Bernard Francis Law

Bernard Francis Law

Infobox Cardinal
honorific-prefix =
name = Bernard Francis Law
honorific-suffix =
title = Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Boston

caption =
province =
diocese =
see = Boston (Emeritus)
enthroned = 11 January 1984
ended = 13 December 2002
predecessor = Humberto Sousa Medeiros
successor = Seán Patrick O'Malley
ordination =
consecration =
cardinal = 25 May 1985
rank =
other_post = Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
birth_name =
birth_date = Birth date and age|1931|11|4|df=y
birthplace = Mexico
death_date =
deathplace =
buried =
nationality =
religion =
residence =
parents =
spouse =
children =
ocupation =
profession =
alma_mater =

Bernard Francis Law (born 4 November 1931 in Torreón, Mexico) is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the Archbishop emeritus of Boston, member of the Roman Curia, archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and titular Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna, the American Catholic church in Rome.

He resigned as archbishop of Boston on 13 December 2002, in response to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.


Early life

Law, an only child, was born in Torreón, Mexico on 4 November 1931. His father, a career Air Force officer, was stationed at the Torreón United States Air Force base, making Bernard a so-called "military brat". His mother, Helen, was a convert to Catholicism from Presbyterianism.

He attended schools in New York, Florida, Georgia, and Barranquilla (Colombia), and graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

He graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a major in medieval history, before entering priesthood studies at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana, from 1953 to 1955, and the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, from 1955 to 1961.

On May 21 1961 Law was ordained a priest and worked as a priest of Natchez-Jackson, Mississippi. He served two years as an assistant pastor, and was made the editor of the "Mismanisha is fatsissippi Register", the diocesan newspaper. He also held several other diocesan posts from 1963 to 1968, including director of the family life bureau and spiritual director of the minor seminary.

Civil rights activism

Law was a civil rights activist, and took part in some of the civil rights marches of the timeswhenFact|date=May 2008. He was a member of the Mississippi Leadership Conference and Mississippi Human Relations Council. For his civil rights activities and his strong editorial positions on civil rights in the Mississippi Register, he received death threats Fact|date=May 2008.

Law received national attention for his work for ecumenism in the Deep South in the 1960s and in 1968 he was tapped for his first national post, as executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Fact|date=May 2008.

Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Pope Paul VI named him bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on October 22 1973 and he was ordained as a bishop on 5 December 1973. Law's predecessor in Springfield-Cape Girardeau was William Wakefield Baum, another future cardinal.

In 1975, he made the news when he arranged for the resettlement in his diocese of one hundred and sixty-six Vietnamese refugees who had arrived in the United States, and who were members of the Vietnamese religious order, the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix.

In continuing his ecumenical work, Law formed the Missouri Christian Leadership Conference. He was made a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and served from 1976 to 1981 as a consultor to its Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. In the late 1970s, Law would also chair the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

In 1981, Law was named the Vatican delegate to develop and oversee a program instituted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which U.S. Episcopal priests would be accepted into the Catholic priesthood. In the program's first year sixty-four Episcopal priests applied for acceptance. This brought married priests with their families into U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses for the first time (Eastern Catholic Churches, in keeping with their own traditions, have ordained married men to the priesthood for centuries).

In this period Law was also a pro-life activist and spoke out against abortion. During the 1984 presidential race, when Geraldine Ferraro, who was a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Law and then Archbishop of New York John Joseph O'Connor both denounced her support of abortion rights for women. Law called abortion "the critical issue of the moment".

Archbishop of Boston

infobox cardinalstyles
cardinal name=Bernard Francis Law
dipstyle=His Eminence
offstyle=Your Eminence
See=Boston (Emeritus)|

On January 11 1984, Cardinal Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston, prelate bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston by Pope John Paul II. He was installed as Archbishop on March 23 1984.

Only a little over a year later on May 25 1985, he was elevated in consistory as a member of the College of Cardinals, where he was also appointed the Cardinal-Priest of the "Titulus S. Susannae".

It was his speech at the 1985 Synod of Bishops marking the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council, that led to development of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in which Law oversaw the first draft of the English translation.

In the mid-1980s, Law chaired the bishops' Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices at the time it distributed a major study report on Freemasonry. The bishops' report concluded that "the principles and basic rituals of Masonry embody a naturalistic religion, active participation in which is incompatible with Christian faith and practice."

In 1989 and 1990 Law visited Cuba. He met with Fidel Castro in 1990 and in January 1998 he led a delegation of two hundred and forty Bostonians to Cuba during the papal visit there. In 2000 he was part of an inter-American delegation of bishops that met with Castro for more than four hours.

During his time as Archbishop he continued to be a constant advocate of the right to life of the unborn. However, in 1995, when John Salvi attacked two Boston abortion clinics, he urged a moratorium on clinic protests.

exual abuse scandal

Cardinal Law's reign as Archbishop of Boston began in popularity but quickly declined into turbulence towards the end of his term. Allegations and reports of sexual misconduct by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston became widespread causing Roman Catholics in other dioceses of the United States to investigate similar situations there. Cardinal Law's actions and inactions prompted public scrutiny of all members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the steps they had taken in response to past and current allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of priests. The events in the Archdiocese of Boston exploded into a national Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Grassroots public advocacy groups like Voice of the Faithful focused on Cardinal Law after documents revealed his extensive role in covering up incidents of sexual misconduct of his priests. For example, Cardinal Law moved Paul Shanley and John Geoghan from parish to parish within the diocese despite repeated allegations of molestation of children under the priests' care. Later, it was discovered that Father Shanley even advocated the North American Man-Boy Love Association. The cardinal in questioning restated the official Vatican position of what has been termed a "sex abuse scandal" in American; that when a priest committed a sex crime the cardinal said his practice was to seek the analysis of psychiatrists, clinicians, and therapists in residential treatment centers before deciding whether a priest accused of sexually abusing a child should be returned to the pulpit.

In 1987, after at least 23 years of child molesting by Father Joseph Birmingham during which time he was shuffled to various parishes, the mother of an altar boy at St. Anns wrote to Law asking if Birmingham had a history of molesting children. Cardinal Law wrote back "I contacted Father Birmingham. ... He assured me there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him. From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter." [ [ Hand of God -] ]

As a result of the unlawful sex, the Archdiocese of Boston lost millions of dollars in fines and settlements. It also funded the legal defense of accused priests. The archdiocese slipped into large financial deficits Fact|date=May 2008. The Archdiocese closed sixty-five parishes before Cardinal Law stepped down from service.

In response to the scandal, over fifty priests signed a letter declaring no confidence in Cardinal Law and asking him to resign - something that had never before happened in the history of the Catholic Church in America Fact|date=May 2008.

Some of Law's statements during the crisis have not been fully questioned. Law's public statements and depositions during the abuse crisis claimed that the Cardinal and RCAB did not initially have the expertise to understand pedophilia and ephebophilia and relied upon doctors' recommendations [ Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church ] ] . In January of 2002, Law stated, "I promulgated a policy to deal with sexual abuse of minors by clergy. This went into effect on Jan. 15, 1993," and also noted that the, "policy has been effective." [ [ Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church / Cardinal Law and the laity ] ] His depositions echoed those sentiments.

However, examples can be found of the failure of this policy. One is the case of the notorious predator priest Robert V. Gale, who was sentenced to 4.5-5 years in prison in 2004 after pleading guilty to repeatedly raping a boy in Waltham during the 1980s. [ [ Priest sentenced for raping altar boy ] ] [ Priest who raped altar boy gets 4 to 5 years in jail - Norwood, MA - The Daily News Transcript ] ] Shortly before the 1993 policy took effect, Gale (who had been treated in 1987 following years of abusing children [ [ The Daily Collegian - Former priest, convicted rapist sentenced to 4 1/2 to 5 years ] ] [ Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church / Scandal and coverup ] ] [] [ [ Bishop Accountability ] ] ) had begun a restricted ministry [ The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston ] ] , living at St. Monica's in South Boston while studying at UMass. Documents that have been released [ [ Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church / Scandal and coverup ] ] show that Gale's placement was one of the first reviewed after the initiation of the 1993 policy. Cardinal Law, who had the ultimate authority, signed off on letting Gale remain at St. Monica's. An adolescent reported that Gale abused him in his room/office in the rectory just a few months after Law's decision was made. Though Law's later apologies were marginally more substantial [ [ Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church / Cardinal Law and the laity ] ] , he has not answered questions about how examples like these provide evidence of the 1993 policy being "effective".


Law submitted his resignation to the Vatican and Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation on December 13, 2002.

In a statement and apology Cardinal Law said, "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness". He remained cardinal, which is a separate appointment, and participated in the 2005 papal conclave.

Papal promotion

After his resignation, John Paul appointed Law to several authoritative positions in Rome and the Vatican. [ [ "Cardinal Law Given Post In Rome"] , "The New York Times", May 28, 2004. Accessed April 11, 2008.] He is currently the archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. He is also a member of the Congregations of Oriental Churches, Clergy, Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Evangelisation of Peoples, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Catholic Education, Bishops as well as the Pontifical Council for the Family. This is a large number of organisations for any cardinal to be involved in and is partly due to residing in Rome.

Episcopal Succession

date of consecration=December 5 1973
consecrated by=Joseph Bernard Brunini
bishopconsecrated1 = bishopconsecrated1
bishop 1=Tomás Andrés Mauro Muldoon
consecration date 1=October 8 1984
bishopconsecrated2 = bishopconsecrated2
bishop 2=Robert Joseph Banks
consecration date 2=September 19 1985
bishopconsecrated3 = bishopconsecrated3
bishop 3=Roberto González Nieves
consecration date 3=October 3 1988
bishopconsecrated4 = bishopconsecrated4
bishop 4=John Richard McNamara
consecration date 4=May 21 1992
bishopconsecrated5 = bishopconsecrated5
bishop 5=John Patrick Boles
consecration date 5=May 21 1992
bishopconsecrated6 = bishopconsecrated6
bishop 6=John Brendan McCormack
consecration date 6=December 27 1995
bishopconsecrated7 = bishopconsecrated7
bishop 7=William Francis Murphy
consecration date 7=December 27 1995
bishopconsecrated8 = bishopconsecrated8
bishop 8=Francis Xavier Irwin
consecration date 8=September 17 1996
bishopconsecrated9 = bishopconsecrated9
bishop 9=Emilio Simeon Alluè
consecration date 9=September 17 1996
bishopconsecrated10 = bishopconsecrated10
bishop 10=Richard Joseph Malone
consecration date 10=March 1 2000
bishopconsecrated11 = bishopconsecrated11
bishop 11=Walter James Edyvean
consecration date 11=September 14 2001
bishopconsecrated12 = bishopconsecrated12
bishop 12=Richard Gerard Lennon
consecration date 12=September 14 2001
bishopconsecrated13 = null
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bishopconsecrated14 = null
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bishopconsecrated15 = null
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bishopconsecrated16 = null
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bishopconsecrated19 = null
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consecration date 19=
bishopconsecrated20 = null
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consecration date 20=

ee also

*Roman Catholic sex abuse cases
*Roman Catholic priests accused of sex offenses
*Crimen sollicitationis
*Pontifical Secret
*Deliver Us from Evil (2006 film)
*Sex Crimes and the Vatican (Panorama Documentary Episode)
*Barbara Blaine founder of SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests)
*Red Hot Catholic Love, "South Park" television episode

External links

* [ Cardinal Bernard Law Biography]
* [ The Boston Globe]
* [ The Vatican's official site for him]


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