He was considered a voice for immigrants, youth, and the poor, but that was before a widespread child sex abuse scandal tarnished his reputation. Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, died early Wednesday at age 86 from complications of diabetes, liver failure, and fluid around the heart, per CNN and Reuters. Law died in Rome, where he served in the largely ceremonial role of archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major. The post followed a tumultuous exit in Boston, after church documents showed Law had protected priests accused of child sex abuse, moving them from church to church, per the Boston Herald. The scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe would reverberate throughout the Catholic Church, exposing similar cases around the world.
Born in Mexico in 1931, Law was educated at Harvard and ordained as a priest in Mississippi in 1961. He would go on to be made bishop in Missouri before Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of the Boston Archdiocese in 1984. He was elevated to cardinal in 1985. Decades later, when it was revealed he had for years shielded accused priests before clergy were required to report abuse, he was recalled to the Vatican and given a new position, to the dismay of abuse victims. "He was a typical supervisor who allowed the victims and their families to be destroyed, by turning his back on children in need of protection," a lawyer who helped win multi-million-dollar settlements for victims tells the Herald. "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize to them and beg forgiveness," Law said in 2002, per the Globe.