Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in his first public appearance since resigning over his role in the clergy sex abuse scandal, said stepping down was the best way to serve his flock.
The Roman Catholic leader said Monday he had hoped to help oversee a new church policy to protect children, but public outrage over the crisis made that impossible.
“It came to be ever more clear to me that the most effective way I might serve the church at this moment was to resign,” Law said Monday. He left without taking any questions from reporters.
Law had become the lightning rod of dissent among alleged victims, parishioners and, eventually, among fellow priests who criticized his handling of the scandal that ensnared dozens of priests and eventually spread to dioceses around the country.
Lawyers for abuse victims pledged to continue pursuing sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese, despite the Law’s resignation and the appointment of his replacement.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said that on Tuesday, his office intended to release to the public a new batch of internal church personnel files, which he called “some of the worst I’ve seen.”
Law’s resignation came as thousands of additional documents were released in recent weeks, detailing how the archdiocese responded to allegations against priests. Among the most shocking concerned a priest trading cocaine for sex and another having sex with teenage girls studying to become nuns by telling them he was the “second coming of Christ.”
The files were released by lawyers representing more than 400 alleged victims suing the archdiocese. A judge ordered the clergy to hand over the files to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Criticism against Law intensified with the release of the files, culminating with a petition signed by nearly 60 priests in the archdiocese calling on Law to resign.
“It is my hope and it’s my prayer that my resignation as archbishop might help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience healing, to experience reconciliation and to experience unity,” Law said Monday.
Law expressed uncertainty about his future. He planned to take a brief vacation with fellow priests after Christmas and later retreat to a monastery. He said he would then live outside the archdiocese, but did not say where.
The Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, an auxiliary bishop, has taken temporary control of the Boston Archdiocese, which is weighing bankruptcy after being sued by hundreds of alleged abuse victims.
On Monday, Law thanked God for “the grace and for the privilege to have served as archbishop,” and again expressed regret for his errors. “To all those who have suffered for my shortcomings and my mistakes, I once again apologize and from them, I beg forgiveness,” he said.
Reaction to Law’s words ranged from skepticism to sympathy.
“I think that he was sincere. I don’t think he was sincere enough,” said Gary Bergeron, an alleged abuse victim. “I would have liked to have heard that he was interested in healing – not just healing the victims, but the family members, the laity, the walking wounded.”
Scott Krueger, executive director of Voice of the Faithful, a lay reform group that called for Law’s resignation, said: “It’s hard to imagine that any person undergoing what has occurred to him over the past week would not be greatly humbled.”