For one alleged victim of clerical sex abuse, the pope's acceptance of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's resignation came as a surprise.
"I figured he headed out to Rome and they would OK the bankruptcy and do as little as they could," said Brian Corriveau of Bellingham.
The Vatican said Pope John Paul II accepted Law's resignation as Archbishop of Boston after the two religious leaders met yesterday morning. The pontiff appointed Richard Lennon, an auxiliary bishop in Boston, to run the diocese until a new archbishop is appointed.
A former altar boy at Assumption Parish in South Bellingham, Corriveau is one of at least 18 alleged victims of the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, one of three priests from the Pulaski Boulevard church who is accused of sexual abuse.
Desilets, 78, is scheduled to appear in Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday on 32 counts of indecent assault and battery.
Corriveau said he was disappointed Law's resignation wasn't accepted when he offered it to the pope in April.
"Here's the guy who aided and abetted all these criminals and he's going to be the guy who's going to be taking care of things and making sure that doesn't happen again? That seemed a bit odd," said Corriveau.
Corriveau has a simple message for the next Boston archdiocese administration.
"They should follow local laws. You have freedom of religion unless you're breaking the law," said Corriveau. "If they find out children are being molested, they can't sort it out themselves. They have to call the authorities."
Local priests, religious scholars and laypeople called the pope's acceptance of Law's resignation a sad occasion they hope will lead to transformation and healing in the Catholic church.
"If the church sees this as the solution, obviously nothing is going to change. If they see it as a first step, it's an opportunity. Just making a personnel change doesn't change a system," said Jed Griswold, professor of religion and philosophy at Dean College in Franklin.
The Rev. Timothy Moran of St. Joseph Parish in Medway recalled Law's message to the American Bishops conference earlier this year.
"A bishop must be able to inspire deep trust with the people he's sent to serve," Moran quoted Law as saying.
Moran has held listening sessions and addressed the sex abuse scandal during Mass during this past year. He plans to write about yesterday's news in his weekly letters to the parish.
Law's resignation is a reflection of the loss of trust since church documents revealed the archdiocese's administrators transferred rogue priests from parish to parish despite accusations and admissions of sexual abuse.
"That trust must be there. That change needs to happen," said Moran.
The Rev. Thomas Walsh of St. Mary's Church in Franklin issued a statement offering the parish's prayers for Law and Lennon.
The church sex abuse scandal rocked the Franklin parish in February when the Boston Archdiocese removed former pastor the Rev. D. George Spagnolia.
"From the beginning we have known that our faith is in God and not in men. That faith that God is with us watching over us and the church is what sustains us and allows us on the parish level to minister to our people in good times and in bad," Walsh wrote in a statement.
This latest revelation in the church sex abuse scandal is steeped in deep sadness, said one local member of the influential lay group Voice of the Faithful.
"It's very sad. It's also a time of hope for Catholics through the world. Other archdioceses will open up their books as well to stop the secrets. They might look forward in praise to work with our religious leaders and priests and the hierarchy to continue to grow and bring strength to our church," said Martin Green of Northbridge.
Green is the VOTF liaison for the group's chapter at St. Patrick's in Northbridge and attended this week's meeting in which members voted to call for Law's resignation.
"It's not a joyful experience, but we have hope during this time of Advent and we have faith that our church is going to be better because this happened. This will never happen again. Children will never be raped again," said Green.