Pope ignores abuse scandal in condolences for US cardinal


Vatican City (AFP)

Pope Francis paid his respects to the late US Cardinal Bernard Law on Wednesday, without mentioning the sex abuse scandal that forced the once-influential church figure to resign, an omission bound to rile victim associations.

"I raise prayers for the repose of his soul," Francis said in a telegram after Law, 86, died in Rome.

The former Boston cardinal had fallen from grace after he allegedly shielded priests involved in a wide-reaching sex abuse scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church and eclipsed his long and at one-time venerated career.

It is traditional for the pope to issue a message of condolence and prayer after the death of the red-hatted church seniors.

But the telegram made no reference to the paedophilia scandal, and neither did the official biography issued by the Vatican.

The biography merely said that Law, who was appointed Archbishop of Boston by John Paul II in 1984 became "Archbishop emeritus of Boston, 13 December 2002".

Allegations of molestation and cover-ups surfaced seemingly daily after the scandal erupted in Boston and Law was forced to resign the archbishop post for allegedly protecting priests despite evidence they had been abusing youngsters.

In 2004, an investigation established that some 4,400 Catholic priests were paedophiles and that the number of victims from 1950-2002 stands at around 11,000.

The scandal was broken by the Boston Globe newspaper's Spotlight investigative reporting team, whose dogged uncovering of horrific widespread abuse by priests won a Pulitzer prize and was made into an Oscar-winning film, "Spotlight", in 2016.

Transferred in shame to a low-key position in a Rome basilica, Law had been recently hospitalised after a long illness.

Law's funeral will be held at Saint Peter's Basilica on Thursday, during which the pope will perform a last rite.

Pope Francis has vowed to take a "zero tolerance" approach to sex abuse, but has been accused of being too soft on paedophiles, extending to them a general policy of mercy he is promoting in the church.