Cardinal Law resigns Rome position

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.

Read more.


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22 responses to “Cardinal Law resigns Rome position”

  1. I wish the Holy Father had completely defrocked him. I do not with Law any ill, but they way he in particular was ‘handled’ is what causes many Catholics to pause and ask ‘why?’ (not to mention non-Catholics).

  2. Apropos this general topic and with specific reference to the Penn State case —Most states have laws mandating that certain people, like teachers or coaches, report any abuse they see or hear about. But what if the person making the report has made a mistake in what he thought he saw or what if the accused abuser is found innocent–are mandated reporters (or anyone else reporting abuse) protected from later lawsuits????
    I have never seen the topic examined in a media story–and it is fear of lawsuits that intimidate many people to “hear no evil, see no evil” and to not want to get involved in many different kinds of issues and situations where they could later easily be sued. (In fact, I think in most states anyone can easily be sued over anything someone is willing to plunk down a lawsuit filing fee for in the local courthouse.)
    Even if mandated reporters are protected from lawsuits– I wonder if the generalized fear of lawsuit mania in our country is having a negative effect on people willing to step forward about what they suspect they may have witnessed. For even if one is protected by law, one can still be sued and may have to spend a fortune on lawyers to defend himself–especially if the alleged abuser is found innocent in a court of law.

  3. “are mandated reporters (or anyone else reporting abuse) protected from later lawsuits????”

    Mandated reporters are absolutely immune from suit.

    “For even if one is protected by law, one can still be sued and may have to spend a fortune on lawyers to defend himself–especially if the alleged abuser is found innocent in a court of law.”

    Not madated reporters. I have not researched this question in all 50 states, but a later lawsuit against a mandated reporter would subject the plaintiff to attorneys fees and penalties at the outset of the case in all states that I am aware of. I think you will find that is true in all 50 states. The prior finding of innocence would be inadmissible.

  4. I worked for the state department of human services and was required to report any apparent child abuse or neglect to our children’s protective services people. I reported things as needed because (1) that was the job and (2) how could you not report when little kids were involved?

  5. “For even if one is protected by law, one can still be sued and may have to spend a fortune on lawyers to defend himself–especially if the alleged abuser is found innocent in a court of law.”

    I cannot speak for other states, but here in Iowa a mandatory reporter is protected from both civil and criminal repercussions from their reporting. Reports are made to the DHS, not law enforcement. The DHS makes the preliminary investigation. If they find that there is a probability that abuse did occur, law enforcement is brought in and the situation enters the criminal system. However, if the DHS determines that no abuse has taken place, no criminal complaint is registered.

    The mandatory reporter’s name is not released to either the law enforcement officials or the family. This is possible because it is the DHS investigators who initiate the criminal complaint based on evidence they collect during their investigation, not the mandatory reporter.

  6. I’ve talked with a number of the victims who were behind lawsuits against the church or various orders. I never met one who was interested in “gotcha” tactics to ensnare someone who truly did the right thing – ie a mandatory reporter who actually reported in a timely fashion.

  7. “Law became the first and so far only U.S. bishop to resign for mishandling cases of priests who sexually abused children.”

    I really do not want to be picky here, I but I do not believe that statement is correct. OR ELSE the bishop I am thinking about was forced to resign in 2002 for a totally different reason.

  8. There is a sexual abuse cancer among us, in our families and our institutions. It’s not just a “Catholic” problem. And, you’ve got to wonder how much concern the media really has for the children. Granted, what has transpired in the Church and, as is now public, at Penn State, is heinous. But, if the media truly cared for the innocence of the little ones, they would be investigating all the professions and their leaders and administrators (scouting, sports, education, police, medicine, day care, etc) that give easy placement and access to children, beginning primarily with the teaching profession where it is rampant.
    This is a list of documented female teachers and students:
    And, as an aside, here’s a list of sexual abuse among Protestant ministers (838 ministers):
    This cancer has a way of replicating itself and invading the whole fabric of our society. God’s ways are certainly not our ways. And, oftentimes, it looks like God is giving away the store. But, “Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation” 2 Peter 3:15. We are being corporately washed in the blood of Christ just as we have been asking, “Oh wash me, I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:9b). Because of the Church’s painful experience with sexual abuse, we will become leaders in the fight against this great evil.

  9. Unless there was more to the perfunctory, two line statement from the Vatican, Law didn’t resign so much as he was removed, replaced, banished, gotten out of sight. Alas, the memory of damage-done will remain long beyond the man.

  10. So I gather from two of the comments here that if someone is not a mandated reporter and makes a mistake and reports something that turns out to not have occurred (in the eyes of the law) a person not under the “mandated reporter” category could be sued and possibly lose everything he has.
    Also, it appears that every state has different laws with regard to reporting abuse and the protection given under the law to the reporter.
    This is an important aspect to the problem because the vast majority of people are not in the “mandated reporter” category. I read somewhere that in some states school custodians are not “mandated reporters”. But janitors, custodians, school repairmen, etc. are sometimes in the best position to see what is happening in a school.
    I’m raising these issues because most media looks at the abuse problem are very shallow as far as looking into the deeper American cultural and legal conditions that have led to this abuse epidemic. Needless to say there has been virtually no self-analysis by the media at the possible roll played by the barrage of moral garbage they belch out every minute of every day polluting the cultural landscape to the point some media could almost be considered accomplices to evil. (Maybe that is why the media keeps making sure its news coverage–scapegoating???– never points at any possible media roll, better to keep the focus on the Catholic Church and, now, college sports.)
    As far as -who wouldn’t report??? That strikes me as being very simplistic. Many times people see things that they are not sure about what exactly happened. And if they report it, turn out to be wrong, and then possibly later wind up financially ruined by a lawsuit could make reporting very problematic to some sincere minds. As I understand it Penn. has some of the weakest reporting laws–which could mean someone reporting abuse mistakenly might be in more trouble than the alleged abuser.

  11. To put Cardinal Law in proper perspective, people need to realize and remember that,

    – the abusive priests were already there when he arrived;
    – much of the abuse which came to light had occurred before he arrived;
    – incidents of abuse declined throughout his episcopacy;
    – the measures he adopted to deal with the problem were similar to those adopted by many American bishops, in the sincere belief that they were handling things in a way that was truly best for all: priests, Church, and victims.

  12. natur–As to your last point about how other bishops handled abusive priests:
    It was not only bishops. In our culture–at the height of what the Church is solely taking hits for (financially and reputation wise) medicine, education, law enforcement, etc. all handled abuse cases similarly. It was part of the culture to handle bad apples by quietly moving them to elsewhere in their bureaucracy. And the mental health consensus of the day was that to make a public spectacle of it all would devastate the victims even further.
    Even the NY Times–in one lone in-depth research front-page article admitted that in public education—even to recently–the policy was “move the trash along.” and keep things buried–ostensibly for the sake of victims.

  13. Just do the right thing. Remember Jesus’ words, “You did it to me.”

    If one sees sexual abuse, like what allegedly happened in the Nittany Lions’ territory, the first obligation is to break it up and get the child away from the danger. The second obligation is to report it. And, if you can get some sort of proof, grab that for the police as well so that the charges can stick. Be ready to testify, just as we must be ready to testify to Christ. Sadly, our societal moral backbone is very weak these days. The VIRTUS program that has been implemented in many places provides, on an initial and continuing basis, a good run down on what should be done when. Put yourself in that child’s place. If you were that child, would you want someone to be concerned enough to say something, or would you want that person to be too afraid of their job or reputation? If a child cannot turn to an adult for protection, who can that child turn to? Remember, child abuse is a cancer that spreads. Not all child abusers grow up to abuse. However, there are a number of them that do. One abuser can damage the lives of hundreds over his or her own lifetime. We must respect the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death…and every moment and age in between.

  14. Did anyone read the news reports of young people rioting in Rome, overturning a news truck to vent their rage at the effective sacking of a Cardinal who covered the abuse of children?

    Oops. That was Penn. State.

  15. Deacon John — Can we please (please) not respond to sexual abuse cover-ups within the holy Roman Catholic Church by telling everyone, Hey, other institutions have their problems with abuse as well? That is no defense at all. The bishops should not have covered it up. The bishops were wrong to cover it up. Cardinal Law was wrong to cover it up.

    The “everybody else was doing it too” excuse doesn’t fly for my kid when he gets into a shoving match at school, and it sure should not be a defense that anyone offers on behalf of this church. Evil (which is what occurred when bishops moved predator priests around and lied to parishioners and failed to call the cops) does not stop being evil when you prove that other institutions have flaws as well.

  16. Steve, I did not see what Deacon John posted as an excuse to take away the issue as much as to point out facts. If there were actual concern over the abuse of children, there would be a lot more in the media and in our courts and legislatures to truly go after all who abuse those under legal age. If everyone is outraged, why isn’t everyone calling their congressman to make sure action is taken to make the abuse of a child when proven a major long term sentence in jail? Of course the abuse of a child is not of concern when the child is in a certain location or of a certain age so not all children are protected from violence and abuse. Isn’t it kind of hypocritical to show such outrage on this abuse when we are living in the worst holocuast of babies being slaughtered ever since 1973 and Roe?

  17. Mark, I’m sure you already do realize that there ARE laws in place (state laws, usually, not federal) that make child molestation and child rape very serious crimes — felonies, to be specific; that is, crimes which carry lengthy prison sentences. One serious problem, however, is that some institutions (including the Catholic church, not just in this country, but also in Ireland, the Belgium, Germany, etc.) have demonstrated a pattern of covering up this crime when it occurred rather than reporting it to the police so that it could be investigated and prosecuted.

    Abortion is an important issue; I agree with you on that point. However, conflating the abortion debate with action/inaction in putting a stop to the sexual abuse of children doesn’t help anyone. (You’re not suggesting that we shouldn’t take action to report and prosecute sexual abuse until abortion is made illegal in the U.S., are you? No, I really didn’t think you were suggesting that. But truly, I’m not clear as to how you want abortion to factor into the sexual abuse problem. Each of those issues needs to be dealt with. We can’t afford to ignore either issue.)

  18. The point I am trying to make is that the problem of abuse is far,far, far deeper and more widespread than some dereliction of duty by some possibly incompetent, ignorant, or misled (by lawyers and psychiatrists of a past day) bishop.
    That some Church leaders have been incompetent or derelict in their duty has been made obvious. But what now?? It strikes me as a very odd attitude to take that we now slam the door at looking deeper into cultural causes and insult people who want to look for deeper and broader causes which only a fool would say are not there. Some seem to have the attitude: We got the Church–now circle the wagons to “protect” schools, sports, law, the media (as in Hollywood heros Woody Allen and Roman Polanski).
    One of the wisest history professors I ever took a course with once said that “If you attribute an event in history to only one cause, you have made your first major mistake in studying history.”

  19. So is he going to sun himself in Rome in a retirement home for old Cardinals? OR is he going to return to Boston? Expect his welcome in Boston would be not as warm as the sun in Rome.

  20. Pagansister:

    I have every reason to believe that Cardinal Law will have a place somewhere to live out the rest of his days in peace without being bombarded by media. For instance, he was born in Mexico, raised in the American Virgin Islands, went to a seminary in Ohio whose alumni are spread all over the world.

    Massachusetts? Seems to me a regular blogger here is Deacon John M. Breshnahan, who is from Lynn, Massachusetts; he certainly has a better insight into that possibility than most. Frankly, I doubt it.

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