Cardinal Law, disgraced figure in church abuse scandal, dies

Cardinal Law, disgraced figure in church abuse scandal, dies

By Rachel Zoll and Nicole Winfield, December 20, 2017, ABC News

Cardinal Bernard Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston whose failure to stop child molesters in the priesthood triggered the worst crisis in American Catholicism, died Wednesday in Rome at age 86.

Law, who spent his final years in various Vatican posts, had been sick and was recently hospitalized.

Law was once one of the most important figures in the U.S. church, wielding considerable influence inside the Vatican. From 1984 until he resigned under pressure 18 years later, he was spiritual leader in Boston, the nation's fourth-largest archdiocese, with 1.8 million Catholics.

But in 2002, The Boston Globe began a series of stories that revealed that Law and his predecessors had transferred child-molesting priests from parish to parish without alerting parents or police — a scandal later chronicled in the Oscar-winning film "Spotlight."

Within months, Catholics around the country demanded to know whether their bishops had done the same.

In Boston, Law's death was met with bitterness among some.

"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."

Law's successor as archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, said it was a "sad reality" that Law's legacy will forever be tied to the abuse scandal, when the church "seriously failed" to care for its flock and protect children.

Pope Francis, who is being watched closely by the faithful over his handling of bishops who shield pedophiles, is set to preside over Law's funeral rites at a Mass on Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica, an honor accorded to all Rome-based cardinals.

The pope said nothing about Law's passing during his weekly general audience Wednesday, and in a condolence letter he made no direct mention of the cardinal's tenure in Boston.

"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.

Since 1950, more than 6,500 of the nation's priests, or about 6 percent, have been accused of molesting children, and the American church has paid over $3 billion in settlements, according to news reports and studies commissioned by the U.S. bishops.

As the leader of the archdiocese at the epicenter of the scandal, Law became a powerful symbol of the crisis in the church. His fall from grace was swift.

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  • commented 2017-12-21 07:55:21 -0600
    Cardinal Law to Jesus:
    “Please send someone back to warn Roman Catholics that molesting children is a grave sin and covering up for child molesters is also a mortal sin-so that they don’t end up in this place of torment.”
    Jesus: “They would not believe and repent even if someone should return from the dead and tell them.”