In a victory for women and for victims of priest abuse, Cardinal Bernard Law today submitted his resignation as archbishop of Boston to Pope John Paul II in Rome. In his resignation speech, Law asked for forgiveness for “those who have suffered from [his] shortcomings and mistakes,” according to the BBC. Law has been widely criticized for his mishandling of priests who were accused of sex abuse, accused of moving them from parish to parish rather than investigating the allegations. Documents released by the Boston Archdiocese last week show Law’s involvement in retaining and transferring priests accused of molesting children and adolescents.
Over the past 11 months, victims’ support groups and even other Boston priests have called for Cardinal Law’s resignation, including the recent letter submitted by 58 Boston-area clerics calling for Law to step down as archbishop. Victims’ support groups were pleased by Law’s resignation today, but cautioned that the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is bigger than one man, according to the Boston Globe. The Boston Archdiocese alone faces about 450 suits from alleged abuse victims, and at least 325 of the 46,000 priests in the US have been removed from duty or resigned this year because of sex abuse claims, according to the Washington Post. The scandal has cost the Boston Archdiocese tens of millions of dollars already, and future settlements could total $100 million or more, according to the Globe.
Law will remain a cardinal and will be eligible to receive other positions in the Catholic Church, as well as vote in papal elections until he turns 80 years old, according to FOX. In addition, Law will still be involved in litigation facing the Boston Archdiocese, and was subpoenaed last week to appear before a grand jury, the Post reports. Law is the highest-ranking US church official ever to lose his job as the result of scandal, the Globe reports. Law’s resignation was announced in a press release issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which made no mention of the sex abuse scandal. Bishop Richard G. Lennon will serve as church head in Boston until a new archbishop is chosen by the Pope.