law pledged to heal the wounds that have scarred the archdiocese during a yearlong tempest of clergy sexual abuse.

Lennon, celebrating Mass for the first time since his appointment Friday as interim administrator, acknowledged that the crisis has riven the church, causing ``dismay, disappointment, frustration and anger.″

``How many are brokenhearted, how many are captives of the crimes and the sins of sexual abuse against minors? How many have had their freedom curtailed because of injustice?″ Lennon said. ``I pledge to do all that I can to be a shepherd of this great archdiocese, relying on the prayers, the support, the assistance of all of God’s people.″

Law’s resignation was announced Friday, although church officials said Sunday that he had decided on Dec. 5 to seek Vatican permission to resign. That was the same day that victims’ attorneys released another batch of damaging internal church documents.

Lennon pleaded with churchgoers to renew their faith through unity and piety. His words were received with applause at the end of his sermon. He received a second ovation during the recessional.

After the service, Lennon left the cathedral, made his way through a crush of reporters and television cameras and talked briefly with protesters, some of whom say they are victims of abusive priests.

While some protesters appreciated the gesture, Lennon’s presence did not mollify all. As he retreated to the cathedral, protesters exhorted him to release any other files about sexually abusive priests.

Mary Castoldi, 76, of Newton, came to hear Lennon’s words, but walked out halfway through in disappointment. A member of the reform group Voice of the Faithful, she called Lennon’s homily ``a waste of time.″

``He was all holy, holy with the purple robes and incense. But his words meant nothing,″ she said.

Brian Flaherty, 26, a former seminarian from Norwood, said Lennon’s words indicated that he would be a good leader for the troubled archdiocese.

``I was very happy. It was what I expected him to say,″ he said.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman, said Lennon would meet with ``many groups″ in coming days. Though Coyne didn’t have Lennon’s specific meeting schedule, he said his itinerary Monday and Tuesday could include meetings with victims, their lawyers and priests.

``He wants to meet with them, and he wants to hear what they have to say,″ Coyne said.

Lennon wasn’t the only bishop who spoke about the abuse scandal Sunday.

Bishop John McCormack, leader of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., told parishioners that he is haunted by his part in the church sex scandal, and for the first time apparently questioned whether it could affect his future as bishop.

McCormack has been dogged for nearly a year by accusations that he failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests while he served in the Archdiocese of Boston as a top deputy to Law from 1984 to 1994.

As part of an agreement last week with prosecutors, McCormack acknowledged that the church had harmed children by moving abusive priests from parish to parish.

However, McCormack tempered the remark by adding that the best way he can help alleged victims is ``to serve and lead the church in New Hampshire well.″

Attorney Roderick MacLeish, who represents hundreds of alleged victims in the Boston area, said he had decided to postpone a deposition of Law until Jan. 4, but said litigation would continue with ``no interruption or stand down.″

The Boston Globe reported that new insurance estimates would give the archdiocese tens of millions of additional dollars to resolve claims. Coyne said the archdiocese still considered declaring bankruptcy an option.

He also expressed hope that the changes at the top of the archdiocese hierarchy might spur new giving from Catholics, whose giving to the archdiocese has dropped off in the face of the scandal.

``The man who’s been in charge of the Cardinal’s appeal says that he’s got a whole file filled with letters that say they’re going to give as soon as the Cardinal resigns. And so he’s going to start sending out some follow-up letters, I think,″ Coyne said.

Andrew Henderson, 31, said he stopped going to Holy Cross five months ago because of the scandal, and only recently began giving money to the church again. He returned Sunday to hear Lennon. While ``it’s hard to tell with only one sermon″ what his tenure will be like, he said he was pleased.

``It was difficult for me to go here in light of the many revelations,″ Henderson. ``But now seems to be a good time to heal.″

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