US Cardinal Bernard Law presides over a Mass in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica
Tony Gentile  /  Reuters
U.S. Cardinal Bernard Law celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Monday.
updated 4/11/2005 6:07:49 PM ET 2005-04-11T22:07:49

Cardinal Bernard Law celebrated Mass in mourning for Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday, ignoring protests from victims that his handling of the sex abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church should disqualify him from the honor.

Police broke up a small but symbolic protest staged by two victims of sex abuse at the hands of American clergy, escorting one of them off St. Peter’s Square as she was preparing to distribute fliers.

Several uniformed officers walked Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, behind barricades set up at the entrance to the square. The officers did not explain why they escorted Blaine off the piazza, and she had no immediate comment.

Blaine and another leader of the group brought their campaign for reform to the center of Roman Catholicism, demanding that Vatican officials bar Law from celebrating the important Mass mourning John Paul.

'Hurtful decision'
They arrived in Rome just hours before Monday’s service at St. Peter’s Basilica to condemn what they called the Vatican’s “hurtful decision” to choose Law for the honor. The Mass went ahead without disruption.

“In these incredible days, the pope continues to teach us what it means ... to be a follower of Christ,” Law said, reading his homily slowly in Italian. “Our faith has been reinforced.”

He also said Italian, Polish and other pilgrims were inspiring in their huge tribute of love and devotion to John Paul. Nearly 3 million mourners flooded Rome for his funeral last week.

Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had moved predatory clergy among parishes without alerting parents that their children were at risk. More than 550 people have filed abuse claims in Boston in recent years, and the archdiocese has paid more than $85 million in settlements.

American cardinals generally have declined to comment on Law’s celebrating one of the nine daily Masses for John Paul, a period of mourning called Novemdiales. But some have said the Vatican likely chose him because he leads an important church, not to give him a personal honor.

Position of influence
St. Mary Major is one of four basilicas under direct Vatican jurisdiction.

Still, the assignment gives Law a position of influence. In their homilies, cardinals can highlight what they consider key concerns for the church. Observers will be analyzing the remarks for clues as to how the cardinals will vote when they begin meeting April 18 to choose a new pope.

Blaine said earlier Monday that the group was not opposed to Law’s participation in the conclave, but that his public role in the papal transition was hurtful.

“We are the sons and daughters of the Catholic family who were raped, sodomized and sexually molested by priests,” Blaine said, holding a photograph of herself as a child around the time she said a priest began molesting her.

Chicago resident Barbara Blaine holds press releases while surrounded by police and reporters in the Vatican's St. Peter's square
Alessandro Bianchi  /  Reuters
Chicago resident Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is surrounded by Vatican police in St. Peter's Square on Monday before she can distribute fliers criticizing the prominent role given to Cardinal Bernard Law in ceremonies following the death of Pope John Paul II.
“At this time, we should be able to focus on the Holy Father’s death, instead of Cardinal Law’s prominence.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined comment. Law also has declined to comment through an aide at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, where the pope had appointed him archpriest last year. Law has apologized for his failures.

Protesters divide Catholics
The Survivors Network, which claims hundreds of members, has spent more than a decade pressing U.S. bishops to acknowledge the scope of molestation in the church. They have picketed parishes, alerted the public to accused priests living in their communities and pressed authorities to prosecute bishops who failed to report abuse.

Asked if the protest was wrong at a time when the church is grieving, Blaine said bluntly: “The Vatican’s decision to have Law celebrate the Mass was inappropriate.”

Some Catholics say the group is too strident and has close ties with lawyers making millions of dollars from suing the church.

But the Survivors Network says the overwhelming majority of its members have never sued and are too traumatized to do so. They say they adopted their tactics after bishops promised for years to take action against guilty clergy, then never did.

Some Boston Catholics said Law’s role in mourning the pope was another a sign that church officials did not understand the betrayal parishioners felt over his wrongdoing.

Thousands of claims of abuse
The abuse crisis erupted in 2002 with the case of one accused priest in Boston, then spread nationwide, compelling American bishops to enact sweeping reforms of their discipline policy for guilty priests.

According to studies the bishops commissioned to restore trust in their leadership, more than 11,000 abuse claims have been made against U.S. clergy since 1950. The total payout to victims has climbed to at least $840 million.

The Vatican, meanwhile, released video Monday to give outsiders a peek at the conclave where a new pope will be selected by the 115 cardinals who are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote.

The Vatican compiled the videotape to help explain the centuries-old election as cardinals, silenced by a pledge not to talk to the media, met again Monday to plan the conclave.

The video offers a tour of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the hotel-residence for the cardinals during the conclave. It includes shots of the frescoed Sistine Chapel, where the voting occurs, and the path cardinals will take to get there — a first since they previously had been sequestered in the Apostolic Palace for the duration of the conclave.

It also shows the bronze-rimmed urns where the cardinals will place their votes. Previously, cardinals placed their ballots in a chalice. The video ends with a view of the stove, dusty and full of ashes, where the ballots will be burned.

Black smoke wafting from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney signals no pope has been elected, and white smoke signals a new pope.

The videotape was aired as cardinals arrived in the rain at the Vatican for their seventh meeting to map out details of the conclave. Silenced by an unprecedented pledge not to talk before a pope is chosen, they waved to reporters as they headed into their meeting.

Grotto to reopen to public
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced that the grotto beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, where John Paul was laid to rest Friday, would reopen to the public Wednesday at 7 a.m.

Vatican security was preparing the Sistine Chapel, taking undisclosed measures to thwart would-be hackers or electronic eavesdroppers from listening in on the cardinals’ private deliberations and getting early word of who the next pope might be.

The names of those emerging as possible papal successors include contenders from Latin America, such as Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and a Vatican official from Africa: Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.

Europeans mentioned include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria and German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Italian “papabili” include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

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