Disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, symbol of Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, dies at 86

The sexual abuse reports shook the American church, and also revealed similar instances in countries across the world

Disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, symbol of Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, dies at 86

The former archbishop of Boston — Cardinal Bernard Law — who became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church's infamous sexual abuse scandals, died on Wednesday at the age of 80, according to the Vatican.

The Vatican issued a press release early on Wednesday with one line reading "Cardinal Bernard Law died early this morning after a long illness."

Former Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law (C) (Getty Images)

Pope John Paul had appointed Law in 1984 to run one of the most prestigious and wealthy archdioceses in America. Law was archbishop of Boston for 18 years until he reluctantly accepted his resignation on December 13, 2002, after the sexual abuse was brought into the open.

A series of stories were reported by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team, which showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from one parish to another for years under Law's tenure without informing law authorities and parishioners, according to reports.

Bishop Richard Lennon (C), who will lead the Boston Archdiocese after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law (Getty Images)

The sexual abuse reports shook the American church, and also revealed similar instances in countries across the world where such cover-up techniques — similar to the ones used in Boston —  were also used for sex offenders in several churches.

“It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation, and unity which are so desperately needed,” Law had said at the time, according to Reuters.

Protesters hold photos of alleged victims of sexual abuse outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Getty Images)

“To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.”

Law had been living in Rome and had been suffering from a range of complications including diabetes, liver failure and a build-up of fluids around the heart, known as pericardial effusion. The Vatican, however, did not give a cause of Law's death.

Reports state that Law had offered to step down several times during the sexual abuse scandal before the Pope finally accepted his resignation.

Roland Martneau protests outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross during the installment of Sean Patrick O'Malley (Getty Images)

A 2015 Hollywood movie Spotlight retold the story of how the Boston reporters brought the enormous scandal into the light where not many wanted to cross the powerful Church. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The scandal revealed how clergymen across the world preferred to protect the reputation of their institution rather than the children who were wronged in the incidents.

Chicago resident Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is escorted away from Saint Peter's Square April 11, 2005 on the border between Rome, Italy and Vatican City while protesting Cardinal Bernard Law leading a mass mourning Pope John Paul II. (Getty Images)

Shortly after the Boston cases were brought into the spotlight, thousands of similar cases across the world emerged as the active investigations spurred the silent victims to go public with the ordeal.

The revelations of abuse brought the reputations of the Church into shambles in countries like Ireland. In some cases, the institution had to pay nearly $2 billion in compensation, according to reports. 

Former Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law greets Pope Benedict XVI at the Spanish Steps (Getty Images)

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office announced that Law and others in the clergy would not face criminal charges. The announcement was made six months after Law's resignation. 

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement after Law's death saying: "Survivors of child sexual assault in Boston, who were first betrayed by Law's cover-up of sex crimes and then doubly betrayed by his subsequent promotion to Rome, were those most hurt. No words can convey the pain these survivors and their loved ones suffered."

US Cardinal Bernard Law celebrates mass April 11, 2005 inside St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. (Getty Images)

The Survivors' group also advised the Vatican to keep the victims of the abuse in mind when they hold Law's funeral.

"Why Law's life was so celebrated when Boston's clergy sex abuse survivors suffered so greatly? Why was Law promoted when Boston's Catholic children were sexually abused, ignored, and pushed aside time and time again?" the group asked.

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