Bernard Law, archbishop during the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, dies aged 86

  • 21/12/2017
Bernard Law archbishop
Bernard Law. Photo credit: Reuters

A disgraced Boston archbishop, at the helm during the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, has died.

Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign in 2002 after it was revealed he covered up for paedophile priests.

The scandal was the plot of the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight.

Law died after a long illness at the age of 86.

He was Archbishop of Boston, one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses, for 18 years when Pope John Paul reluctantly accepted his resignation on December 13, 2002, after a tumultuous year in Church history.

A succession of devastating news stories by Boston Globe reporters showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years under Law's tenure without parishioners or law authorities being informed.

The telegram of condolences Pope Francis sent to the dean of the College of Cardinals was unusually short and bland compared to those for other cardinals before.

Francis said he was praying that the merciful God would "welcome him in eternal peace". The Pope did not mention that Law had been Archbishop of Boston and a brief Vatican biography made no mention of the circumstances of his resignation 15 years ago.

In 2004 Pope John Paul appointed Law to be archpriest of the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four major basilicas of Christendom, whose gold leaf ceiling is said to be made from the first batch of the precious metal Columbus brought back from the Americas. He is likely to be buried there.

In relative terms it was an immense fall from grace. Such posts are symbolic and ceremonial.

But victims of sexual abuse were outraged because it gave Law a second career and a golden parachute that allowed him to stay close to the center of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.

He also maintained the rank of cardinal and participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict in 2005.

Reuters / Newshub.