Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston who became a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals, died on Wednesday, the Vatican says. He was 86.
Law, whose resignation from his Boston post in 2002 shocked the Church and brought abuse into the open, had been living in Rome and was in declining health in recent years.
The Vatican did not give a cause of death but sources close to Law, who died in a hospital in Rome, said he had been suffering from the complications of diabetes, liver failure and a build-up of fluids around the heart, known as pericardial effusion.
Law was archbishop of Boston for 18 years before Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation on Dec. 13, 2002 following the Boston Globe's exposé of the sex abuse going on under Law's tenure.
The newspaper published a series of devastating stories detailing how priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish without alerting parishoners or law authorities.
Law's resignation sent shockwaves through the American Church and began a trickle-down effect throughout the rest of the world, as the same techniques used in Boston were found to be used in other countries as well.
"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," Law said at the time.
"To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes, I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness."
Law offered to step down multiple times before the pope accepted his resignation. Six months after his resignation the Massachusetts attorney general's office announced that Law and others would not face criminal charges.