Cardinal Law arriving to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in 2010 / Andrew Medichini, Associated Press, via New York TimesBy now most of my readers will have heard that Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, died in Vatican City (Archive.Is cached article). He was famous as one of the targets of the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team, which revealed “priestly pedophilia” in the US in a series of articles back in 2002.

Initial focus was on the case of Fr John Geoghan, whom the archdiocese purposely allowed to abuse children for decades during his career as a priest (cached). The now-late Cardinal Law, the Globe subsequently revealed, helped a large number of priests abuse children, not just Geoghan, then often used quiet settlements to keep their abuse a secret (cached).

Cardinal Law flew to the Vatican and resigned as archbishop, near the end of 2002, under the weight of the unfolding scandal. Pope John Paul II then granted him a cushy, make-work job (i.e. archpriest of St Mary Major basilica) which kept him in Vatican City and thus shielded him from potential prosecution in the US.

Good bye and good riddance to one of the more vile human beings who’s ever lived. I’m disappointed the current Pope, Francis, is going to preside over his funeral. What Francis ought to have done, back when he took office, was to dismiss Law from his job in the Vatican and ship him back to the ‘States, hopefully to be brought up on charges for what he did. It’s a pity that can never happen, now.

Photo credit: Andrew Medichini/Associated Press, via New York Times.

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  • And yet there are still people who believe Pope Francis is a good person. It’s strange.

    Law, of course, is hardly unusual. A huge study by the Dallas Morning News a few years ago concluded that 111 of the 178 Catholic bishops and archbishops in the US were involved in covering up child molestation, and the same pattern is seen in other countries.

    • Many have said this, but I agree: It actually goes back a very long way in Church history. Clergy abusing people, including sexually, is an old problem. For example, the regional Synod of Elvira (c. 305 CE) was one of the first attempts to impose celibacy on clergy, and that might have followed from abuses by priests, deacons, etc. This synod came up with measures to deal with, and hopefully prevent, many kinds of misbehavior within the Church (not just clerical), and clerical celibacy was just one of many canons that came out of it. 

      Yes, it’s ironic that celibacy was once seen as a preventive policy, not a flaw that contributes to abuse, but my point is that abuses were known as long ago as the early 4th century (and likely long before that, given the scope of behaviors covered by this synod). 

      I suspect what lies at the heart of the scandal, as it is now, is that certain acts are viewed as “not real sex” that would contradict a priest’s celibacy vow. That, however, would not explain priests sexually assaulting women … which certainly has happened. It is, for better or worse, a complicated issue. 

      Nevertheless, it is definitely an ancient problem. Literally. As in, going back to “ancient” times.