Death of Cardinal Law

I didn’t know Cardinal Bernard Law, he of Spotlight fame — or infamy — but growing up Irish Catholic, I knew prelates like Cardinal Law. They were traditional, conservative, patriarchal men for whom protecting the reputation of the Church and their band of brothers was paramount.

If Cardinal Law’s name is unfamiliar, and if you didn’t see the film Spotlight, Bernard Law was the Archbishop of Boston who, over the 17 years that he presided over what the New York Times called “the emotional heart of the church in America”, shifted pedophile priests from one parish to another, made financial settlements with the families when absolutely necessary, and swore everybody to silence. Disgraced after the sordid story broke in the Boston Globe, Law decamped to Rome where he was given a cushy post and protected from justice while he lived out his days. He died in Rome at the age of 86.

But he did a lot of good things, too.” No one is entirely evil, and Cardinal Law’s defenders want us to know that he did a lot of good things as a priest, and finally as a Prince of the Church.

I’m sure he did. But his complicity in the pedophilia deeply embedded in the Roman Catholic priesthood is an ugly part of his legacy, and in my view, overshadows whatever else he might have done.

All of the children molested, all the silence demanded, all the suffering of families affected, cry out for justice — and that would have seen Cardinal Law held to account in an American courtroom, not whiling away his days behind the protected walls of the Vatican.

4 thoughts on “Death of Cardinal Law

  1. Cardinal Law, indeed, presided over one of the most tragic eras of American Catholicism. Sadly, pedofilia and sexual abuse are pervasive in many segments of society, as evidenced by the recent Hollywood – celebrity sex scandals and the epidemic of “military sexual trauma” in the US Dept of defense What is so reprehensible about Cardinal Law, however, is his leadership in an an institution, The Roman Catholic Church, that is supposed to have a foundation of justice, ethics, love, and spirituality for all humanity. While sex abuse may have been a cultural more’ in the entertainment industry, it is sickening to know it not only existed but was covered up in the Catholic Church.

    We are all human, even the Cardinal Law; people make mistakes. However, the Catholici Church needs a major redesign if it’s to meet the tenents of the faith. Part of the pathology, in my opinion, is the archaic misogyny that is pervasive, a relic of the dark ages surround the role of women in the church. Two things I believe would make a dramatic improvement would be allowing priests to marry and having women priests. Safely, I don’t think I’ll live to see either.

  2. for Katie: I have a friend in Rochester whose younger brother was assaulted by a priest while serving as an altar boy. Happened decades ago, but her brother has never fully recovered. You should hear her on men like Cardinal Law. Her mother was extremely devout, and the abuse caused havoc in the whole family — her mother was more ashamed that the boy had somehow caused the priest’s attention than protective of her son. Sigh. I’ll bet that happened a lot.

  3. Let me first say I was not raised in a relious belief. On that note, It’s a shame that people in power still get away with these actions. Disgusting that it is hidden behind authorative figures posing as good and deemed respectable. It’s just a constant reminder to really work hard to get to know your kids and yourself and keep an open mind and soul when raising them. Belief in a higher being of authority shouldn’t overpower your deep down soul and belief in your child or yourself for that matter. I believe gut instinct is what I’m searching for.

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