Caitlin Gallagher
December 20, 2017 1:21 pm
Grzegorz GalazkaArchivio Grzegorz GalazkaMondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

A Catholic priest responsible for covering up the pedophilia that was rampant in the church has died. On December 20th, the former head of the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, passed away at the age of 86 in Rome. The Vatican gave no cause of death to the public, but Huffington Post reported that sources said his health had been failing.

Back in 2002, an investigation conducted by the Spotlight team of reporters for The Boston Globe broke the Catholic Church child sexual abuse scandal in the city. The team’s reports from this time revealed that, under Law’s tenure, priests who sexually abused children went under the radar because they were simply moved from parish to parish. Also, no one was notified of their behavior.

The first Spotlight report stated that over 130 people came forward with accusations that former Boston priest John J. Geoghan had molested or raped them over the course of three decades. The story noted that Cardinal Bernard Law was complicit, since he not only allowed Geoghan to remain a priest after learning of Geoghan’s perverse actions in 1984 (which was Law’s first year as Archbishop of Boston) but also placed the pedophile in situations that allowed him access to children. In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that the church removed Geoghan from priesthood.

The announcement of Law’s death prompted actor and activist Mark Ruffalo to tweet that the Catholic cardinal was a “terrible human being.” Ruffalo starred in the Oscar-winning Spotlight, which focused on the Spotlight team who broke this story.

After Law’s role in the sex scandal cover-up was exposed, Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston after 19 years.

According to the attorney general’s office, “Forty-eight priests and other archdiocesan employees were alleged to have abused children while Law was leader of the Boston archdiocese.” Yet Law did not face criminal charges for the role he played, since the clergy didn’t have to report child sex abuse until 2002. And in 2004, Pope John Paul II gave Law another chance by naming him archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, where Law spent the rest of his days until his death.

(As for Geoghan, he was found guilty of molesting a boy and was sentenced to prison in 2002, CNN reported. He died in prison in 2003 after another inmate attacked him.)

Law’s successor in Boston, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, said in a statement about Law’s death:

Law will be buried in Rome, but his passing won’t change the abuse that hundreds of children faced in the Boston area because of his actions.