Boston, Nov. 4--(UPI) Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law has made his most candid apology for assigning sexually abusive priests to parishes where they continued to have access to children, reports said Monday.

Law, for the first time, acknowledged Sunday had he acted differently, some children might not have been sexually abused by priests. "I did assign priests who had committed sexual abuse," the cardinal, in a sometimes emotional talk, told some 150 parishioners at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "I acknowledge my own responsibility for decisions which led to intense suffering," he said. "While that suffering was never intended, it could have been avoided, had I acted differently."

While Law has apologized in the past, Sunday's apology was the most detailed offered by the cardinal since the clergy sex-abuse scandal erupted in January. "Once again, I want to acknowledge publicly my responsibility for decisions which I now see were clearly wrong," the cardinal said. "I ask forgiveness of those who have been abused," said Law, who marked his 71st birthday Monday.

"The forgiving love of God gives me the courage to beg forgiveness of those who have suffered because of what I did," Law said.

The cardinal said he was speaking out more forcefully at the request of a group of alleged victims of the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham. Birmingham is accused in civil lawsuits of molesting more than 50 boys over three decades. "It almost seems like an eternity away, yet it was in January of this year that the crisis of sexual abuse of children by clergy began to dominate our consciousness," Law said. "Ten months later, I stand before you with a far deeper awareness of this terrible evil than I had at that time."

As Law spoke inside the church, a group of protesters outside continued to urge Law to step down. "Too little, too late," said protester Ruth Moore of Hull, who held a sign reading, "Go directly to jail." "He apologized, and he wants forgiveness, and I think that's appropriate," she said in Monday's Boston Globe. "When he's in jail, I will truly forgive him, but he's got to pay."

Law, who took over the Archdiocese of Boston in 1984, has repeatedly refused to resign despite admitting covering up for abusive priests. Carmen L. Durso, an attorney representing alleged abuse victims, saw Law's speech as public relations spin. "I see this as a calculating person doing some aggressive damage control," Durso said in the Boston Herald. "Law has done nothing to take the weight off the victims via settlement," Durso said. "So this smacks of a PR onslaught in advance of a slew of ugly and damaging civil trials."

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