Cardinal Bernard Law was a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church’s widespread failure to protect children as he presided over a cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese of Boston. A global calculation in the church is still happening today, 15 years after he resigned as archbishop.
As an abuse victim Robert Costello put it on the Wednesday, the day the Law died, Boston was just the beginning.
“It happened in Haiti in an orphanage. It happened in the Philippines,” Costello said. “It happened in England and Germany and particularly in Ireland. We opened the box of Pandora here in Boston, and the rest of the world.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN BOSTON
The law was archbishop of Boston, one of the nation’s most influential dioceses, in 1984 and was elevated to cardinal the following year. The powerful position gave him power in the church in the United States and in the Vatican, as well as in American politics, as he makes a visit to the White House and went after Catholic politicians, that the right to abortion.
Behind the scenes, the Law used his authority to hide the widespread abuse of children by priests, secretively shuffling them from parish to parish without parents or the police, so the perpetrators to find more goals. The cover-ups were revealed in a series of reports in The Boston Globe in 2002, depicted in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”
A 2003 report by the Massachusetts attorney general said that there are more than 1,000 children have been abused by more than 250 priests and church workers from 1940 to 2000.
The magnitude of the crisis in Boston set out the reports throughout the United States and the world of widespread abuse by priests and the efforts of the church to hide it.
Since 1950, more than 6,500 American priests accused of abuse of thousands of children, according to news reports and studies commissioned by the AMERICAN bishops. The American church alone has paid out an estimated $3 billion in verdicts and settlements.
In addition to the cover-ups, dozens of Catholic bishops have themselves been accused of the abuse of children worldwide, according to the website BishopAccountability.org which tracks abuse in the church. The group of Terry McKiernan said Wednesday that there are no numbers available for the number of priests accused worldwide.
But in 2014, a U. N. human rights panel released a report saying that the Vatican had allowed priests to sexually abuse tens of thousands of children worldwide over decades.
Reports of abuse continue to emerge. In Pope Francis ‘ Argentina, an Associated Press analysis in October found the number of clergy in the public referred to as alleged sexual abusers has increased dramatically in the past two years. Last week, an Australian inquiry into child abuse has been reported that the church received more than 4,000 claims of child abuse from 1980 to 2015. The Australian commission catastrophic failure of the leadership of the church over a period of decades.
Law resigned as archbishop of Boston at the end of 2002, but he later received plum assignments in Rome.
Many victims of abusive priests saw the moves as a sign of the Vatican’s indifference to the problem.
St. John Paul II was criticized for the way he dealt with abusive priests during his pontificate. His predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, took a harder line against sexual abuse.
Pope Francis has said that Rome would show “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse, but many survivors have found are efforts want. For example, a proposed Vatican tribunal for the prosecution of the bishops who allow abuse to run unchecked, not from the ground.
The abuse scandal this year reached deep into the Vatican. Cardinal George Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, was the most senior Catholic official on the face of sexual abuse charges when he was charged in his native Australia with multiple breaches of decades ago. Pell has vowed to fight the charges.
In September, a senior Vatican diplomat was recalled from Washington to the middle of a child pornography investigation. The canadian police have a warrant for him later that month, but he remains in Rome, in the midst of a Vatican investigation.
WHAT IS THE NEXT
Pope Francis is set to preside over the Law on the funeral Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica.