Eavesdropping on a Pedophile-Protecting Priest
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the Catholic Church should care less about children’s behavior at Mass and more about pedophilia.
When I was 10 years old, I passed out in church.
It was the 1980s, and I was attending a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Boston. At least once a year, Cardinal Bernard Law would say Mass at our school’s house of worship. It was a big day on the school calendar. Everyone had to be on their best behavior. As the head of the archdiocese, his eminence was to be respected. The nuns — our teachers — were especially strict on this point: no monkey business.
I woke up in the school nurse’s office. She told me I’d fainted. Her guess? I’d probably been standing with my knees locked back, which might have cut off my circulation. When I returned to class the next day, I got the distinct impression that the timing of my sudden loss of consciousness was not appreciated. It was Cardinal Law’s big day, but I had selfishly turned the attention toward myself. This was typical of my school, and, in my opinion, of the Catholic faith in general: blaming you for things you can’t control.
By now though, you probably know about all the horrible shit that was happening in the Archdiocese of Boston in the 1980s. And ’70s. And ’60s. And so on. Maybe you’ve even seen Spotlight, the Oscar-winning 2015 film that recounts how reporters at the Boston Globe uncovered the widespread child rape and molestation being committed by Catholic priests in the Boston area — and how church officials had covered it up for decades.
They were talking … about the pending cases against Law and the Catholic Church … They seemed to be bemoaning what a huge hassle the lawsuits had become.
Well, Bernard Law was hugely complicit in said cover-up. He authorized the secret relocation of pedophile priests, and when a parishioner lodged a complaint against a priapic padre, Law would quietly send the still-active predator to a new town filled with fresh victims. Consequently, in early 2001, Law was named as a defendant in several cases involving pedophile priests. He resigned in late 2002. The day after he stepped down, the Globe published an editorial saying, “Law had become the central figure in a scandal of criminal abuse, denial, payoff and cover-up that resonates around the world.”
For his sins, Law was sent to Rome by Pope John Paul II and appointed archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in May 2004.
My mother, who grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts, recalls a priest from her church who was accused of molesting an altar boy from her neighborhood in the early ’60s. One day, the priest disappeared. Later that year, my mom saw him say Mass at Saint Ann By The Sea in Marshfield, a town fewer than 50 miles away.
I was lucky. Through 12 years of Catholic school in the ’80s and early ’90s, no priest ever put his hands on me. Then again, my elementary school was run by Franciscan nuns. Most of them weren’t very nice, but they didn’t abuse us sexually. There were some priests, but I can’t remember a time when I was ever alone with one. To my knowledge, the school — despite operating since 1966 — has never been named in the scandal. However, the all-boys school I attended my freshman year of high school — Xaverian Brothers in Westwood, Massachusetts — recently released its list of priests accused of sexual abuse.
Not long after Law resigned, I was at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. As I waited for my flight to board, I saw two older men in suits approaching an adjoining gate. Even without his religious vestments, I immediately recognized one of them as Law. Then I did something I have never done before, or since: I walked over to their gate and sat directly behind them. I was essentially back-to-back with Law’s companion. In no uncertain terms, I was eavesdropping.
I can’t remember exactly what was said, but it was obvious that they were talking — in the broadest terms possible, given the public space — about the pending cases against Law and the Catholic Church. And this is what I do remember: being completely unsurprised by the general tone of their conversation. It wasn’t one of remorse. Instead, they seemed to be bemoaning what a huge hassle the lawsuits had become. The other man was clearly a lawyer.
Law passed away in late 2017. His funeral was held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Pope Francis said the final prayers. No one mentioned the scandal. It’s unknown if any children passed out during the service, but it seems likely that such an inconsiderate act would have been frowned upon.