Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Bernard Law conducted a solemn Good Friday liturgy commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. Parishioners kneeled and prayed as the cardinal, in resplendent red-and-white robes, read the part of Jesus in a booming baritone.
Outside the cathedral, this city's largest Roman Catholic church and the seat of the archdiocese, several hundred other Catholics held their own service. Wearing purple ribbons and joining hands to encircle the building, they called for Law's resignation and demanded change within the church.
"Change is coming. It's coming from you. It's coming from the grass roots," Barbara Blaine, the Chicago-based founder of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a support group with about 3,500 members, told the dissidents.
Such was Good Friday in Boston, the epicenter of a clergy sex abuse scandal whose repercussions are rending Catholic communities around the world. On Thursday, Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of an archbishop in his native Poland who was accused of making advances toward seminarians and young priests. Today, the U.S. Navy acknowledged that a Catholic military chaplain was convicted in 1993 of lewd conduct involving boys.
The Boston archdiocese has settled the massive civil lawsuit that triggered the scandal, agreeing to pay as much as $30 million to 86 plaintiffs who alleged that they or their children were molested by former priest John J. Geoghan. But dozens of additional plaintiffs have since emerged, and more than 80 priests in 11 states stand accused of sexual abuse of children.
As Easter weekend approached, Boston police arrested Garry Garland, 38, who had tried to confront Monsignor Frederick Ryan, a priest he said sexually abused him 23 years ago.
Elsewhere, prosecutors in St. Louis announced they were investigating about 50 complaints of sexual abuse by clergy members, with as many as 22 accusations against a single defrocked priest. And in Detroit, prosecutors subpoenaed a bishop for information in a sexual misconduct investigation involving a priest and a woman.
Disillusionment and anger simmered here among Catholics gathered outside the cathedral on a barricaded street, with men and women of all ages and theological stripes expressing betrayal at the archdiocese's secret handling of sex abuse cases and the transfer from parish to parish of priests suspected of pedophilia.
Some people signed a small billboard ("The victim is the authority," one message read; "Why?" read another). Others held posters: "Law, you are just as guilty as the priests that DID IT!" and "Reform or be destroyed."
"We have to stand together," said Kathy Darcy, a 58-year-old nurse. "It's time for Cardinal Law to step down so we can move on, so we can heal within the church."
Paul Lyons, 43, a mechanical engineer from Cambridge, agreed. "Inside the church, it's bare and sterile and carefully sanitized," he said. "But outside, the people who have been abused are Christ crucified to me. That's what I've learned, and this is where I want to be."
Feelings ran high on the other side of the issue, too. Patricia O'Donovan, a high school teacher from Milton, a suburb south of Boston, said she came to the cathedral today specifically to show support for the embattled cardinal.
"He is doing everything he can. He has been very upfront and frank and acknowledged his error. What more do people want, for God's sake?" O'Donovan said. "Prayer is the way we're going to overcome this, not by standing outside with placards."
Some congregants also took offense at the timing of the protest rally.
"It's the cynical exploitation of a tragedy by dissident groups with an agenda," said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, noting the presence of organizations in support of married clergy and female priests. "Good Friday is the most solemn day, and Catholics ought to be able to worship in peace without having their cathedral besieged."
Law has said he intends to stay on despite the mounting criticism. He has so far suspended 10 clergymen and notified prosecutors of molestation allegations against 80 others over four decades.
In a Good Friday letter to parishioners, published in the archdiocese's newspaper, Law repeated his apologies to victims of sex abuse and called on Catholics to think of Christ's sacrifice as they endure the scandal.
Outside the cathedral, protesters improvised their own Veneration of the Cross, ringing the church and kissing wooden crucifixes carried past the human chain. Inside, Law expressed the church's determination to protect children and restore trust among the faithful.
"We bring to the cross our sufferings as individuals," Law said. "We bring to the cross our suffering as a church, particularly in this challenging hour."