• 00:40
  • 10.12.2019
Disgraced Cardinal Law dies in Rome
incidents
09.12.2019

Disgraced Cardinal Law dies in Rome

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Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church's worldwide sexual abuse scandals, has died. He was 86.

Law, whose resignation from his Boston post in 2002 shocked the Church and brought abuse into the open, had been living in Rome and was in declining health in recent years.

The Vatican did not give a cause of death but sources close to Law, who died in a hospital in Rome on Wednesday, said he had been suffering from the complications of diabetes, liver failure and a build up of fluids around the heart, known as pericardial effusion.
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Law was archbishop of Boston for 18 years when Pope John Paul - who in 1984 had appointed Law to run one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses - reluctantly accepted his resignation in 2002, after a tumultuous year in Church history.

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

The resignation sent shock waves through the American Church and began a trickle down effect around the world, as the cover-up techniques used in Boston were discovered to have been used in country after country.
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Law had offered to step down several times before the Pope accepted his resignation.

The story of how the Globe team doggedly brought the scandal to light in a city were few wanted to cross the politically powerful Church was immortalised in the 2015 film Spotlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The situation in Boston turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of abuse and its cover-up, where churchmen preferred protecting the reputation of the institution rather than the innocence of children.
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Thousands of cases came to light around the world as investigations encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the Church's reputation in places such as Ireland, and forcing it to pay some $US2 billion ($A2.8 billion) in compensation.

Six months after his resignation the Massachusetts attorney general's office announced that Law and others would not face criminal charges.

After a period in a monastery in the United States, Law moved to Rome.
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In 2004 Pope John Paul appointed Law to be archpriest of the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four major basilica's of Christendom, whose gold leaf ceiling is said to be made from the first batch of the precious metal Columbus brought back from America. 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 centre of power in Rome and serve as a member or adviser in several influential Vatican departments.
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He also maintained the rank of cardinal and participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict in 2005.

Before he became ill, Law was a regular on the diplomatic circuit, attending receptions, including many in the gardens of the US embassy to the Vatican.
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