Funeral services for Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the disgraced former Archbishop of Boston who left his position in in 2002, will be held Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He died Wednesday at age 86.
Law was accused of covering up for priests involved in sexual abuse scandals in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Under his leadership the Cardinal moved accused priests to other assignments and failed to protect or support victims of sexual assault. His death reignited strong emotions throughout the Catholic church, particularly in his hometown. At the height of the scandals, Law was moved to a position in Rome, safe from prosecution. He remained in Rome until his death this week from an undisclosed illness. He was never charged for any crimes.
Pope Francis skirted the issue in his telegram of condolences to the College of Cardinals. But Cardinal Law’s predecessor as Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, noted in his statement that much anger remains directed at Law for his complicity and help for accused priests.
“I recognize that Cardinal Law’s passing brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people”, O’Malley said. “I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones. To those men and women, I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the Archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing.”
O’Malley also said he was sad that Law’s ministry to the sick, poor and to migrants was overshadowed by the abuse crisis. But in Boston, critics said that Cardinal Law was “an enabler of clergy sexual abuse."
Two victims also spoke out against Law. Robert Costello told The Associated Press that there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't think about what happened to him. He called Law "a cruel, selfish bastard" for moving accused priests to other assignments and failing to protect victims. Alexa MacPherson broke into tears as she recounted suffering abuse at the hands of a priest. She told the AP she hopes Law "gets what he deserves in hell."
Pope Francis, who has taken a much harder line against sexual abuse in the church, asked for “prayers for the repose of his soul” and for God to welcome him in eternal piece. The pontiff will preside over final funeral rites for Cardinal Law, something that is customary for all Rome-based cardinals.