The Cardinal At The Center Of The Scandals Chronicled In 'Spotlight' Has Died

Cardinal Bernard Law, who was the archbishop of the Boston Catholic church before allegations arose that he protected abusive priests, died on Wednesday at the age of 86, according to the New York Times.

The Vatican announced in a news release that Law had died in Rome from illness, according to CNN. Law served as the archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome after resigning in 2002 from the archbishop position in Boston, said CNN.

When Law came to Boston in 1984, he was seen as one of the most influential churchmen in the country, as he communicated with presidents and the pope at the time, Pope John Paul II. The New York Times referred to him as a “force in politics” and many people thought he could potentially be the first American pope.

In Boston, Cardinal Law became involved in the political and social structure of the city. He was such an influence on advocating for tolerance that in 2001, he placed fourth on Boston magazine’s power list, according to the New York Times.

However, on Jan. 6, 2002, the Boston Globe ran its first Spotlight story on how Cardinal Law covered up sexual abuse in the Catholic church for years. One of the priests, Rev. John Geoghan, had a long history of sexually molesting children, and under Cardinal Law had been moved around to multiple churches instead of being removed, according to the Boston Globe. This story of Cardinal Law protecting the priests soon developed into an award-winning movie released in 2015, accurately named “Spotlight.”

After public outcry and, according to the Boston Globe, 58 priests publicly calling for resignation, Cardinal Law resigned from his position in Dec. 2002. Cardinal Sean O’Malley succeeded him in 2003, according to the Boston Globe.

“Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed so seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people,” said Cardinal O’Malley in a statement regarding his death.

Law was then appointed to his position in Rome, which upset many victims and members of the church. According to USA Today, Law was the first famous cardinal exposed for his cover up of the sexual abuse, yet he was not punished by the Vatican and instead given a new position.

CNN reports that an entire network of survivors of sex abuse by priests are angry about how Law will be commemorated with a full cardinal’s funeral on Thursday at Vatican City. According to CNN, the network has asked Pope Francis to consider the victims and instead focus on protecting children and those who have been abused, rather than enablers.