ROME — An advocacy group for survivors of sex abuse is calling for Pope Francis to keep survivors in mind when he takes part in Cardinal Bernard Law’s funeral Mass on Thursday.
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), which gained prominence as the U.S. abuse scandal erupted in Law’s Boston in 2002, said no victim of sexual abuse will ever receive the same attention and pomp that Law received in life and is due to receive in death.
In a statement, SNAP’s Joelle Casteix said Catholics should ask the Vatican why Law was promoted to a prominent position at a Vatican basilica after he resigned in disgrace as Boston’s archbishop.
She said: “This 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.”
Law died Wednesday in Rome. Francis is expected to participate in his funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica later this week, which will be led by Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Later on Thursday, the Vatican released a telegram from Pope Francis to Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in his capacity as the Dean of the College of Cardinals, expressing sympathy for Law’s death.
“I desire to express to the College of Cardinals sentiments of sympathy, [and] I lift up prayers of suffrage that the Lord, the God rich in mercy, will welcome him in eternal peace,” the pope said.
Francis though is expected to send an official telegram of condolence later Wednesday and celebrate Law’s funeral Mass, an honor accorded to all Rome-based cardinals.
Francis met briefly with Law the day after he was elected pope, when he went to pray at St. Mary Major. Law had been appointed archpriest of the Vatican basilica in 2004, after he resigned under pressure as archbishop of Boston for having failed to protect children from pedophile priests. He retired as archpriest in 2011, when he turned 80, but was on hand at the basilica to greet the new pope in 2013.
Alexa MacPherson, who says she was a victim of clergy sex abuse for six years as a small child, says she won’t be mourning Law.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish. I hope the gates of hell are swinging wide to allow him entrance,” she told The Associated Press.
“I won’t shed a tear for him – I might shed a tear for everyone who’s been a victim under him.”
Law, who died early Wednesday in Rome, was the Boston archbishop in 2002 when court documents revealed he had failed to stop priests who molested children.
Law and other church leaders had moved guilty clergy from parish to parish in Massachusetts without alerting parents or police. He resigned amid a public uproar over his actions.
“He just continued to hide everything and cover it up all in an effort to maintain this perfect image of the church,” MacPherson added.
Barbara Sidorowicz, the mother of three abuse victims, also had no good words for Law.
“I’m a person, I cannot ever turn my back on my faith, but I can’t find it in my heart to forgive,” she said. “I cry over what happened to my children, but I can’t cry over him. I can’t even get myself to say a prayer for him. He should have been in jail.”
A Boston attorney who has represented dozens of people who say they were sexually abused by priests says Law’s death has reopened old wounds.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian said that “many victims are reminded of the pain.”
Garabedian says Law “turned his back on innocent children and allowed them to be sexually abused.”