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Vatican officials celebrate Cardinal Law’s birthday as the Irish embassy to the Holy See is scheduled to close

November 6, 2011


In an article entitled “Clerics live it up in Vatican for Law’s 80th the Boston Herald reported on the evening of festivities that were held in recognition of Cardinal Bernard Law’s 80th birthday.

The birthday celebration was held at Rome’s Al Chiostro restaurant, and according to reports, guests arrived by way of Vatican Mercedes sedans.  The Al Chiostro is located within a four star hotel called the Palazzo Rospigliosi which was constructed in the 16th century and  proclaims itself as “destined to remain at the pinnacle of Roman high-society for over 400 years”. The hotel informs potential guests that “we can assure you that the Antonio Palazzo Rospigliosi is an aristocratic residence of the late Renaissance situated in Rome’s town center”.

The hotel and restaurant face the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.  Bernard Law was appointed archpriest of the basilica, one of only four major basilicas in Rome, by Pope John Paul II in 2004.  Law received this promotion following his resignation as archbishop of Boston in 2002 amid revelations that Law had knowingly concealed clergy sex crimes in the Boston archdiocese, and allowed those crimes to continue.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents sexual assault victims, reflected on the 80th birthday extravaganza for the disgraced cleric by asking “What’s there to celebrate?  He’s a public figure who represents the church, a church that allowed thousands of children to be sexually molested”.  Garabedian rightly said that honoring Law was a “slap in the face to the victims”.

Phil Saviano, a victim/survivor who is a SNAP leader in Boston, commented that Law is “closing in on his remaining years, and as a man of a faith I know he believes in the final judgment.  I’m curious if he’s getting nervous”.  Saviano added “I wonder if he looks back on all the good he accomplished and if he thinks that…outweighs so many hundreds of kids on his watch who had to go through so much trauma and emotional pain”.

The pain inflicted on countless victims of sexual assault throughout the Boston archdiocese was clearly not on the mind of partygoers. Cardinal Camillo Ruini is quoted by the Herald as thoroughly enjoying the evening, commenting that “the meal was spectacular”.  When asked if Bernard Law enjoyed the party the cardinal stated “of course…he threw the party himself”.

It is ironic that the birthday celebration, held for the former spiritual leader of the archdiocese of Boston, a diocese which is made up of countless Catholics who are able to trace their ancestral heritage to the country of Ireland, was held on the day after it was announced that Ireland would be closing their embassy to the Vatican.

In what can only be described as unprecedented, the government of Ireland announced that their embassy to the Holy See would be vacated.  Dublin’s foreign minister attempted to downplay the significance of the decision, indicating that the embassy was being closed in an attempt to cut costs.  An ambassador to the Vatican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, informed Reuter’s that “all things being equal, I really doubt the mission to the Vatican would have been on the list to get the axe without the fallout from the sex abuse scandal”.

Another Vatican diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, articulated the gravity of the situation by stating “This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history”.  In a prepared statement Cardinal Sean Brady, who is the senior prelate in the Irish Catholic Church, said “the decision seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries”.

The events of the past week; the grand celebration of Bernard Law’s 80th birthday, and the closing of Ireland’s embassy to the Vatican, reveal the distorted sense of reality that is held by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  As the clergy sexual abuse crisis spreads like wildfire across the globe, Vatican officials choose to celebrate, in grand style, the birthday of one of the very bishops who bears responsibility for the cover up and facilitation of clergy sex crimes.

It is also worth noting that the government of Ireland, in addition to closing their embassy to the Vatican, announced that they would be closing their embassy in Iran.

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