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‘Spotlight’ screenwriter says Law did not deserve Vatican funeral

Josh Singer (right) with director Tom McCarthy, who shared the Academy Award for “Spotlight.”
New York Times
Josh Singer (right) with director Tom McCarthy, who shared the Academy Award for “Spotlight.”

Many people believe Bernard Law should not have been given a full cardinal funeral at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and Josh Singer is one of them.

Singer, who won the Academy Award for co-writing the script to “Spotlight,” the Oscar-winning film about the Boston Globe series detailing sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, said Law didn’t deserve such reverence.

“For them to give him the equivalent of a state funeral — and for Pope Francis to attend — says to me that [the Catholic church] has never changed how they feel about all of this,” said Singer, who wrote the “Spotlight” screenplay with the film’s director, Tom McCarthy. “If you look at how many kids were abused under [Law’s] watch, how many priests were recycled and moved from one diocese to the next, Law knew what was happening — and he let it go on.”

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Law, who died in Rome Tuesday at the age of 86, resigned in disgrace from the Archdiocese of Boston after the Globe series. Pope John Paul II subsequently appointed him archpriest of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major, and he moved to Rome.

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In many ways, Law became the face of a scandal that the attorney general’s office termed “the greatest tragedy to befall children — ever” in the Commonwealth, with six decades of documented abuse involving at least 237 priests and nearly 800 children.

That Law was given such a dignified send-off is appalling, but perhaps not surprising, Singer said.

“Really, other than cutting their losses and saying the right things, has [the church] held a single prelate accountable? Have they held any of the archbishops or senior clergy accountable for their roles in facilitating this?”

Singer believes Law had an opportunity — and a responsibility — to protect children, and he didn’t do it.

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“In all of these stories, whether it’s [former Penn State football coach] Joe Paterno or [Hollywood producer] Harvey Weinstein or the priests in the church, there are bad actors and there are horrible bad actors,” he said. “But the real monsters are the ones who enable the abuse.

“Law enabled it,” Singer said. “And then to give him a state funeral.”

Singer could be in contention to win a second screenwriting Oscar for “The Post,” director Steven Spielberg’s new movie about Washington Post publisher Kay Graham’s decision to run the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Singer co-wrote “The Post” with Liz Hannah.