Drawing lessons from the life of Cardinal Bernard Law

National Catholic Reporter

December 27, 2017

For those trying to understand the legacy of Cardinal Bernard Law, Donna B. Doucette, executive director of Voice of the Faithful, may offer the most useful insight.

Doucette’s organization grew out of the revelations of clergy sexually abusing children and its cover up that forced Law out of Boston in 2002, ripped the lid off a simmering cauldron of scandal, and made the sexual exploitation of children by clergy an issue of global concern. She says Catholics should learn three basic lessons from Law’s legacy: “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” “secrets destroy” and, for those interested in reforming church structures, “trust but verify.”

Law died in Rome Dec. 20, 15 years after resigning as archbishop of Boston.

In the winter and spring of 2002 as the public began to learn the tragic, awful truth of how clergy had sexually abused minors, some 25 parishioners gathered at St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, offering to provide support and counsel to the archdiocese and the cardinal.

Within weeks, the group had swelled into the hundreds, but “they learned that Cardinal Law didn’t want help from the laity,” said Doucette. In retrospect, she said, it was because Law knew more disclosures of failure on sex abuse policy would eventually become public. It was becoming clear that church leaders had deliberately and systematically covered up these horrendous crimes for decades.

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