R.T. Neary
Cardinal Bernard Law -- personal reflections
By R.T. Neary
January 10, 2018

Reviled is too soft a word for the way this man was treated. He was excoriated for two decades in Boston. Even on his passing from this earthly existence the week before Christmas 2017, Cardinal Bernard Law continued to be attacked viciously. It was grossly one-sided and unfair.

The wording of the story was also blatantly hypocritical, as in December news emerged of a sickening sexual harassment story right within the Boston Globe's own newsroom. The Globe even tried some fancy footwork to dampen its effect by only admitting of this salacious tale late on a Friday afternoon. Saturday's edition has the lowest circulation.

The Globe also refused to release the name of the accused. They said to do so would be "sacrificing our own values." The natural retort: What values? They said it was a "confidential personal matter."

The Boston Globe's double standard was never so glaring, as they spun and re-hashed the Archdiocese's decades-old scandal within its clerical ranks on Cardinal Law's death.

Righteous indignation by those who were victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, while Cardinal Law was in his top leadership position, was certainly justified. In retrospect, he admittedly would have done many things differently, had he known the extent of the problem earlier. Leaders in any organization must take responsibility, however, when those under their jurisdiction are committing criminal acts. He did. The hatred still displayed for this man is far more complicated than that, however, because of the nature of the Roman Catholic Church and its organizational structure.

One must understand that a moral cancer had been festering in the Archdiocese for several decades prior to his assumption of the leadership of the Archdiocese. Forces at play outside and within were determined to see him removed after this scandal started to erupt, so they could cast all the blame on him. As more was revealed, it became additionally apparent that there had been a sick situation in the Roman Catholic Church of Boston for many years prior to his arrival. A scapegoat was needed – and they felt they had a good one. The scandal was more than sexual in nature, however. It was predominantly homosexual.

Bernard Law's real culpability in these Archdiocesan scandals revolves around steps – better said missteps – he took when he became aware of predominantly homosexual wrongdoing in the priestly ranks. Undoubtedly, he made multiple errors. Worse still, for him, he had always been the perfect target for those who despised Catholic teachings – and the Church itself.

Basically, this man was an academic, not a hands-on platoon leader type. The major error he made was in accepting the academic approach that same-sex attraction (SSA) was a phase in one's existence, rather than a deep-rooted problem. Accepted approaches in professional circles were as simple as a change of environment – to a variety of therapies under the care of skilled professionals. These included men and women in psychological, medical and sociological practices. Most of these professionals were not members of the Catholic faith.

It has long been known that the celibacy requirement for those joining the Roman Catholic priestly ranks is the major consideration for those choosing this vocation. Forfeiting marital love and the affection one receives as head of a family is a great sacrifice. Admirable priests, however, will tell you that this is offset for them by the greater spiritual benefits they receive. Much less had been said, though about those men who had Same Sex Attraction (SSA} prior to entering the seminary. How could they handle it – or worse still, did they have a desire to do so?

Many male Catholics perceived some priests to be homosexual – much more than women did. It was not uncommon to perceive feminine characteristics in the clergy, and sometimes they even exhibited a discomfort when being around males. The complete opposite was the case when they were dealing with, or in the presence of women.

Archbishop Bernard F. Law could never have known of the extent of the malignancy which had invaded the priestly ranks of the organization he was appointed to oversee in 1984. He was a man concerned with the large, more evident moral issues, and very much in the news. There was a festering sore, however, covered up by both personnel within the ranks and a media more focused on other facets of their competing agenda. Later revelations surrounding this cancer, which was in the Catholic Church, would be used to further their own agenda and provide them with powerful fuel.

As with all of us, much can be explained about people's approach to life and its problems by looking at their youthful upbringing. A single child, Bernard Law was born in Mexico. His father, a career Air Force officer and pilot, was a Roman Catholic who married a Presbyterian woman, and she converted to Catholicism.

His secondary schooling was in the Virgin Islands in a predominantly African American setting. This man truly had a multi-cultural background, and he spoke several languages including being fluent in Spanish.

He moved on to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating in 1953 with a major in History. As a young man with a strong intellectual capacity and the personality of an academic, he then entered the seminary to prepare for ordination as a Catholic priest. This certainly was a different route for a Harvard graduate to take.

When Bernard Law eventually returned to the Boston area in 1984 to replace the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros as Archbishop of Boston, the extensive media questioning was shaped to receive answers fitting the Harvard secular mold, rather than one of orthodox Roman Catholicism. It was here that Archbishop Bernard Law displayed without equivocation his firm commitment to Roman Catholic beliefs.

He approached the Right To Life issue with none of the defensiveness displayed by local politicians when he denounced abortion as a "primordial evil," and he vowed to work to overturn the 11-year-old Roe v Wade decision. He never did cease in these efforts and spoke often at rallies, walks for mothers and children, and Right To Life events in Boston – and in Washington.

Elevated to the role of Cardinal in 1987, Bernard Law would always display an intellectual and firm grasp of both religious and political issues. The lack of emotion, however, at times would be interpreted as a lack of warmth. In fact, his compartmentalized way of thinking would be what eventually did him in. This did not sit well with some elements within the Church, and certainly not with secularists such as the owners and editorial board of the Boston Globe. The man thoroughly grasped the length and breadth of the Roe v Wade decision – and its effect on the entire spectrum of America's everyday existence. On life-and-death issues there was no wiggle room. None.

Cardinal Bernard Law rose in prominence nationally and in Vatican circles. In the Boston area, however, he was in the crosshairs of the Boston Globe plus their fawning media, and of Academia – as well as many heterodox elements with the Roman Catholic ranks. All of these elements, including the misnamed Voice of the Faithful, thought It was simply a matter of time until he would be deposed for some reason. Unfortunately, they were right. The Roman Catholic Church of Boston would get hit broadside with the revelations of clerical predators and sexual abuse by the Boston Globe Spotlight team.

A cadre of homosexuals existed at different levels within the Archdiocese, with many of them working over the years to give cover to the other. Now it seemed there was nowhere to go, so the focus on the embattled Cardinal was a relief to them.

The Boston Phoenix, a free street publication, actually started the investigation of the sexual scandal in the Archdiocese, without being totally aware of its extent. Best known for its ads in the Personals section, used almost exclusively by the LGBTQ community, the Boston Globe's Spotlight Team took over from there, and it just went on and on.

As the Spotlight Team undertook their work, it became evident to Boston Globe editors that the incidents they were covering mainly involved homosexuality. There were several homosexuals in the editorial department, as well throughout the organization, including the upper levels. A decision was made to abandon the word homosexual and only use the word sexual. This word would also cover the relatively far fewer clerical sexual attacks on young girls.

Before long the word pedophilia was chosen to describe these activities. Everyone's imagination then conjured up older priests forcing themselves on young children, even toddlers. To this day even with stories of Cardinal Law's death, reference is made to the pedophile scandal which erupted in 2002.

Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, correctly labeled what was predominantly involved as ephebophilia, and stated that it should be identified as such, if that was the case. Ephebophilia is an adult male forcing sexual relations on a post-pubescent young male.

The John Jay School of Criminal Justice did an independent study and found that this was the case in about 80% of the incidents in the Boston Archdiocese. The Globe though continued to refer to the cases they reported as sexual assaults or pedophilia. Homosexuality seemed to have disappeared from existence in their style manual! Journalism in the true sense was cast asunder completely.

The front-page story of Cardinal Law's death covered the better part of 3 pages on December 20th, and yet the words homosexual or homosexuality never appeared anywhere. One also has to dredge one's memory to recall whether it was also expunged – and never used in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight film.

While some of the worst offenders such as Paul Shanley entered the seminary in the 1950s, neighbors said to escape the military draft, it was a combination of the sexual revolution and permissiveness of the 60s and 70s which allowed these sexual predator priests to act on their desires.

Cardinal Medeiros was the one who gave Shanley free reign in Boston and the ability to act out his rapacious desires as the Boston Globe's "street Priest." The damage that Shanley did would cost the Archdiocese a healthy sum of money, as he took advantage of the soft side of a man who unfortunately bore the real responsibility for much of the wrongdoing by the miscreant priests.

The Globe knew well of Shanley's rapacious acts, publicized him, and bore legal culpability for these crimes. The Globe went as far as to have one of the city's main TV outlets clip this accusation by a panelist from an evening taped panel program. Chet Curtis, one of Boston's true reporters in the media, followed up on the issue when it was raised, but one of the panelists was Globe reporter Joan Vennochi, who immediately after the taping called to warn the Globe newsroom. They nixed it!

John Geoghan, was truly a pedophile, preying on young boys from difficult, sometimes fatherless circumstances. Geoghan, unfortunately, had a prime connection internally, since his uncle was a Monsignor who obviously intervened for him. If it wasn't direct, Msgr. Keohane's very solid reputation in pastoring helped in administrative decisions on Geoghan's treatment. After complaints about his actions with youth in a city parish, he was transferred and assigned to St Julia's parish in Weston, the wealthiest town in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was said to have been very well received and likeable by some parish families. Not, however, after he started acting out his perverted desires!

These are just a couple of the Archdiocesan priests whom Cardinal Bernard Law inherited in assuming the leadership of the Archdiocese. Yes, he was late in bringing it to a halt. The Boston Globe and their lackeys in the MSM though continue to place all the blame for every homosexual misdeed in the Archdiocese over these several decades on Law. Their intellectual dishonesty is glaring.

In the 1960s and 70s stories of priests who requested to be laicized generally centered on those who were going to travel the marriage path. Of course, there were other individual situations, and perhaps some much worse, but none gained much publicity. A priest who partook of a little too much liquor might be the topic of gossip, but Catholics were protective of the Church's reputation.

New Archbishop Bernard Law's lack of roots, and a background ranging from Latin America to Mississippi and Missouri evoked curiosity about the man. His two immediate predecessors were Cardinal Richard Cushing, a salty native Bostonian, and Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, born in the Azores of Portuguese descent. Each was quite different.

Cushing fit in well in political surroundings, as well as with non – Irish-American ethnic groups. He even schmoozed well with Boston's Jewish citizenry and would often mention his Jewish brother-in-law. Cushing's style attracted many men to the priesthood, a surplus of whom went off to South America to serve. He liked to build structures, but was a very poor handler of finances.

Cushing's successor, Humberto Medeiros, was a break from the Irish-Catholic hold on the hierarchy, and he had to focus on reducing the indebtedness he inherited. It required cutbacks, some not too popular.

Cardinal Medeiros was a humble cleric, gentle in spirit. His reserved demeanor, however, led to his not being recognized as a strong leader of men – leaving a void. Sadly, under him the sub-surface homosexual cadre grew enormously.

When new Archbishop Bernard Law arrived, his Harvard education created an aura of mystery. The media were unable to fit him into any of their molds. Boston College's darling, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, powerful Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative, failed miserably in converting Bernard Law into what the Democrat Party wanted him to be. He was very much with the Democrats on traditional issues such as the needs of the poor and the impoverished, but gave nothing on preserving the dignity of the traditional family, and on the protection of human life from conception to natural death.

It was likewise with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who had made a 180-degree turn from the Roman Catholic Pro-Life stance on abortion, after an obvious Boston Globe post-Chappaquiddick deal with him.. These two leaders would meet occasionally in private, but the Cardinal never indicated that there was an iota of change in Kennedy's anti-Catholic pro-abortion stance. The senior Senator continued to receive glowing press coverage as the cover boy for the Left.

In the annual March For Life in Washington, in the front row of the Massachusetts contingent, in a loud voice when proceeding by the Kennedy Senatorial office, Cardinal Bernard Law each January would be shouting out, "Senator Kennedy, Massachusetts is PRO-LIFE. Senator Kennedy, WE ARE PRO-LIFE." Needless to say, the Senator's office windows were closed, for more than just to keep the cold out.

Cardinal Law never ceased to amaze people by his unswerving pronouncements in support of the Church. He was completely open and with a clear explanation, if needed. No one was ever left to wonder why Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials were pleased with him.

In contrast to his failing grade in Administration after the 2002 stories broke, one could only give him an A+ for his knowledge of the core of Roman Catholic Church's teachings. It also should be to no one's surprise that the new Catechism has been praised for its clarity, and largely attributed to his work in bringing it about. No wonder that opponents, including the Boston Globe who did a feature magazine story on the Cardinal, accused him of running for Pope. All the Globe ever did reveal in their extensive coverage of Bernard Law was how much they despised the man.

In reality, what these people and others never observed was the admiration the leader in Boston had for one of his peers, who had been appointed to another Archdiocese within weeks of Cardinal Law's assignment here. Cardinal John O'Connor of New York was a man with superior leadership skills than Law's, and when together, it was very evident that Bernard Law thought the same. O'Connor's military bearing was real, and everything he said or did reflected this background. It is no wonder that he never fell into the kind of trap that Cardinal Law did.

New York's Cardinal from his naval chaplain's role could be compared to the ship captain who would leave the bridge often to check the crew functioning on all the decks below. He was hands-on, and did not assign all the responsibility to a group of subordinates one deck down.

Cardinal Bernard Law did have a group of advisors and later fully recognized how he had been buffered from what was really going on within the priestly ranks as everything unraveled. Bishop John D'arcy, who later moved on to South Bend, Indiana, appeared to have been the one realistic voice relative to its nature and extent, in exception to the others.

Cardinal Law, however, still was the one most able to restore the Archdiocese to where it should be. The needs of the innocent victims most affected had to be first priority – and that would have been the case. But this action would be paired with restoring the purity of the Founder's Church itself, as well. The latter was the very last thing that the array of opponents of Cardinal Bernard Law wanted. They desired a disgraced prelate – and ultimately the destruction of the Archdiocese of Boston itself.

Much as many would have wished, Bernard Law in the natural order was basically not a highly personable man. At times, his lack of a brother or sister – plus a military-style upbringing – seemed to show through. On a John Hancock Hall stage once in Boston, however, when a guitarist and his Mexican-native wife were introduced to sing hymns in Spanish, the Cardinal soon lit up. His expression changed and he loudly joined in Alaba al Rey, Alabare, Alabare a mi Senor, and some other lyrics "en espagnol" – to everyone's surprise. Attired with Roman collar in his priestly garb, his soul seemed to become transparent, as well. Viva Cristo Rey! was shouted out. He was greatly energized – and very likeable.

The final blow to the Cardinal's leadership came with the publication of a letter requesting he resign, which was signed by 58 priests in the Archdiocese. Anyone familiar with the local clergy could easily recognize a handful of them as homosexuals, some even connected with LGBTQ organizations. The Vatican obviously then concluded on receiving this letter that, to prevent further damage to the Church organization, it would be better to accept Law's previously tendered resignation.

The Boston Globe got their man – and a Pulitzer Prize for conducting an investigation, one which they had spun into a story which best fit their aims -while avoiding the unvarnished truth. The spin was of no concern to them, and in the Spotlight film they even injected a few 4-letter expletives for the lapsed- Catholic pseudo-toughs on their Spotlight team to spout for broader appeal.

The once-prominent Truth-in- Labeling movement now should be resurrected in their reporting of Cardinal Law's death. They referred to him as "the highest- ranking official in the US church to leave office in public disgrace. – Although he had not broken any laws in the Commonwealth ." They went on to say, "The attorney general's office said the abuse extended over six decades." Yes, six decades. On and on they went for the better part of 3 pages in an extensive history, and NEVER ONCE did they use the word "homosexual" or even make any reference to "homosexuality." The true nature of the ailment in the clerical ranks was to be avoided ipso facto.

Truth must always accompany the process of exposing wrongdoing in our daily existence. This was not the case, however, in this scandal because of the Globe's deep-seated bias against the Church and its teaching. Cardinal Law – to his credit- was not afraid to point this out to them over his years at the helm. He knew well, also, that the scriptures are full of instances of leaders having discovered evil within their own ranks. The framework of this story is not exactly a new one.

We should not leave it to posterity to sort out that the truth uncovered in Boston was part of a national scandal. Later revelations, triggered by Boston's clerical misdeeds exposed even greater wrongdoing, the Los Angeles Archdiocese being one such case. There were many others, ultimately leading to billions of dollars in settlements. In some instances, bankruptcies ensued, and the malady extended to religious orders such as the Jesuits, with Boston schools and colleges not immune from the scourge.

Fortunately. Dr. William Donohue and the Catholic League have done extensive research on a national level in this regard, and their findings have been made public. The truth is available for those intent on examining the full scope and nature of it.

It's impossible for anyone who experienced the clerical "sexual scandal" in Boston not to think of the great deeds of truly wonderful priests, whom now we dare call traditionalists. Their ministries elevate them far above those who brought disgrace to the calling. The many members of the St. James Society, who under Cardinal Cushing learned Spanish and did missionary work in Peru, are good examples. Some on their return served in parishes where Hispanic populations were starting to grow rapidly.

Father Albert Stankard comes to mind. His pastoring included impressive religious paintings with an abstract Latin-American flair. As well, he participated in peaceful protests with hymns and rosaries calling for an end to abortions at the local hospitals in Hispanic Framingham and Natick. Frs. Pearsall and other St. James priests, some in Regina Cleri and other retirement homes, trekked 25 or more miles to smaller under-staffed parishes to celebrate Sunday Mass.

These priests with Roman collar and clerical black garb were scorned and sometimes cursed at. Father Tom di Lorenzo, the radio priest with a national following was one such. He was a weathered apostle, however, as he had been observed in the past being insulted and spat on while on his knees in front of a Boston abortion "clinic."

It seemed providential that the Archdiocese's Pilot with the feature story of Cardinal Law being called to his eternal home, would have as its lead Obituary another priest, Father William Lucey, who had left his earthly priesthood one week earlier.

Father Lucey was a Seminary Latin and English professor, as well as a pastor for over 20 years. He really never knew how many admirers he had among the laity for what he did to heighten their approach to the Faith. He not only had many charisms himself, but he was active in the Charismatic movement, leading many through introspection to became aware of their own spiritual gifts. Reading the extensive obituary of his impressive life, unfortunately, missed much of this.

Amazingly reserved in manner, one could easily sense how he perceived the depth and extent of any problem. Woven throughout his assessment of any situation was biblical teaching. As a homilist, that weave was always perceived and could easily be grasped.

A true Christian in its real sense, "Father Bill" Lucey was a wonderful spiritual leader and servant of the Master. Monthly, for several years, he would make a 20-mile round trip to the home of Mary Drahos, an inspiring well-known writer and Charismatic. Most of Mary's adult life, she was wheelchair bound with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – but abounding in love of Roman Catholicism and the Master's teaching.

Aside from the wisdom he imparted in discussion, while often displaying that somewhat-impish wry sense of humor, the Mass he celebrated in the Living Room of Mary and Dick Drahos could never be forgotten by anyone who ever attended. The Acts of the Apostles came alive, and when reading those passages on the early Church again, one is taken back a couple of millennia.

The most vicious attack on Cardinal Bernard Law had to be on Public Broadcasting on a post-Christmas Special "Greater Boston" half-hour program. It included a moderator and 5 different panelists, all of whom attacked the Church and the Cardinal, basically re-hashing the same Spotlight narrative. The moderator said it was "about pedophilia, or whatever you wanted to call it." While none essentially attempted to bring any perspective to Cardinal Law's tenure, the most savage among them had to be Mitchell Garabedian. A lawyer, he has extracted many millions in settlements.

The theme they all kept trying to exploit was their concern for those they referred to as survivors. No one could ever dismiss the needs of any victims of criminal sexual assault. They went beyond that, however, in an attempt to paint themselves as some kind of saviors.

The references to "a murderer of children" plus "rape and molestation" almost seemed mild as compared to Garabedian's "description of Bernard Law. "You could sense his arrogance," he spouted. The man was describing himself so well! This lawyer bragged about having over 500 clergy abuse cases in his office, but claims he is stymied by the Statute of Limitations.

When asked if there was any common thread evident in any current situations, viewers should have perked up to see if any panelist would mention the obvious one: homosexuality. As expected no one did, as the word had never even been used on the show. Failed Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidate, former AG Martha Coakley, agreed with Garabedian on "window dressing."

The panelists were smug, including Margery Eagan and Globe reporter Michael Rezendes who obviously felt that they had helped bring down what they described as "The most powerful institution in Boston." The most insulting targeting of Roman Catholicism by far, though, were Garabedian's parting words. "The Church is not going to change." "They've been raping kids at a wholesale pace for centuries."

This presentation did little more than display how farcical the concept of "Public Broadcasting" is. Its intent was not to give any balanced truthful presentation. Rather, it was to show how the Catholic Church in Boston has been brought to its knees by spinning a tale of shame – while ignoring the essential element of the story. Ephebophilia was the disease which drained the coffers of the Archdiocese -not pure and simple – but simply impure.

The flip side of the story is that the self-described reportorial hero, an entity known as the Boston Globe, has been unable to escape its own hypocrisy as it vomited its own story of sexual harassment. The sickening aspect of this tale is that the Globe reporter who has been accused, not only propositioned an editorial room worker for sex, but he propositioned her to have sex with his wife. Yes, that not a typographical Globe error. He propositioned her to have sex with his wife.

This incident is what the Globe Editor in Chief wants to hide as a "confidential personal matter." One is surely called to examine the old adage of first "looking at yourself in the mirror" and call for the Globe's Spotlight Team to do a 180, with a top-to-bottom piece on this holier-than-thou entity known as the Boston Globe.

The Archdiocese should have been allowed to heal after the scandalous revelations. It was essential, however, that in order to do so the individual at the helm had to stay in place until the malignancy was removed and the surgery was complete. Undoubtedly the Roman Catholic Church of Boston would be leaner – but it would be cleaner.

The man who would stay in place had fought Jim Crowism in Mississippi, and edited the Roman Catholic newspaper while being subjected to death threats. He also had battled for Haitians, S.E. Asians and Latin-Americans in his past, so he was no stranger to struggles necessary to right wrongs. The enemies of Cardinal Bernard Law, however, wanted no such thing.

Criticism will always be directed at Cardinal Law for spending his post-Boston years in Rome, rather than in a monastery. He would surely have accepted what Pope John Paul II wanted for him. Obviously, the Vatican saw the Boston Archdiocese problems from a different perspective – a worldly one. The Papacy also saw a situation that actually started in the 1950s to the present time as existing within even a larger time frame – a span of Church history covering more than two millennia.

Rest in Peace, Brother Bernard. No one can say you were a hypocrite, as are your Pharisaical and Secular accusers. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

You did your best – under the most trying of circumstances!

And you will be judged -as we all will be – by the Good Lord.

May your soul rest in eternal peace!

© R.T. Neary


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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