December 21, 2017
By Patrice Taddonio
[Note: Includes streaming link to the Hand of God documentary about Paul Cultrera and Fr. Joseph Birmingham. See also an a resource page for the movie and assignment history of Birmingham with links to documents.]
Cardinal Bernard Law, a key figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal that continues to haunt the Roman Catholic Church, died this week at the age of 86.
Law was the archbishop of Boston when starting in 2002, a Boston Globe investigation found that for years, he had transferred priests who sexually abused children within his archdiocese. After the stories broke, Law’s name became synonymous with the abuse scandal. He apologized and resigned from his post after the Globe’s revelations, but he continued to hold his title as cardinal up until his death on Tuesday.
All told, approximately 1,000 people would come forward alleging clergy sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Boston, exposing the depth of a scandal that had been largely hidden from public view under Law’s tenure.
Among the many people impacted by abusive priests within the archdiocese was Paul Cultrera, whose story was the focus of the 2007 Frontline documentary Hand of God (watch below).
Cultrera grew up in a Catholic home in Salem, Massachusetts, where pictures of popes and cardinals hung in the hallway. He was molested in the 1960s by Father Joseph Birmingham, who allegedly abused nearly 100 other children, and who would eventually be one of the priests named in the Boston Globe’s reporting.
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