BLOG: As Boston’s “Law Era” Ends, “We’re Living With the Consequences”

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By Rocco Palmo, Whispers in the Loggio, Dec. 21, 2017

Having spent a good bit of time with Boston folks through the years, one thread has been constant: whether it’s been clerics or laity, regardless of their “political” stripe, the notion of the day we’ve now seen, and what it would be like, has kept a psychic hold over them all.

In that light, as one op put it, only today can it be said that “The Bernard Law Era in Boston is over.” In the annals of American Catholicism’s gravest scandal in its three-plus centuries of existence, that kind of personification has been unique – even if, to lesser degrees outside, the Fifth Archbishop was still the unparalleled global lightning rod of what had been a widespread, horrific evil that, for far too long, and to the church’s enduring disgrace, was a feature, not a bug of the clerical system.

Unsurprisingly, early word from the crisis’ ground zero was that the exiled cardinal’s final departure from the stage had “opened wounds” not far beneath the surface amid the passage of 15 years… and while it’s likewise to have been expected that today’s few responses from top hierarchs unstintingly reinforced the church’s commitment to zero tolerance – even to a jaw-dropping extent – none would have the platform in the moment that belonged to his successor, both as the current head of a still-restive fold at home, and now (in an extraordinary turn of history) the lead aide on child protection to the Roman pontiff.

An event that reportedly wasn’t slated to happen as local plans for Law’s death came together, late this afternoon Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap. appeared before the Boston press at the Braintree Chancery, taking questions and revealing his own farewell visit to his predecessor during last week’s “Gang of 9” meetings in Rome.

Perhaps most remarkably of all, though, on being asked about the decision for the late cardinal to receive “the full pomp and circumstance of a Vatican funeral” concluded by the Pope, in an unprecedented and blistering public critique of Law’s receiving a Roman assignment following his resignation, the Capuchin said “I understand how people are reacting to that… I think it’s unfortunate that [Law]’s had such a high-profile place in the life of the church, but I think going forward that decision would not be made, but unfortunately we’re living with the consequences of that.”

Speaking as ever not just on his own authority, but with the full imprimatur of The Man in White, here, the full video:



One of global Catholicism’s most prominent chroniclers, Rocco Palmo has held court as the “Church Whisperer” since 2004, when the pages you’re reading were launched with an audience of three, grown since by nothing but word of mouth, and kept alive throughout solely by means of reader support.

A former US correspondent for the London-based international Catholic weekly The Tablet, he’s been a church analyst for The New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, BBC, NBC, CNN and NPR among other mainstream print and broadcast outlets worldwide.

A native of Philadelphia, Rocco Palmo attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 2010, he received a Doctorate of Humane Letters honoris causa from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St Louis.

In 2011, Palmo co-chaired the first Vatican conference on social media, convened by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications. By appointment of Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap., he’s likewise served on the first-ever Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese, whose Church remains his home.