A Judgment Day Cardinal Law Can’t Avoid

A Judgment Day Cardinal Law Can’t Avoid


Cardinal Bernard Law celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 2005.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Mom, why wasn’t I baptized?”

That was my 13-year old son, David, a month ago, wondering, as he had before, why he hadn’t been given the sacramental welcome to the Catholic faith, as had his brother, Charlie, who is seven years older. This time, David was mature enough for me to explain.

He was born after we had learned that for decades, the church enabled pedophile priests to sexually assault thousands of children. Paying secret settlements, transferring these priests, coaxing silence from victims and families, our church violated Catholics’ faith, then shamefully appealed to those same beliefs to cover its crimes.

David, how could I trust the Catholic Church with you, my baby boy?

Remembering all this, I fill with rage and sorrow. I did again on Wednesday, reading that Pope Francis will participate in a funeral Mass for Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, who, for many Catholics, is the institutional face of the scandal. Pope Francis, the Holy Father many Catholics prayed would finally hold men like Cardinal Law to full account, will instead continue to honor him in death.

The victims were as young as 4 years old. Many came from poor families, led by single parents or immigrants who turned to the church for help, and to priests like Boston’s John Geoghan as an example for their sons. Mr. Geoghan preyed on and raped children like these for the duration of his priesthood. But Mr. Geoghan was one of the many pedophile priests whom Cardinal Law spent decades shielding and shifting from one parish to the next, supplying them with ever more victims, building a temple of lies.

From The Boston Globe’s 2002 series that brought the pillars down:

“Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew about Geoghan’s problems in 1984, Law’s first year in Boston, yet approved his transfer. … Wilson D. Rogers Jr., the cardinal’s attorney, defended the move. … Since 1997, the archdiocese has settled about 50 lawsuits against Geoghan, for more than $10 million — but with no confidential documents ever made public. Plaintiffs in the 84 pending lawsuits are refusing to settle their claims as easily, and the church’s internal documents are subject to being revealed in the litigation. So the archdiocese has moved aggressively to keep information about its supervision of Geoghan out of public view. … When Law was named a defendant in 25 of the lawsuits, Rogers asked a judge to impound any reference to the cardinal, arguing that his reputation might be harmed. The judge refused.”

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