BOSTON (AP) - While Roman Catholics in Boston debated whether Cardinal Bernard Law should step down as their spiritual leader, Law was raising the same question with the Vatican during a trip to Rome.
Law said he returned ``encouraged'' in his efforts to lead the archdiocese out of a widening clergy sexual abuse scandal. But some reform-minded Catholics wondered how an archdiocese rocked by allegations of abuse, and of cover-ups by officials, can heal those wounds.
``We know the reality of what happened in this archdiocese,'' said Susan Troy, a member of Voices of the Faithful, a Wellesley-based Catholic reform group. ``There's a lot of work that needs to be done ... there's this sense of betrayal and lack of trust, and it will take a lot to build it up again.''
A new Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll released Wednesday found 65 percent of Boston-area Catholics surveyed believe Law should resign over his handling of the scandal, up from 48 percent in early February. Twenty-seven percent said Law should stay, down from 38 percent in February. The polls, both of 800 Catholics, had margins of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Law said Tuesday that he had met with Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials and had raised the possibility of resigning, but he returned determined to clean up the sexual abuse scandal in his archdiocese.
``The focus of my meetings was the impact of the (Rev. Paul R.) Shanley and other sexual abuse cases upon public opinion in general and specifically upon the members of the archdiocese,'' Law said.
``The fact that my resignation has been proposed as necessary was part of my presentation,'' he continued.
A week ago, court documents were released showing Law knew of sex abuse allegations against Shanley, yet allowed him to continue as a parish priest.
``As a result of my stay in Rome, I return home encouraged in my efforts to provide the strongest possible leadership in ensuring, as far as is humanly possible, that no child is ever abused again by a priest of this archdiocese,'' he said.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey, who released Law's statement to the media, said she did not know Law's whereabouts.
Vatican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Law has been back in the United States for at least two days. The Vatican's press office released Law's statement Wednesday but didn't comment on the meeting.
Law is expected to attend meetings in Rome next week between the pope and American cardinals to discuss the sex abuse scandals.
Elsewhere, a defrocked priest who was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault of teen-age boy in 1990 has been working as a licensed professional counselor in Racine, Wis., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday. James L. Arimond, a former pastor of St. Frederick Catholic Church in Cudahy, was convicted after pleading no contest to the charge. In 1995, he was certified to work as a counselor. There was no telephone number listed for Arimond.
Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio in Vatican City contributed to this report.