Pope Francis is set to offer a “final commendation” Thursday at the Rome funeral of Cardinal Bernard Law, even as Law’s critics recalled him as the disgraced archbishop of Boston in the United States who covered up the actions of pedophile priests.
The Vatican said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will celebrate the funeral mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Law, who died earlier this week in Rome at the age of 86 after a long illness. Pope Francis will then offer a blessing for Law, as he has done previously at other cardinals’ funerals.
Law oversaw the Catholic church’s archdiocese in Boston in the northeastern U.S. for 19 years before he was forced to resign in 2002 as allegations mounted that he had hidden widespread pedophilia by dozens of parish priests, often moving them from one church to another rather than removing them from the ministry. The archdiocese eventually paid $95 million as compensation to more than 500 victims.
As he left the U.S. for Rome to become archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major, Law said, “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.”
The scandal of abusive priests spread, however, eventually reverberating through several archdioceses in the U.S. and in other countries.
As news of Law’s death became known, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said, “We highly doubt there is a single victim of abuse who will ever receive the same attention, pomp and circumstance by Pope Francis.
“Every single Catholic should ask Pope Francis and the Vatican why,” the group said. “Why Law’s life was so celebrated when Boston’s clergy sex abuse survivors suffered so greatly? Why was Law promoted when Boston’s Catholic children were sexually abused, ignored, and pushed aside time and time again?”
Law’s successor in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, reacted to his death by apologizing to the victims of clergy sex abuse.
“I recognize that Cardinal Law’s passing brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people. 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,” O’Malley said. “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.”
One survivor of the clergy sex abuse, Alexa MacPherson, said at a news conference, “With his passing, I say I hope the gates of hell are open wide to welcome him because I feel no redemption for somebody like him is worthwhile.”
Another victim, Robert Costello, said, “I don’t really consider him a cardinal or a man of God. There were plenty of priests who knew what was going on but they had their own secrets to hide.”