Many victims’ advocacy groups contend that the late Pope John Paul II was too protective of clergy, and that a de facto policy of shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish or diocese to diocese held sway under his long papacy.
Benedict, his successor, was the first pope to meet with those who were sexually abused by clergy. In 2010, Benedict issued an apology to Ireland for chronic abuse there over several decades. He also ordered a drastic overall of a conservative religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, which was a favorite of John Paul, but whose founder sexually abused seminarians.
However, Benedict disappointed victims by not disciplining church higher-ups who had shielded the abusive priests.
Francis has set a tone of humility for his papacy and victims will be watching closely to see if he will meet with them, promote zero tolerance for abusers and perhaps issue an overarching church apology for the systemic cover-ups by church hierarchy in many countries.
As for the issue with Cardinal Law, Francis saw him the morning after his election as pope when he went to St. Mary Major’s Basilica in Rome. Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston, was among several prelates who came to the basilica in hopes of seeing the pope. Law had been named by John Paul to head the basilica, a plum post for aging clerics. Law later retired from that post.
Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.