Former Cardinal Involved in Sex Abuse Scandal Dies at 86

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – The former archbishop of Boston who was instrumental in covering up child molestation by priests within the Catholic Church, died on Wednesday, December 20th in Rome.

Cardinal Bernard Law. Photo Courtesy of Ken Lambert.

Cardinal Bernard Law was a spiritual leader in Boston, America’s fourth largest Catholic archdiocese, from 1984 until he resigned in 2002 amidst the scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

In 2002, The Boston Globe ‘s Spotlight Investigative reporting team published a series of stories that implicated Law in a systematic cover-up of rampant sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston diocese.

Upon learning of child molestations by priests, Law and his predecessors transferred the priests from parish to parish without notifying the victims’ parents or the police of the abuse. Cardinal Law never faced criminal charges.

When the allegations came to light in 2002, the Catholic Church in Boston faced hundreds of lawsuits. The Boston diocese went nearly bankrupt due to the scandal, and was forced to sell property to fund over 100 million dollars in settlements with over 500 victims.

More than 70 priests in the Boston area were found to have committed abuses. The investigation in Boston prompted nationwide investigations in American cities and throughout the world.

Survivors of the abuse were outraged at the Vatican’s decision to conduct a full cardinal’s funeral for Law despite his role in enabling the abuse.

After Law’s resignation from the archdiocese in Boston, he moved to Rome and served as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major until he retired in 2011.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged the Church against celebrating Law’s life and asked it instead to focus on protecting children and helping survivors. The group asked, “Why was Law promoted when Boston’s Catholic children were sexually abused, ignored, and pushed aside time and time again?”

Many of the victims of abuse feel that the decision to honor Law is opening up wounds that have never healed.

Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, apologized to victims of sex abuse by clergy and stated that there is a greater sensitivity to the situation in the church today.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that he’s had such a high-profile place in the life of the church, but I think going forward that kind of decision would not be made,” said Law’s successor, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. “But unfortunately, we’re living with the consequences of that.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Bernard Law: Disgraced US Cardinal Dies in Rome – 20 December 2017

CNN – ‘Chop Him Up:’ Accusers Seethe Over Vatican Funeral Plans for Cardinal Law – 20 December 2017

The New York Times – Cardinal Law and the U.S.-Rome Sex Abuse Divide – 20 December 2017

The Washington Post – Cardinal Law, Disgraced Figure in Church Scandal, Dead at 86 – 20 December 2017

Author: Jenilyn Brhel

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