Cardinal Bernard Law passed away, on Dec. 20, 2017, after a long illness. He was 86 years old.
As the Boston Archbishop, he was one of the most important leaders in the United States church. He was a confidante of Pope John Paul II and regularly visited the White House under George W. Bush.
In early 2002, The Boston Globe published a report series based on church records showing Law was transferring abusive clergy to other parish assignments. He did this without alerting police or parents of the abuse. Once the reports were released churches around the country demanded to know if their bishops were part of the abuse.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who represented some of the abused, said Law’s death has opened those wounds again. He could have prevented the abuse of many children, but he would not notify the public and thus failed to protect the innocent.
According to The Boston Globe, Law and the two Archbishops before him moved former priest John Geoghan to different parishes knowing he molested children. More than 130 people have come forward claiming Geoghan abused them. The archdiocese paid settlements of $10 million to 86 victims and their families.
First Law refused to comment on the situation. Eventually he apologized and promised a change. However, the Globe released many more church records proving Law cared more about the accused than the victims. He asked to resign by the end of 2002 and the pope agreed. Law released a statement:
It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed. To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.
In 2004, He was appointed archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. This is one of the four primary basilicas in Rome. For many years, he continued to serve in Vatican policy-making committees. Victim advocates saw this as favor from unrepentant church officials. Instead of being criminally prosecuted, he was promoted to Rome.
The Vatican news release about Law’s death briefly mentioned the abuse, however, his biography does not. It only speaks of his great experience improving relations between the Catholic church in the U.S. and Judaism.
Written by Jeanette Smith
NBC News: Bernard Law, ex-Boston archbishop disgraced by priest sex abuse scandal, dies at 86
Image Courtesy of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License