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Bernard Law’s big birthday bash

In news from the Failing Upward file, a disgusted Catholic friend passes along this Boston Herald account [1]of Cardinal Bernard Law’s 80th birthday celebration in Rome:

Cardinal Bernard Law was treated to a lavish birthday spread, the company of a conclave of clerics and even the music of a mariachi band in a four-star Italian hotel, where guests rolled up in Vatican Mercedes sedans and left singing the praises of the fallen prelate promoted to his Holy City post after decades of covering up clergy sex abuse in Boston.

The resplendent reception that marked Law’s 80th birthday sent shock waves an ocean away in Boston, where the mere mention of his name still sparks seething anger in clergy abuse victims whose attackers he protected during his years as archbishop.

According to the Herald, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who had to clean up Law’s mess in Boston, was in Rome on business, but did not attend the event. Sounds like he missed a high time:

Beyond the gate, a cobblestone path led to the airy courtyard, where two banquet tables offered dozens of bottles of vino and meat-stuffed pastry d’oeuvres. Inside, a mariachi band played and sang the well-known ranchero refrain, “Cielito Lindo,” as guests devoured a main course of lasagna and snacked on cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and fine prosciutto, piled in a pyramid and placed on a pedestal. The party drew high clergy and laymen alike; guests sat six to a table.

“The meal was spectacular,” said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Archdiocese of Rome. He twirled his hand in the air, a common Italian gesture for satisfaction. He said Law appeared to enjoy the feast as well.

“Of course,” Ruini said. “He threw the party himself.”

“He’s a good friend of mine,” he added before heading toward his cab. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico was all smiles as he left in the company of two nuns.

“Everyone enjoyed the party,” he said. “It was very animated. Everyone was very, very happy.”

Words fail. These churchmen and their courtiers are the walking dead. Do they not fear God? 

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "Bernard Law’s big birthday bash"

#1 Comment By John E On November 7, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

Do they not fear God?

Well, although I can’t be certain of their subjective experience, I would say that they do not behave in the way that people who fear God would be expected to behave under their circumstances.

BTW, where does the money for those parties come from?

#2 Comment By Surly On November 7, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

Nope–they created God in their own image. Bless their hearts.

#3 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 8, 2011 @ 12:25 am

Of course they don’t. They confess their sin, do some penance and then get absolved. Of course God, let us sincerely hope, is not impressed by the absolution and has a nice, warm place waiting for them.

#4 Comment By Robert On November 8, 2011 @ 1:35 am

Many years ago Professor Michael Levin (non-practicing Jewish philosopher in New York) pointed out that the trouble with modern Christianity is it is in fact run by atheists. That was 25 years ago; I have no evidence to show that he was definitively wrong, and much evidence (of which this is the latest) to show that he was definitively right.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On November 8, 2011 @ 3:14 am

Good grief, Rod. You sound like those who criticized Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors. Would you have been a wet blanket at the Wedding of Cana? Whatever failings Cardinal Law suffered in his many years of church ministry, and they are certainly well cataloged, more-so than those of us peons whose sins are as many if less consequential, he and his friends are certainly entitled to celebrate the milestone of his 80th birthday. If there is a greater reckoning to occur, for his life as well as for ours, it will come at that time that birthdays are celebrated no more.

#6 Comment By Jay On November 8, 2011 @ 7:20 am

I’m not Catholic and so it’s conceivable that I am getting this wrong, but isn’t there something about a vow of poverty?

#7 Comment By Hunsdon On November 8, 2011 @ 7:31 am

If they do not fear God, they very obviously also do not fear the wrath of Catholic parishioners.

What was that line from the 1950s? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

I suppose we should come up with another acronym besides TBTF, perhaps TPTF, for Too Powerful To Fail, or TITF, Too Important To Fail. Why, just the other day I was walking around the atrium in my stern (small-r) republican toga and wondering why falling on your sword has gone out of fashion amongst our perpetually screwing-up elites.

#8 Comment By MH – secular misanthropist On November 8, 2011 @ 7:39 am

I second John E ‘s sentiment and will add

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca

So I ask, would you describe these men as common, wise, or powerful?

#9 Comment By Zathras On November 8, 2011 @ 8:21 am

Robert: “Many years ago Professor Michael Levin (non-practicing Jewish philosopher in New York) pointed out that the trouble with modern Christianity is it is in fact run by atheists.”

That’s very interesting. I’d love to see some development of this thought. Do you have a link?

#10 Comment By Roland de Chanson On November 8, 2011 @ 9:14 am

What a repugnant display. I’d write some denunciation of Law but I did that half a dozen times on your own blog and I’m just inured to the corruption and ostentation of the hierarchy by now.

Ditto the cabal in the Boston chancery where the superintendent of schools (an ever shrinking system) makes $325,000 per year. The sheep like to be fleeced.

I do check the Globe and Herald, though, on the off-chance that some virtuous and devout soul will empty his chamber pot on Law’s head as he processes out from one of his novus ordure masses.

#11 Comment By Roland de Chanson On November 8, 2011 @ 9:16 am

Oops – typo – read “on your old blog” for “on your own blog”. Sorry.

#12 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 8, 2011 @ 9:17 am

If they do not fear God, they very obviously also do not fear the wrath of Catholic parishioners.

They have learned that they really don’t have to. To be fair to parishioners, though, there is nothing within the system to allow them to effectively push for moral reform. All they can do is to suck it up, or walk away.

#13 Comment By Hunsdon On November 8, 2011 @ 9:23 am

Rod said: All they can do is to suck it up, or walk away.

Hunsdon replied: That is my very great fear, and to my mind, should be the institutional Church’s as well: that good Catholic parishioners will find themselves looking at the Church, and thinking, “Ain’t my Church. Time to walk.” Go ahead, guys. Hollow out the Church. Drive away good people who still have sufficient gag reflex to be revolted by this. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

#14 Comment By JO On November 8, 2011 @ 9:36 am

OK, I guess I’m with William Dalton. Criticism at ostentatious parties for Catholic prelates is legitimate – for reasons of giving example, wasting money, and lots of other reasons. But why exactly should they be presumed not to fear God? How is judging the current state of his soul (as opposed to objectively denouncing his role in Boston) any better than what he is doing? Why is this display more morally culpable just because Cardinal Law was egregiously terrible as a bishop? Are sinners like Law not permitted to have birthday parties? I’m not defending him. He was terrible. But I don’t get why this is so much worse because of his role in the abuse scandal.

Rod, can I also suggest something regarding Law’s appointment. It never made sense to me all the criticism of his appointment to St. Mary Major. Have you ever been there? It is a tourist attraction, with hardly any parishioners. It makes sense to me to put him someplace where he little to no interaction with parishioners, and no administrative responsibilities with regard to a diocese or other priests. Just a thought….

#15 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 8, 2011 @ 9:41 am

But why exactly should they be presumed not to fear God? How is judging the current state of his soul (as opposed to objectively denouncing his role in Boston) any better than what he is doing? Why is this display more morally culpable just because Cardinal Law was egregiously terrible as a bishop? Are sinners like Law not permitted to have birthday parties? I’m not defending him. He was terrible. But I don’t get why this is so much worse because of his role in the abuse scandal.

Because he went from having played a key role in destroying individual lives, and inflicting grievous harm on the Archdiocese of Boston, not to a retirement of penance and humility, but to a high-living position in Rome. And yes, I have been to St. Mary Major. Law ought to have been sent to a monastery, or ought to have removed himself to a monastery, or some place far from the limelight. Instead, he couldn’t give up his privilege. A man who did the things Bernard Law did who lives as Bernard Law does today is not a man who apparently fears the judgment of God. The same might be said of the high and mighty church prelates who go to birthday bashes at four-star restaurants for a man like Law. Nothing is wrong with a man celebrating his birthday. But this was a costly blowout, thrown by a man who ought to be ashamed of himself for what he did. Not for this cardinal are sackcloth and ashes! And few in his circles seem to have a problem with that.

Meanwhile, how many parishes and Catholic schools back in Boston are having to be closed and/or sold to pay for Bernard Law’s sins?

#16 Comment By Roland de Chanson On November 8, 2011 @ 9:55 am

Law serves on at least seven curial congregations. He moves among the elites of the Vatican. It’s not as if he were hidden away tending the vigil lights at the Arch Street Chapel. St. Mary Major is one of the oldest and most prestigious of the papal basilicas.

The man belongs in a skete in the Egyptian desert eating locusts for lunch.

#17 Comment By Lancelot Lamar On November 8, 2011 @ 10:13 am

What do you bet that it was all paid for by the Legionaries of Christ?

#18 Comment By Anglican On November 8, 2011 @ 10:17 am

I’m just numb to crap like this. I would only be shocked to find higher ups in any major institution in our time who didn’t act like this. Chrysostom was getting pretty close to the truth, when he commented that the floors of hell will likely be paved with the skulls of dead bishops.

#19 Comment By Mont D. Law On November 8, 2011 @ 10:32 am

[But why exactly should they be presumed not to fear God?]

Why would he fear God? God’s primary representive on earth forgave him, promoted him and paid for his birthday party.

#20 Comment By Hector On November 8, 2011 @ 10:45 am

I wouldn’t care to be Bernard Law sometime in the next 20 years, when he is finally made to give account for his works.

Hell, I was out with my friends at a bar the other week and I couldn’t enjoy the occasion because I was feeling incredibly guilty about having forgotten to call someone dear to me for her birthday. If even something as comparatively trivial as that made the evening totally unenjoyable, I can’t imagine partying for my birthday if I had sins like Bernard Law’s on my conscience. I second Rod: does this fellow not fear the judgment of God?

#21 Comment By Anduril On November 8, 2011 @ 10:49 am

Why would he fear God? God’s primary representive on earth forgave him, promoted him and paid for his birthday party.

Why, indeed, unless Unum Sanctum has been revoked.

#22 Comment By Roland de Chanson On November 8, 2011 @ 11:33 am

Hector,

If he has gone to confession, done penance, and amended his life, not only is he given absolution and forgiveness, he will have undoubtedly gained a plenary indulgence on All Souls’ Day, with the result that if he trips on his cappa magna and croaks, he will spend not even a moment in Purgatory let alone in Hell. Having gone directly to Heaven, he will be eligible for beatification and canonization should the appropriate miracles attributable to his intercession be found.

Rowan the Druid should be so lucky.

#23 Comment By Carlo On November 8, 2011 @ 11:38 am

Reagrdless of what terrible punishments we think should be inflicted on Cardinal Law, in Italy there is nothing lavish about “lasagna, … cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and fine prosciutto.”

If I know journalists, I think that we would have been given the same breathless description even if Cardinal Law had had pork and beans for his 80th birthday.

#24 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 8, 2011 @ 11:52 am

Carlo is right. That’s pretty much a normal dinner in our part of the world.

#25 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 8, 2011 @ 11:57 am

in Italy there is nothing lavish about “lasagna, … cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and fine prosciutto.”

It’s not what he ate, it’s the context in which he ate it: at a luxury hotel banquet, with the food “piled in a pyramid and placed on a pedestal.” This is a long way from a modest restaurant or a refectory. I’m not against clerics eating well — indeed, some of the best dinners of my life have been in the company of clerics — but this is too much from Bernie Law, given everything.

#26 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 8, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

Ro, you’re right. It is not the food. After all, how many Presidents have been feasted on rubber chicken. It is the context. In the old days we had ways of dealing with such people–the white powder of the Borgias.

#27 Comment By Hector On November 8, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

Roland de Chanson,

Does partyin’ partyin’ like Rebecca Black on a Friday make you think this fellow has ‘amended his life’?

And I don’t believe in indulgences, for the record.

#28 Comment By Liam On November 8, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

Btw, Cardinal Law was in seclusion, acting as chaplain to a convent in Maryland, before his promotion to archpriest of the Pontifical Liberian Basilica.

His promotion was designed to give him diplomatic immunity (the basilica is under Vatican control under the Lateran Treaty, IIRC – and cardinals already are, for international purposes since the Congress of Vienna, treated in many respects as possible heirs to a throne), though it wasn’t necessary from a criminal point of view as the Massachusetts AG had already opined that he couldn’t be readily indicted and convicted under the then-existing criminal statutes.

That promotion has exacted a heavy cost, especially in Boston and in any see governed by a bishop who was promoted by Law’s network.

But Rome really doesn’t care about that. What matters more is to make sure that a person of eminence is not seen to have a brutta figura. That’s the Silver Rule of Romanità.

#29 Comment By Carlo On November 8, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

“it’s the context in which he ate it”

Probably so. My cynical self is still inclined to think many journalist would have been willing to describe it as a epicurean feast no matter what. It’s a “story,” you see…

#30 Comment By Robert On November 8, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

Zathras, in answer to your question, unfortunately I don’t have a link to the Michael Levin article I mentioned. It appeared in an Australian magazine (Quadrant) for which he then regularly wrote, and I think it was printed in 1986. But almost no back-issues of Quadrant have been made available online, and I possess none from that period. You might like to make contact with Professor Levin himself; his website is here:

[2]

#31 Comment By Joseph D’Hippolito On November 8, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

Good grief, Rod. You sound like those who criticized Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors. Would you have been a wet blanket at the Wedding of Cana?

William, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think Jesus protected child molesters among His disciples. And if you’re going to bring Judas into the equation, you must remember that, in the final analysis, Jesus didn’t protect Judas, either.

If you look at the NT passages that describe Jesus’s appearances between His resurrection and ascention, nowhere did Jesus command or encourage His remaining disciples to pray for Judas’ soul.

These churchmen and their courtiers are the walking dead. Do they not fear God?

Why should they, when they’re part of an organization that inculcates institutional arrogance, a pervasive sense of entitlement and a medieval class structure that renders the clergy and laity as less than peasants?

Cardinal Law was in seclusion, acting as chaplain to a convent in Maryland, before his promotion…..His promotion was designed to give him diplomatic immunity (the basilica is under Vatican control under the Lateran Treaty…

And who either made or signed off on that promotion? None other than “Blessed” John Paul the Great (Fraud) Never, ever forget that!

#32 Comment By Roland de Chanson On November 8, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

Liam,

You aren’t mentioning the Maryland gig because you think it was a penance, are you?

You are definitely right about the heavy cost to the archdiocese. But Bernie cuts the bella figura, all bejeweled and bejowled.

Hector,

I don’t get the allusion to Rebecca Black. Sorry.

I know you don’t believe in indulgences. But the Catholic Church does. And that’s why Bernie could become a saint. For forgiveness you can’t beat the Catholic Church. Plus there’s the Sistine ceiling.

#33 Comment By Joseph D’Hippolito On November 8, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

I started looking at the Web sites that “defend the Magisterium” (National Catholic Register, Shea, The Anchoress, Akin) for this story. No mention of this at all. (though I should commend Akin for commenting on and questioning the German bishops’ owning a publishing house that produced porn).

Move along people, nothing to see here.

The (Self-Proclaimed) Defenders of the Faith as Officer Barbrady. Wow. How far the “mighty” have fallen (if they were ever mighty to begin with).

#34 Comment By David J. White On November 8, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

I understand why this looks bad, but I agree with JO. Card. Law is stuck at Sta. Maria Maggiore. He probably can’t come back to the US without reasonable fear of being arrested, and it’s possible that there are other countries where he might be arrested and extradited back to the US. He’s disgraced. He can’t advance or even move beyond where he is right now. And now that he’s 80 he won’t be able to vote in the next papal election, if he’s around for it. A gilded prison is still a prison.

#35 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 8, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

I just can’t help but think that that holy man, Pope Alexander VI, would have found a way to dispose of Law. I can just him standing in the Cardinal’s cell in some dungeon under Castle San Angelo and saying to the tortured frame of what was once a prelate, “You must not think we object to what your priests did, After all, we’ve all shagged a choirboy in our day. It is just that you have managed to make fiasco, and that is why we are going to burn you.”

#36 Comment By Chris B On November 9, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

Cases such as Cardinal Law’s provide one of the greatest tests for we who claim the name of Christ: can we forgive him? Can we love him?

Jesus died on the Cross for Bernie Law. *He* loves him.

I can’t excuse what he did, and his current appointment frustrates me as well. But I recognize that if I am to call myself a Christian, I need to forgive him for what he did.