Cardinal Law in Rome

Cardinal Law in Rome

Everyone’s talking about a Boston Magazine profile of Cardinal Bernard Law nearly four years after he resigned as archbishop of Boston. It seems that many are unwilling to move on, witnesses by the article’s title “Our Man in Rome.” “Our” man?

It’s about what you’d expect from such a profile in a secular magazine. While it covers some interesting details, much of the understanding of the Church is flawed. For example, the writer starts with a Sunday Mass at St. Mary Major Basilica celebrated by Law. He notes that at the beginning of Mass one of the canons mentions that it is the 45th anniversary of Law’s priesthood, but then the writer, Francis Rocca, says Law omits any mention of it in his homily.

Yet in his manner and words, the cardinal gave off an air of detachment. In his brief homily at that anniversary Mass, delivered in his heavily accented Italian, he confined himself to a general commentary on the day’s gospel reading. He did not share a single reference to his own life or to the career his parishioners honored that morning. For a listener aware of the fierce controversy that brought him here, that omission was conspicuous, and underscored the unlikeliness of his present post.

Or Law was doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. The priest is not the point of the Mass and he should not draw attention to himself or make himself the center of attention. Now, I know that for some bishops and priests that can be difficult to carry off, but should we fault Law for what looks like humility?

A luxurious life in a palatial apartment?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • (You may think he shied away from confrontation but I am aware of several situations where he was not in the least bit shy of it, in fact risking his authority by petty gestures of authoritarianism.)

    I would agree with this and it’s what drove many people batty. In the big public situations that demanded his personal involvement he wasn’t involved, but in situations best left to others he meddled. He was a micro-manager of the worst kind, including in many situations involving certain priests.

    He also gradually alienated a good deal of his presbyterate (not all of the alienated were of the Walter Cuenin camp)

    Correct again. I think that’s what ultimately did him in: alienating priests across the board. They knew better than anyone what his leadership and management style was.

  • Dear Dom,

    I am aware a priest may celebrate a particular Mass in honor of his anniversary to the priesthood.  This fact, even if it did happen, probably would have been missed by the reporter.

    Thank you for this commentary.