Cardinal Bernard Law, who served as the archbishop of Boston from 1984 to 2002, has died at the age of 86. Law became one of the most prominent leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States before it was revealed in 2002 that that he protected child-molesting priests from secular justice by moving them from parish to parish.
Law was ordained a priest in 1961 for the Natchez-Jackson Mississippi diocese. He was a civil rights activist who worked hard for racial equality. Regarding equal rights for African Americans Law once wrote, “Until we realize that the dilemma facing us is a moral question, until we operate in the context of virtue in our social and political lives as well as our personal lives, the future will be even more dismal than the present.”
Law’s work in the 60s, continuing through the 70s, brought him national attention. It also garnered him the attention of Pope John Paul II who, in January of 1984, appointed Law to be the archbishop of Boston. Later in the 80s and early 90s, Law began regularly consulting with President George Bush.
It was during this time serving as archbishop that Law decided to throw away whatever moral decency that had driven his civil rights activism.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe began publishing a series covering criminal charges brought against five priests of the Roman Catholic Church for sexual abuse of children. The film "Spotlight" dramatizes the Boston Globe's investigation.
All five priests were eventually sentenced to prison for their crimes. Part of the coverage of these cases focused on documents that revealed Cardinal Law’s extensive involvement in covering up the abuse. Some of the priests were shuffled from parish to parish by Law whenever accusations of molestation and rape began to surface. Law decided that protecting the church and its reputation was more important than protecting children from serial child-rapists.
One of the priests who had committed these crimes, John Geoghan, was accused of raping, molesting, or groping about 150 young boys over the three decades he served the church. Geoghan was sentenced in 2002 to 10 years in prison for the molestation of a 10-year-old boy, but Geoghan never finished his sentence. He was strangled and beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 2003.
While the priests who committed the acts were imprisoned, Law himself was not. Despite the fact that documents showed he was directly responsible for sheltering these priests from justice and placing more children in danger by his actions.
Instead, Law resigned from the post of archbishop in December of 2002 and moved to Rome. In Rome he was appointed to a sinecure as the archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. After the death of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Law participated in the papal conclave to elect the next pope, Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI.
Rather than receiving any punishment for his years of involvement in horrific crimes against children, Cardinal Law was instead rewarded with a sinecure, which is more or less an honorary position that requires no real work, and he was able to participate in electing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. This is not justice.
Law retired in 2011 at the age of 80, and continued living in Rome, attending some events and maintaining dialogue with many others at the Vatican. Robert Mickens, a longtime Vatican journalist, was quoted once as saying that Law felt he had been “badly done by” those involved in pressuring him to resign his post in the United States. Mickens also added, “I think most of the other cardinals see him as a victim rather than anyone who was culpable of anything.” Law enjoyed the protection the Vatican afforded him from the criticism he faced over his handling of the abuse in the Boston archdiocese.
If Mickens’s statements about Law’s feelings and the feelings of the other cardinals are true, then we can add this to the pile of evidence that shows how corrupt and dangerous the Roman Catholic Church is when it comes to their failure to protect children from sexual abuse (just look at how many times I have already written about stories involving the subject).
Cardinal Law is dead, and he is lucky that Hell is not real, because his actions as archbishop were profoundly immoral and wicked.