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March 23
Law's words frame new play

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Wary Catholics return to church

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Hudson fill-in priest welcomed

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Law prays daily for diocese

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Spotlight Report

Bernard Law: priest to cardinal


 E A R L Y   Y E A R S


The Rev. Bernard Law as editor of the Natchez-Jackson diocesan newspaper in Jackson, Miss. (File Photo Courtesy Mississippi Today)
1931  Born in Torreon, Mexico, on Nov. 4, the son of an Air Force colonel of Catholic faith, who was stationed in Mexico, and a Presbyterian mother. He attends high school in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

1953  Graduates from Harvard University. Starts studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary in Louisiana and at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

1961  Ordained as a priest and sent to Natchez, Miss. He takes an activist role in support of civil rights, joining the Mississippi Leadership Conference and the Mississippi Human Relations Council. His views on civil rights expressed as editor of the Natchez-Jackson diocesan newspaper lead to threats on his life.

1968  Goes to Washington to serve as executive director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He becomes increasingly involved in Catholic relations with Protestants and Jews.


 F I R S T   D I O C E S E


Bishop Bernard Law during his last year as leader of the Missouri diocese. (Globe Staff File Photo)
1973  Makes bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese in southern Missouri, a geographically large diocese serving 47,000 Catholics. While in Missouri, Law:

  • Forms the Missouri Christian Leadership Conference to bring together the two largest denominations in the state;
  • Opens the first home for battered women in Springfield;
  • Is named US director of a program to explore how to employ married Episcopal priests who wish to convert to Catholicism;
  • Is active in writing the third draft of the bishops' pastoral on nuclear arms.


     A R R I V A L   I N   B O S T O N

    1984  Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, archbishop of Boston, dies Sept. 17, 1983. Four months later, Pope John Paul II appoints Law to lead the 2 million Roman Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese. In 1984, Law joins Cardinal John O'Connor of New York in denouncing Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro for her support of abortion rights. He splits with many other church leaders in proclaiming abortion the most crucial issue of the campaign.


     B E C O M E S   A   C A R D I N A L


    Pope John Paul II bestows a red biretta, a symbol of a cardinal, on Law at the Vatican in 1985. (Globe Staff File Photo)
    1985  Pope elevates Law to cardinal. As a member of the College of Cardinals (there are currently 13 American cardinals), Law is given a role in the governance of the Roman Catholic church, including a vote in the election of a new pope.

    1986  Travels to a Nicaraguan prison to console Eugene Hasenfus, the American pilot arrested for smuggling weapons to the contras. He also leads a pilgrimage to Poland with both Catholic and Jewish participants, visiting Catholic shrines and Auschwitz, a former Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.

    1989  At Law's behest, many of the 400 parishes of the archdiocese collect donations at Mass to aid victims of Hurricane Hugo in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; makes a private trip to Cuba.

    1990  Makes an official visit to Cuba , meeting with Fidel Castro for more than two hours. Dedicates the Seton Manor hospice on the campus of St. John of God Hospital in Brighton; its 24 beds are quickly filled with homeless people with AIDS.


     M A N A G I N G   M A J O R   I S S U E S


    Cardinal Law gives a press conference at his residence in 1993 about new ways of dealing with clergy charged with sex abuse. (Globe File Photo)
    1992-93  Decries media coverage of accusations that James R. Porter molested between 50 and 100 children while serving as a priest from 1960 to 1967. Law describes Porter's alleged abuse as an aberrant act and declares he will answer no further questions about the case. Eventually announces new guidelines dealing with sexual abuse.

    1995  Requests a moratorium on clinic protests after abortion opponent John C. Salvi shoots and kills two receptionists and wounds five other people at two women's health clinics in Brookline and Boston. Five months later, the ban is lifted.

    1996  Joins 300 demonstrators in front of the White House to urge President Clinton to sign a bill that outlaws late-term abortions.

    1998  Leads a delegation of 150 Boston-area Catholics including four congressmen, 46 priests, and 5 nuns to Cuba. Joins US Representative Joseph Moakley in announcing the departure of a US plane with 3,000 pounds of supplies bound for Honduras, ravaged by Hurricane Mitch. Calls for the closing of 40 to 60 of the 387 parishes in the Boston Archdiocese by 2008, in an effort to revive the church in an era of declining attendance and shrinking supply of clergy.

    2000  As part of celebration of the jubilee year, Law publicly expresses sorrow for Boston Catholics' treatment of Jews, blacks, non-Catholic Christians, and alienated Catholics, and for the sexual misconduct of parish priests.

    2001  Launches the largest diocesan fund-raising campaign in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, seeking to raise $300 million.

    2002  Faces mounting accusations that his leadership of the archdiocese covered up accusations of sexual misconduct by priests.

    Compiled by Katherine Hennrikus, Globe Staff


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