Cardinal Law and the Laity

Note: This article is from the Globe’s original online special section on the Spotlight investigation into clergy sex abuse.

When Pope John Paul II accepted Cardinal Bernard F. Law’s resignation as Boston archbishop in December 2002, it was the culmination of a year of mounting outrage and anguish in the Boston Archdiocese -- and a sign of the power wielded by a newly energized laity.

From the early days of the abuse scandal, a drumbeat for Law’s resignation grew steadily louder. In Wellesley, a small group of parishioners meeting in a church basement grew into Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay reform movement 25,000 members strong.

In some parishes, the removal of trusted priests prompted allegations of a church “witch hunt,” but the prevailing reaction from lay Catholics was a call for reform at the highest levels of the church.


Cardinal Law apologized for his past mistakes and repeatedly vowed to weather the storm, even as he faced multiple civil lawsuits over his handling of abusive priests. Ultimately, he could not withstand the pressure exerted by a once loyal flock, now betrayed.