Funeral Pomp for Cardinal Decried
By Chris Cassidy, Marie Szanislo, Matt Stout
December 21, 2017
|Pope Francis presides over the funeral ceremony for late Cardinal Bernard Law, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Law, who died Wednesday at age 86, resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after revelations that he covered up for dozens of priests who raped and sexually molested children, moving them to different parishes without telling parents or police. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)|
Cardinal Bernard Law’s funeral today inside St. Peter’s Basilica — one of the holiest shrines in Catholicism — where Pope Francis will attend has enraged survivors of clergy sex abuse who say the disgraced cleric doesn’t deserve the high honor.
“One of the big things that bothers me is he’s going to have this huge funeral in the Vatican at St. Peter’s Basilica with all the pomp and circumstance. He doesn’t deserve it,” said Ann Hagan Webb, a priest abuse survivor and Wellesley psychologist who treats other victims. “Pope Francis should have the presence of mind to just give him a quiet funeral and not incite the retraumatizing of victims.”
Law’s death at the age of 86 reopened nightmarish memories of rampant, unchecked child molestation throughout the archdiocese by Catholic priests taking advantage of their pristine image and moral authority in the community to avoid accountability.
Law transferred pedophile priests from parish to parish, keeping them in contact with young children and their predatory crimes a secret.
“His death just brings back all of the pain and suffering he allowed to happen, and he was the cause of it,” said Robert Costello, 56, of Plainville, a priest abuse victim from the first through eighth grades. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember what happened to me. ... Bernie Law was a cruel, selfish bastard.”
Nonetheless, the Vatican plans the same customary funeral arrangements as any other cardinal living in Rome at his time of death.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside over the funeral Mass this morning, alongside other cardinals and bishops, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The pope will preside over the final prayers. Law will then be buried at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.
He died in Rome after being hospitalized two weeks ago for congenital heart failure, the Catholic News Agency reported.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Law’s predecessor in Boston installed in the aftermath of the priest abuse scandal, said he prayed by Law’s bedside when he was in Rome for meetings as he would for anyone he visits in the hospital.
“It was very obvious that Cardinal Law was dying,” said O’Malley. “He was in and out of consciousness. He recognized me. ... It was a continuous decline and doctors forecast that he wasn’t going to last long.”
O’Malley acknowledged yesterday the outrage many abuse survivors feel about Law’s full cardinal funeral.
“I understand the difficulty with that,” he told reporters. “I understand how people are reacting to that.”
After Law left the Archdiocese of Boston in disgrace in 2002, he never faced criminal charges and began a second career in Rome as an archpriest, adding insult to injury for many abuse survivors.
O’Malley suggested Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, wouldn’t have given Law the same lofty post in Rome. That would have also avoided today’s Vatican City pomp.
“I think going forward that kind of decision would not be made,” O’Malley said. “Unfortunately we’re living with the consequences of that, but I think there’s a greater understanding today than there was 15 years ago and more realization of the pain of people who suffered from sexual abuse.”
Phil Saviano, who was repeatedly abused by the Rev. David Holley when he was 11 and 12 years old, said Law’s death is far from a source of healing and has only reopened old wounds. He pictured Law as an old man pondering his own final reckoning.
“Now is the judgment day,” Saviano said. “How is he going to explain this when he comes face to face with his maker?”