Pope Francis has decided to attend the funeral of Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the former Boston archbishop who was widely known for transferring priests to protect them from credible child sex abuse claims. The pope will attend the service despite the fact that Law resigned in disgrace in 2002 and became an infamous symbol of the scandal-plagued Catholic Church.
Law, who was well known for being a “progressive” cardinal prior to revelations that he protected abusers and put young kids in harm’s way, will receive a full Vatican funeral.
Cardinal Bernard Law, who has died 15 years after he resigned as Boston’s archbishop amid allegations that he covered up for pedophile priests, will receive a full cardinal’s funeral Thursday at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The funeral plans appear to follow the Catholic Church’s protocol for cardinals who die in Rome, even as a network of survivors of sex abuse by priests has publicly called on the Vatican to keep survivors in mind when planning the event.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will celebrate the funeral Mass, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., the Vatican said. Pope Francis then will give a “final commendation,” or blessing, as he has previously for cardinals’ funerals.
Despite Law’s history in the Church outside of the scandal, Pope Francis, who has a progressive reputation himself, should skip the funeral and avoid being on the wrong side of history.
It’s considered tradition for the Pope to attend the funerals of cardinals, even when they’ve been accused of sexual misconduct, but this is part of the reason the Church has such a bad reputation on these issues. By consistently covering up for child sex abusers, Law put more kids in danger than each of the offending priests themselves, and the Pope would send a strong message about the Church’s future by not attending the ceremony.
If there’s ever a time to break with tradition, and side with the victims, the time is now. Pope Francis has nothing to gain by showing up, even ceremonially, at Law’s funeral. Attending the service would suggest that even Church officials who played a significant role in the abuse of kids will be honored by those in the Catholic hierarchy. Even soldiers who receive a dishonorable discharge don’t receive military funeral honors.
This is when words meet action. Does the Pope care more about victims or those who donned the uniform in the name of the faith despite a series of unethical and devastating decisions? Is he all talk when it comes to reforming the Church? That’s what his critics have said for years, and there will be no better proof of that than during tomorrow’s service.
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