Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston, has died at the age of 86, an official with the Catholic Church said. He had recently been hospitalised in Rome after falling ill.
Law was once one of the most important leaders in the US church, helping to set priorities for the nation’s bishops, and was favoured by Pope John Paul II. But in January 2002, The Boston Globe began a series of reports that used church records to reveal that Law had transferred abusive clergy among parishes for years, without alerting parents or police.
Within months, Catholics around the country demanded to know whether their bishops had done the same.
Law tried to manage the mushrooming scandal in his own archdiocese by first refusing to comment, then apologising and promising reform.
But thousands more church records were released describing new cases of how Law and others expressed more care for accused priests than for victims. Amid a groundswell against the cardinal, including rare public rebukes from some of his own priests, Law asked to resign and the pope said yes.
“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,” Law said when he stepped down as head of the Boston archdiocese in December of that year.
“To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness.”