BOSTON (CBS) – Before his appalling depravity and callousness became apparent, the late Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law was an impressive sight.
By contrast with his dowdy predecessor, Humberto Medeiros, Law cut a handsome figure, his nickname – the Silver Fox – inspired by both his striking head of hair and his smooth baritone voice.
He was an expert politician who spoke regularly with President George H.W. Bush during his presidency and was a frequent White House visitor during the George W. Bush administration. And he wasn’t shy about using his political clout, opposing abortion rights and pro-choice politicians, denouncing capital punishment and lobbying on behalf of the immigrants who were increasingly filling the pews.
And from the moment he became Archbishop of Boston in 1984, the Silver Fox was an aggressive enabler of the child rapists within the archdiocese, an accomplished liar and moral degenerate who blithely passed the rapists on to other jurisdictions.
When the facts of former Fall River priest James Porter’s massive sexual predation emerged in 1992, Law shed crocodile tears about “evil acts,” but quickly pivoted to the standard political dodge of blaming the messengers.
“The papers like to focus on the faults of a few,” he said. “We deplore that. . . . By all means, we call down God’s power on the media.”
When Law finally, mercifully resigned in 2002, he characterized his negligent leadership and callous indifference to the pleas of his flock for protection from the priest-rapists as “shortcomings and mistakes.” And in one last, reflexive effort to appear pious, he said “it is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation, and unity which are so desperately needed.”
In fact, like a cancer patient rebounding quickly from removal of the malignancy, Law’s disingenuous prayer was answered. While the scars remain and some Greater Boston Catholics experienced permanent estrangement from the Church, the Archidocese under Sean Cardinal O’Malley experienced a remarkable revival, with donations returning to pre-scandal levels even as its other modern-day problems lingered.
The genuine spirituality of Boston Catholics has proven stronger than the silver-coiffed evil that violated its most basic tenets.
This community will never rest on the threat of exploitation again. And while some will forgive Bernard Law his sins, many others will never be at peace with his toxic legacy.