Cardinal Bernard F. Law, whose tenure as head of the Archdiocese of Boston ended after it was revealed he failed to remove sexually abusive priests from the ministry, died Tuesday in Rome after a long illness, according to many media outlets including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, ABC, the BBC, CNN and others. He was 86.
Law was the highest-ranking official in the history of the US church to leave office in public disgrace. Although he had not broken any laws — clergy were not required to report child sex abuse until 2002 — his actions led to a sense of betrayal among many Catholics that the church is still dealing with today.
Church records at the time showed that he and other Boston officials transferred priests from parish to parish despite records of abuse. Revelations followed that hundreds of priests across the nation may have abused thousands of young people over the previous 40 years.
"I am indeed profoundly sorry," he later said. “I learned that I didn't know a lot of things. The extent of this thing — I did not know that. I have learned much more painfully of the impact this has had on others.”
In 1984, Pope John Paul II appointed Law to be the archbishop of the Boston Archdiocese. In 1985, he was elevated to cardinal, one of just 13 Americans holding that office at the time.
In July 2001, Law admitted receiving a letter in 1984 outlining child molestation allegations against Rev. John Geoghan. Law assigned Geoghan to another parish despite the allegations. Geoghan was eventually convicted of indecent assault and battery on a 10-year old boy.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe revealed he and other bishops before him covered for pedophile priests in the Boston Archdiocese.
He attempted to resign his position as Archbishop of Boston in April 2002 but Pope John Paul II rejected the resignation. In May 2002, he apologized for his role in the clergy abuse scandal in a letter distributed throughout the archdiocese.
He was reassigned to serve as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, where he died.
This BBSNews article originally appeared on News | WPLG.