Cardinal at centre of US sex abuse scandal dies

Cardinal at centre of US sex abuse scandal dies

Washington, Dec 20 (IANS) Cardinal Bernard law, a former US archbishop who became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church's systematic protection of paedophile priests due of his failure to stop abuse in Boston city, has died. He was 86.

The Vatican announced that law died early on Wednesday in Rome after being ill and hospitalised.

At the height of his career, law was one of the most powerful American leaders of the church and was beloved by the conservative Pope, John Paul II, under whom he served.

But he became the public face of the church's clerical abuse scandal in 2002 when the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative reporting team found that law had repeatedly moved abusive priests from parish to parish when he became aware that they were molesting children.

law at first refused to be drawn into the scandal. But the Globe's reporting overwhelmed the church and he was forced to resign.

He sought forgiveness but never faced criminal charges in the US for his repeated failure to protect children in Boston who were subjected to abuse.

"To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness," law said when he stepped down in December 2002.

The Spotlight team's uncovering of widespread child abuse by the Catholic clergy in the Boston Archdiocese won a Pulitzer prize.

The dramatization of the team's investigation, a 2015 movie also called "Spotlight", won the 2016 Best Picture Academy Award.

The scandal reverberated through the church, exposing similar allegations worldwide that compromised its moral authority and led to years of multimillion-dollar settlements.

The Vatican outraged victims of abuse and several activists when it decided to pluck law out of his archdiocese and bring him to Rome, where he enjoyed his retirement and could be seen at functions and parties.

In 2004, he was appointed archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of four principal basilicas in Rome. When John Paul died the next year, law was among bishops who presided at a memorial mass for the pontiff in St. Peter's Basilica.

His second career at the Vatican further undermined the church's legitimacy.

Since 1950, over 6,500 American priests have been accused of abusing children. The US church has paid more than $3 billion in settlements to victims, according to studies commissioned by US bishops.

The church continues to face intense criticism under new Pope Francis.

This year, Cardinal George Pell, who served as the secretariat of the economy, the third most senior position in the Vatican hierarchy, was charged with sexual abuse in his native Australia on charges that date back decades.

He became the most senior member of the clergy to face criminal allegations. Pell, who has denied the charges, has taken leave from his position while he defends himself in court.

In 2013, Pope Francis created a commission to help the church tackle abuse.

--IANS

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