One of the most famous — or infamous — leaders of the American Catholic Church has retired:
Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as Boston’s archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States, has retired from his subsequent job as head of a major Roman basilica.
The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the 80-year-old Law’s resignation as archpriest of St. Mary Major basilica and had named Spanish Monsignor Santos Abril y Castello to replace him.
Law’s 2004 appointment as the archpriest of one of Rome’s most important basilicas had been harshly criticized by victims of priestly sex abuse, who charged that bishops who covered up for pedophile priests should be punished, not rewarded.
Law turned 80 earlier this month. While the pope could have kept him on longer — the dean of the College of Cardinals will be 84 this week, for example — Benedict decided to replace him.
The Vatican announcement made no mention of Law’s resignation, though, merely noting in a perfunctory, two-line statement that Benedict had named a new archpriest for the basilica.
Law became the first and so far only U.S. bishop to resign for mishandling cases of priests who sexually abused children.