Laying Down the Law


McRae says Law has affected the archdiocese more as a well-known public figure than as a bishop per se. "He hasn't shown us his hand yet on local issues." He would like to see Law draw up a plan for the future of the archdiocese, dealing with issues of organization and diminishing numbers of clergymen within the Church.

The former bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Freely admits that he is still in the process of "learning the neighborhood often excusing himself publicly for referring back to specific precedents in Missouri.

But other observers sense that Law has already mapped out his agenda for Boston with high expectations to make it "a role model for society," says Professor of Business Administration Stephen H. Fuller.

"He is unbelievably sensitive to the potential contribution of the Church to Boston and has alerted the community to areas where the community needs to perform more effectively, especially [with regards to the] rights of minorities," says Fuller, a member of Law's ad hoc committee on internal organization.

Church officials recall Law's early support for the civil rights movement, support that began soon after his seminary training when he joined the Mississippi Human Relations Council in 1961. Law also took a strong pro-integration stand throughout the '60's as editor of the Natchez-Jackson diocesan newspaper in Mississippi.


In terms of other local issues, Law says he is committed to supporting the lobsterman's cooperative, a union which is being squeezed out of the Boston harbor, and has pledged the archdiocese's resources to finding a permanent dock location for these workers.

At the same time, the Church's own policy of restricting hiring to union employees has come under fire from minority, non-union tradesworkers.

"On the one hand, the workers need the union's collective voice and the Church supports that right. On the other hand, unions themselves, for whatever reasons, can become exclusive," the Archbishop says, adding. "It's a problem that needs to be addressed and it will be addressed as we press for a solution."

Law has also taken steps to bridge gaps between the city's Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, according to several church experts.

Memorial Church's Gomes says he recognized the change in Boston's Catholic leadership when Law invited other non-Catholic clerics like himself to actually participate in his installation at Holy Cross Cathedral last March.

"The slightest gesture on his part with regard to ecumenism sets the example for the entire community," says Gomes, who has invited Law to preach to his congregation on the Sunday after Easter.

"It's rather ironic that the Episcopal bishop [James Coburn] in Massachusetts happens to be a Princeton man," says Gome3s, an Episcopalian minister, "since Harvard and the Roman Catholic Church have never been on the best of terms."

On the national stage, Archbishop Law has become a governing force in the American Catholic Church, along with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago anm New York's Archbishop O'Corner, according to powers.

O'Vonnor, accused by some of being too closely allied to the pope and the President, singled out Rep. Geraldine Ferraro's stand on abortion during the presidential campaign as inconsistent with Catholicism.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum, Bernardin promotes ""a multi-issue moral view" which encompasses a more even-handed look at all disputes, from nuclear arms to capital punishment and from the rights of the unborn to euthanasia.