Is it a moral failing to be happy hearing news of someone’s demise? That was my question to myself reading the news wire last night.
Bernard Francis Law was a very influential member of the Catholic clergy who was forced to resign after it was discovered that he had been enabling pedophile priests in one of the biggest crises in American Catholicism.
As Archbishop of Boston, he protected priests involved in a wide-reaching sex abuse scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church and eclipsed his career in the Civil Rights Movement. Law was forced to resign in 2002 for allegedly protecting predator priests despite evidence they had been abusing youngsters.
Allegations of sexual abuse of children and teenagers, plus cover-ups seemingly surfaced daily after the scandal erupted in Boston, and then all across the USA. Law left the Boston archdiocese facing 500 lawsuits and $100 million in damage claims. In 2004, an investigation found that at least 4,400 Catholic priests were sexually abusing at least 12,000 young people from 1950-2002.
The scandal was opened up by the Boston Globe newspaper’s Spotlight investigative team, whose heroic reporters uncovered the horrific widespread abuse by priests. Their work won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into the film Spotlight (2015) which won an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Law was portrayed to perfection by Len Cariou.
Law was transferred to a cushy job at the Vatican after his resignation.
Law had moved one priest, John Geoghan, from parish to parish, despite knowing that Geoghan had abused at least 130 boys. It was later discovered that Law had also known of dozens of cases of abuse by another priest, Paul Shanley, yet had allowed him to continue working closely with children.
The Boston Globe reporters discovered that Law had systematically covered up sexual abuse by some 90 priests in and around Boston over several decades.
Born in Torreon, Mexico in 1931, the only child of an Air Force colonel and Presbyterian wife, Law grew up on military bases and went to Harvard University, where he majored in Medieval History and Fancy Headdress Studies.
He was ordained in Mississippi in 1961, and was known nationally for his work on Civil Rights. He was a staunch opponent of abortion, birth control, Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights, as well as loosening traditional celibacy rules for the priesthood.
Pope Francis has vowed to take a “zero tolerance” approach to clergy abuse of children, but has extended the policy of mercy he is promoting in the church to those who sexually exploit young people. The Pope has also been accused of promoting bishops who have been accused of covering up priest who are molesters.
Pope Francis has been accused of allowing the Vatican Commission on Clerical Sexual of Children to lapse. Yesterday, the American National Catholic Reporter newspaper wrote: ” … it is the causal negligence at the heart of the scandal”.
Transferred to The Vatican, Law had the powerful position of helping choose American bishops. He helped shape the American Catholic Church’s clergy hierarchy with his favorite candidates still leading American dioceses.
Law also played an important part in the Vatican’s investigation of American nuns, pushing rumors that some communities of nuns had abandoned Catholic doctrine and replaced it with Radical Feminism.
He was pals with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He talked with Bush once a month, rode with him on Air Force One, was invited to the White House, and spent time at the Bush summer home in Kennebunkport.
Law was 86-years-old when he said that final prayer. He is to be buried tomorrow at The Vatican alongside the saints and martyrs.