Father Z reminds us that today is Bernard Cardinal Law's 80th birthday.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, according to the law laid down by Paul VI in Ingravescentem Aetatem II.2 in 1970, Cdl. Law can no longer participate in any future conclave.
But II:1 also says that cardinals who turn 80 "cease to be members of the departments of the Roman Curia and of the other institutions mentioned in [Article I]". So +Law loses membership in all Vatican posts and councils; the one post he retains is his position as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
I've grumbled and gritted my teeth a few times whenever someone from the chattering classes has said that Cdl. Law was "kicked upstairs" after his resignation from the Archdiocese of Boston. Secretary of State is a kick upstairs. Cardinal Camerlengo is a kick upstairs. Prefect of the CDW is a kick upstairs. Archpriest of a basilica – even a papal basilica – is not a kick upstairs for a cardinal once responsible for one of the largest archdioceses in the US; it was a kick to the sidelines which effectively made little more than the pastor of a church, albeit a major historic church. The other Vatican posts he's held until today he had prior to his resignation.
And now I read that the usual suspects are grumbing about +Law having the effrontery to celebrate his birthday with a party. Ambulance chaser Mitchell Garabedian: “Cardinal Law should be in Boston having discussions with victims about why he allowed priests to sexually molest children while he was archbishop. ... There is no reason for a celebration when it comes to children being molested by pedophile priests.”
You know David Clohessy had to have his say: “Any celebration involving Law rubs even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of hurting abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics. It’s the height of insensitivity and shows an utter and callous disregard for the feelings of countless wounded men and women.”
The whole story saddens me. Catholicism is supposed to be not just about repentance but forgiveness as well. When he resigned, +Law said, "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness." To many people, that may not be proof enough of repentance ... but that's the problem: How much is "enough"? What objective measure of repentance is there? Furthermore, to people like Garabesian and Clohessy, they have vested interests in no amount of repentance being "enough"; the one wants money, and the other wants the emasculation of the Church hierarchy.
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents;and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe. 'So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me;and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Mt 18:21-35).
"Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,' you must forgive him" (Lk 17:3-4).
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt 6:14-15; cf. Mk 11:25, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13).
UPDATE: November 6, 2011
Yesterday's Vatican Insider, the news site run by the Vatican press office (Sala Stampa), reported yesterday that SNAP wants Cdl. Law "expelled" from the Curia. Now, unless there was a change in special law I'm not aware of — and it could be, as I'm not a canon lawyer nor profess to be one — SNAP's demand is "a day late and a dollar short", as Ingravescentem Aetatem II:1 should still apply; nothing I've read suggests that either Bl. John Paul II or Benedict XVI has modified that section of it. However, the author of the column never mentions this provision of IAe, nor does s/he suggest that the matter is moot. Perhaps if our esteemed commentator, Dr. Edward Peters, could comment on the matter?