I only scanned Cardinal Law’s newest depositions (available at the Boston Globe’s web site), but in reading newspaper reports on them, I can only shake my head some more. The Boston Herald’s treatment is a little incredulous in the beginning, I think, but hits the nail on the head later on.
The article starts out by highlighting the cardinal’s remarks that “I was not facing a major problem with the priesthood.” The reporters make it seem like he’s out of his mind since we all know the scope of the Scandal. But if you read other parts of the deposition, you’ll see that what the cardinal means is that the problem is not pervasive in the priesthood, as a percentage of priests. Only a very small percentage of priests actually committed these heinous acts. That doesn’t excuse the ones that did so or the hierarchy for failing to act, but it does not do the cause of reform and resolution any good to sensationalize the situation.
The article does highlight one disturbing aspect of the whole case that I think explains a lot. The cardinal appeared “clueless” in several circumstances, admitting he allowed his secretary to respond to letters about serious matters in his name and delegating important personnel matters to his auxiliaries.
“The way in which these matters were handled was through delegation,” Law said. “My expectation was and is that allegations would be looked at, would be examined, and that credible allegations would be acted upon.
“A number of things come to your attention every single day,” the cardinal said at one point. “If they’re going to be handled well and expeditiously, delegation is a good way for that to happen.”
That may be fine for some things, but on matters of priests who have shown serious psychological problems and that are a danger to themselves or others, I think that warrants some top-level attention. As in the military, one can delegate authority, but not responsibility. If a warship runs aground, even if it was in the middle of the night and the captain was in bed, he will still lose command, because the actions of all his subordinates are still his responsibility. He should not delegate authority until he is satisfied that the subordinate is ready and prepared to do the right thing.
In the same way, the cardinal is responsible for the failures of his subordinates because his responsibility is the care of the people of God in this archdiocese. Failure to oversee and check up on them is a serious offense before God and man. And it shows a serious lapse in judgment.