BOSTON – Alexa MacPherson says very little about Cardinal Bernard Law’s death — or the Catholic Church’s plans for a full cardinal’s funeral — gives her peace of mind.
MacPherson, a Boston-area native who says she is a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, says Law deserves no such dignity as the funeral that will be held for him at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on Thursday.
Law, 86, died Wednesday, 15 years after he resigned as Boston’s archbishop amid allegations that he covered up for pedophile priests like the one accused of abusing MacPherson.
“With his passing, I say I hope the gates of hell are open wide to welcome him, because I feel . . . no redemption (for Law)” is worthwhile, MacPherson said Wednesday.
Robert Costello, another Boston-area native who says a priest abused him, and that Law covered for the cleric, was just as blunt.
“Chop him up and put weights on every piece of body part that he has and drop him in oceans around the world,” Costello, 56, said.
Instead of being given a Vatican funeral, he said, Law should just “disappear”.
MacPherson and Costello vented to reporters Wednesday in the Boston office of attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents many who accuse priests of sex abuse.
Costello’s first thought upon hearing that Law died, he said, was, “Where’s the party? Where are we going to celebrate?”
“And then I realized it would be no celebration whatsoever,” he said. “It would be a meeting of people who tell their stories and bring it all back up again.”
The Vatican said early Wednesday that Law, had died in Rome after a long illness. He served in Rome as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St Mary Major after he was forced to resign in 2002 as Boston archbishop.
Critics say his reassignment to Rome amounted to a cushy second career that shouldn’t have been afforded him.
Widespread child abuse by the Catholic clergy in the Boston Archdiocese was uncovered by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative reporting team, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its efforts. A big-screen dramatization of the team’s investigation in the 2015 movie, Spotlight, won the 2016 Best Picture Academy Award, bringing the story to a much wider audience.
The funeral plans for Law 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. Thursday, the Vatican said. Pope Francis then will give a “final commendation”, or blessing, as he has previously for cardinals’ funerals.
Before the funeral plans were announced, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests had urged against a “celebratory focus” on Law.
“We highly doubt there is a single victim of abuse who will ever receive the same attention, pomp and circumstance by Pope Francis,” the network said in a news release after Law’s death.
“Every single Catholic should ask Pope Francis and the Vatican why,” the group’s statement reads. “Why Law’s life was so celebrated when Boston’s clergy sex abuse survivors suffered so greatly? Why was Law promoted when Boston’s Catholic children were sexually abused, ignored, and pushed aside time and time again?”
The survivors’ network said the “celebratory focus on abuse enablers like Law must end.”
“It is time for the Vatican to refocus on change: protecting children and those who have been hurt,” the statement reads.
Law’s successor as Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, reacted to Law’s death in part by apologizing to victims of sex abuse by clergy.
“I recognize that Cardinal Law’s passing brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people. I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones,” O’Malley said.
“To those men and women,” he added, “I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing.”
“Cardinal Law served at a time when the church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people, and with tragic outcomes failed to care for the children of our parish communities. I deeply regret that reality and its consequences,” O’Malley said.
Phil Saviano, who also says a priest sexually abused him, told reporters Wednesday that he’s relieved Law is gone. Law had been in a position to do good and expose abusers, but instead chose to stand up for the priests, he said.
But relief is not the same as healing, he said.
“I had been hoping that the passing of Cardinal Law would remove a target of great anger and animosity and consternation that survivors have felt about him,” he told reporters at Garabedian’s office. “[But] it’s not a source of healing. It’s not a removal of the pain for survivors.
“If anything, it’s sort of like opening it all up again.”
MacPherson, like Costello, said she doesn’t feel like the Vatican should give Law the funeral that he’s getting.
“I think it should be very quiet and not celebrated.,” she said. “There’s nothing to celebrate (with) somebody who allowed children to be victimized and to have a lifetime of irreparable damage.”