News & Politics

Disgraced Boston Cardinal Bernard Law Is Dead at 86

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The Catholic News Agency reports that Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law — a central figure in the story covered in the movie “Spotlight” — has passed away at the age of 86:

Cardinal Bernard Law has died after a brief hospitalization due to congenital heart failure, according to sources close to the cardinal and a report from the Boston Globe. He was 86 years old.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and resigned from the position on Dec. 13, 2002, after reports revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public, or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.

“It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed,” Law wrote at the time of his resignation.

After his resignation, Law moved to Rome.  He was assigned as the Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, a largely ceremonial position from which he retired in 2011, at the age of 80. The appointment was controversial, especially as many in the US continued to call for his criminal prosecution.

Law was one of, if not the, most prominent American cardinals at the time the abuse scandal came to light. It was the horrific situation in the Archdiocese of Boston that led to deeper investigations into allegations in cities all over America. The way that Law was subsequently treated by the Vatican was seen as indicative of the Church being extremely out of touch with exactly what was going on as far as the abuse scandal in America.

While he did testify before a grand jury, Cardinal Law was never criminally charged for his role in the abuse scandal.

Law will be buried in Rome.