Law, who headed the Boston church for 18 years, submitted his resignation during a 20-minute meeting with the pontiff Friday morning. He said in a written statement that he hoped the move would begin to heal the deeply divided church.
“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,” Law said. “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.”
Archdiocese spokesman Rev. Chris Coyne said the resignation was “just one more moment of sadness over the whole timeline of great sadness and grief that has touched the archdiocese, beginning with the monumental tragedy of the abuse of children by priests and the failure and flaws of the administration to deal adequately with those moments of abuse.”
The church appointed the Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon to run the Archdiocese of Boston as the apostolic administrator following the announcement. Lennon called for the fractured Boston church to come together to begin the process of healing.
“I pledge to do all I can with the help of the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity of the archdiocese, to work towards healing as a church and furthering the mission of Jesus Christ within our community,” Lennon said.
Pressure had been building in recent days for Law to step down, including calls from priests within the archdiocese.
“This is an extraordinary crisis we’re going through, and it’s not ending now. We have a daunting task of rebuilding, and that’s going to take a lot of wisdom, and a lot of cooperation and effort by the church — not just the leaders, but by church members,” Rev. Robert Bullock, one of 58 Boston priests who asked Law to resign.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly Thursday denounced church officials for systematically failing to report child abusers to law enforcement authorities, but stopped short of announcing criminal charges.
More than 400 alleged victims are suing the church for alleged sexual molestation by priests. Survivor networks praised Friday’s move.
“Thank heaven. I hope there will be thousands of Boston Catholics and hundreds of Boston survivors who will feel better as a result,” David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said.
But others said Law’s decision to step down was just the “tip of the iceberg,” and that problems within the church remain.
“Just because Bernard Law resigned doesn’t mean everything is ok now,” Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney heading up several of the lawsuits against the church, said. “There is enormous rot within the archdiocese.”
The continuing crisis in the Boston Catholic Church has reportedly “deeply saddened” the pope. Law was reportedly one of the most influential of the American cardinals. In April, Law offered to resign in a meeting with the pope, but the pontiff rejected the idea.
Law is the highest-ranking church leader to resign as a result of the sex abuse crisis.