Clerics Live It up in Vatican for Law's 80th

By Chris Livesay, John Zaremba and O'Ryan Johnson
Boston Herald
November 5, 2011

O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL: Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus for the Diocese of Rome, arrives at Al Chiostro restaurant for Cardinal Bernard Law’s (pictured at right) 80th birthday celebration yesterday.

VATICAN CITY — 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.

"He's closing in on his remaining years, and as a man of faith I know he believes in a final judgment. I'm curious if he's getting nervous," said Phil Saviano, who was abused by a Worcester priest almost five decades ago.

"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," added Saviano, who founded a local chapter of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests.

The Herald revealed yesterday that Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O'Malley, in Rome on church business, had snubbed Law's Vatican birthday shindig.

Yesterday, an archdiocese spokesman issued a statement saying O'Malley "does extend his prayers to Cardinal Law on the occasion of his 80th birthday." With a pair of guards in colorful habits standing silent sentry at the gate, Law and his cloistered concelebrants wined and dined at the Al Chiostro restaurant in the four-star Palazzo Rospigliosi hotel facing the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where Law serves as archpriest.

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."

Saviano was not.

"The top officials at the Vatican are clueless and insensitive. They probably look at Law as a reliable company man," he said. "Part of what he was doing by protecting the child molesting priests was protecting the church and the reputation of the church. In that sense he did a fantastic job."


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