David Shnaider wrote a letter to the editor, published in The Item on April 12th, 2005 in response to my column of April 8th regarding the legacy of Pope John Paul II. In the letter, Mr. Shnaider chastises me for “several factual errors”, questions my life accomplishments and future as a journalist, and puzzles about where I might get the “chutzpah” to comment upon the pope’s legacy.

To begin, I would like to thank Mr. Shnaider for reading my column. It is always encouraging to discover that people take time out of their busy lives to read what I have written.

Next, please allow me to apologize for my mistake regarding the pope’s travel schedule. Boston was not the first city outside of Rome visited by Pope John Paul II after he became pope. It was, in fact, the first American city he visited.

Also, I wrote that Cardinal Law was transferred to the Vatican, when he was in fact transferred to Rome as arch-priest at St. Mary Major Basilica.

I never did say that Cardinal Law had been charged with a crime, but documents do reveal (according to the Washington Post) that Cardinal Law knowingly transferred priests who had sexually abused children from parish to parish, allowing those priests to abuse more and more innocent children.

The result of this scandal was a reported $85 million settlement agreement between the Boston archdiocese and more than 500 abuse victims.

It is fairly curious that someone with the track record of Cardinal Law would not be punished by the Pope, but instead find himself transferred to one of the most prominent churches in Rome and be allowed to continue his career as a cardinal.

Mr. Shnaider’s letter also states that Pope John Paul II “made an explicit public statement” about the sex abuse scandal. In fact, the pontiff made a couple of statements about the scandal, but neither was directed to the public.

The first, according to CNN, was in a letter to priests, in March 2002. In the letter, he wrote about being troubled by the sins of the priests who had betrayed the grace of ordination and succumbed to the evil of the world. The second, also according to CNN, was in April of 2002 when he summoned the American cardinals to the Vatican and told them that there was no place in the priesthood for clerics who abuse children.

Neither of the above was a public statement to his flock about the children whose lives had been ruined and the policies that allowed the practice to continue. He never did apologize for that.

In fact, what troubles me is that this pope was not afraid to apologize. According to http://www.beliefnet.com, on March 12, 2000 Pope John Paul II publicly read a document called, “Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and Mistakes of the Past” in which he asked for forgiveness for, among other things: divisions within Christianity, forced conversions, ecclesiastical use of violence, and anti-Jewish prejudice.

The bare facts remain that Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church while children were being systematically victimized by representatives of the Catholic Church. His failure to properly address, apologize for, or correct the problem is a stain on his otherwise glittering list of accomplishments. What was an opportunity for the Catholic Church to rise above the scandal and shine as a moral compass for the world became, for many people, yet another corporation covering up for past crimes.

It would have been irresponsible for me to mention the pontiff’s successes and ignore his failures.

Mr. Shnaider mentioned in his letter that I am unlikely to accomplish even a fraction of what Pope John Paul II accomplished. I think that statement is true not only of myself but of most people. Pope John Paul II was an inspiration to me and to millions of others around the world and I share in the grief at his passing. That grief does not erase the poor leadership that was shown during the sex abuse scandal. It also does not mean, as Mr. Shnaider’s letter implies, that my opinion is any less valid because I am not as accomplished as Pope John Paul II.