Cardinal Bernard Law, once a prominent figure in the U.S. catholic church from 1984 until he resigned under pressure 18 years later, died Wednesday in Rome at age 86.
As a former archbishop of Boston, which is the nation’s fourth-largest archdiocese with 1.8 million Catholics, Law was a well-liked spiritual leader until allegations in 2002 against him began a wave of anti-Catholic sentiment in America. The disgraced priest’s downfall came after he was accused of not doing enough to stop child molesters in the priesthood.
The Boston Globe revealed that Law, along with his predecessor, moved child-molesting priests between parishes without reporting illegal or immoral behavior to parents or police.
Public outrage prompted questions that revealed similar cover ups Ireland, Belgium, Chile, Australia and beyond.
After weathering criticism for his handling, or mishandling, of molestation within the church, Law left America and spent his remaining years leading an important basilica in Rome. According to the Associated Press, he continued to “wield considerable influence inside the Vatican.”
Law was reported as having been ill, and was recently hospitalized, before he passed.
In Boston, reports of Law’s death were met with anger and bitterness among some, the AP reports:
“I hope the gates of hell are swinging wide to allow him entrance,” said Alexa MacPherson, who says she was abused for six years as a child. “I won’t shed a tear for him. I might shed a tear for everyone who’s been a victim under him.”
Robert Costello called Law “a cruel, selfish bastard,” while fellow abuse victim Phil Saviano wondered: “How is he going to explain this when he comes face to face with his maker?”
Pope Francis will preside over Law’s funeral rites at a Mass on Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica, a ritual honor bestowed on all Rome-based cardinals. He did not mention Law’s death during his weekly general audience on Wednesday, and made no reference to Law’s time in Boston within a condolence letter he wrote.
“I raise prayers for the repose of his soul, that the Lord God, who is rich in mercy, may welcome him in His eternal peace, and I send my apostolic blessing to those who share in mourning the passing of the cardinal,” Francis wrote in the letter.
The Pope’s behavior toward those in the priesthood that protect or cover up for child molesters is being carefully monitored by many.
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