Msgr. Paul McInerny, the longtime secretary to Cardinal Bernard Law, whose 2002 resignation under pressure as archbishop of Boston marked a watershed moment in the American church's journey through the greatest crisis it has ever known, is said to have a new job -- one of the cushiest in Rome.
Brought to the Eternal City last year as Law's secretary -- returning to a position he held from 1991 to 2001 -- McInerny has reportedly been named a Canon of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major. Seventeen months after the cardinal's resignation from the see of Boston, the late Pope John Paul II named Law Archpriest of the Basilica, the oldest church in the world dedicated to the patronage of Mary.
Given at the cardinal's behest in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, the post would place McInerny in a rarified realm. The honorary "first canon" of St. Mary Major remains, to this day, the King of Spain. The last American to be given the honor, Msgr. Burt Muton, a Louisianan, died some years ago. The appointment is for life.
Canons of the Patriarchal Basilicas are usually longtime officials in the Roman Curia who are named to one of the various Chapters in appreciation of their distinguished service. Given that custom, Law's gift to his longtime collaborator has raised eyebrows in Rome.
With the appointment comes significant perks: a "sizable" monthly stipend, an "ample" apartment in the Canonry of the Basilica and quite possibly, given the status of the Patriarchal Basilicas as extraterritorial entities of the Holy See, the coveted Vatican passport. In return, the canons say Mass "as available," their only requirements being chanting the office on Sundays and Feast days and attending the 10am capitular liturgy on Sundays.
Canons of the Major Basilicas are also entitled to the vestural perks of mozzetta, rochet and the red tuft and trim on the black biretta. They may also be buried in the crypt beneath the Basilica.
In a 2002 quote reported by the Boston Herald, McInerny said that Law was "the best thing that's ever happened to the church in Boston in terms of leadership."
It seems that Law has returned the favor.
And, somewhere in the Great Beyond, the ghost of DJ David Lewis is having some kind of reaction.... If you listen closely enough, you can hear it.