Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals, has died at 86.
Cardinal Law died in a hospital in Rome, where he had been living.
The Vatican did not give a cause as it announced his death, but the Cardinal was believed to have been suffering from complications of diabetes and liver failure, among other ailments.
Cardinal Law was archbishop of Boston, one of the most prestigious and wealthy American archdioceses, for 18 years.
The late Pope John Paul reluctantly accepted his resignation in 2002 after the Catholic Church was rocked by worldwide sex abuse revelations.
The scandal was uncovered by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, which showed how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years rather than being sacked or reported to the authorities.
Cardinal Law was widely blamed for allowing that to happen.
The report soon began a trickle-down effect around the world, as the cover-up techniques used in Boston were discovered to have been used in country after country.
“It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed,” Cardinal Law said upon resigning.
“To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness.”
Still, he retained support in the Vatican. In 2004, a year before John Paul’s death, he was appointed archpriest of the Basilica of St Mary Major, one of four principal basilicas in the Italian capital.
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented victims of the sex abuse scandal, said the Cardinal’s death had reopened old wounds.
“Many victims are reminded of the pain of being sexually abused upon hearing of Cardinal Law passing away,” Mr Garabedian said.
“Cardinal Law turned his back on innocent children and allowed them to be sexually abused and then received a promotion in Rome.”