Cardinal Law’s complex role in the contemporary history of clergy sexual abuse / National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Bernard Law’s scandalous cover-up and resignation led to a phenomenon that was not expected nor clearly obvious at the time, but it was real. (National Catholic Reporter)

Public awareness of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy actually dates from 1984. It was triggered by the public exposure of widespread sexual violation of children by a single priest in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, and its systemic cover-up by the church’s leadership that lasted well over a decade.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who went from in 1974 being bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to in 1984 being named archbishop of Boston, became the most powerful and influential Catholic bishop in the United States. This all came to a screeching halt in 2002. In one day Law became the face of hierarchical treachery and dishonesty when The Boston Globe revealed the systemic cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by Boston priests, most of it his doing. He remained the face of the hierarchy’s disgraceful attitude towards the violation of minors and the vulnerable. Even in death he remains the focal point of the anger and rage of countless victims of sexual abuse by clergy — certainly Boston victims, but also others worldwide.

Law’s role in the history of clergy abuse is more than the systemic cover-up in Boston. What is little known is the influential part he played in the early days when the extent and depravity of this evil was first exposed. In those very early days in 1984 and 1985, I believed that when the bishops realized the nature of sexual abuse and potential plague before them, they would lose no time in doing the right thing.

By Thomas P. Doyle, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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