Cardinal Bernard Law said he would continue to serve in the Boston Archdiocese on Friday, rebuffing calls for his resignation due to his role in keeping quiet allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct leveled at priests.
Law made his comments in a two-page letter to priests that expressed regret at the church's handling of the scandal.
One of the most powerful Roman Catholic officials in the country, Law has been criticized for maintaining a policy of confidentiality that involved transferring priests accused of sexual misconduct to other parishes and not reporting the allegations to police.
Under recent pressure, that policy was reversed, and Law turned over the names of more than 80 priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Law himself transferred then-Rev. John Geoghan from parish to parish in the mid-1980s despite knowing of allegations of abuse against Geoghan. The now-defrocked Geoghan is has been accused by 130 boys of sexual misconduct. Law has apologized to Geoghan's victims.
Earlier this week, attorneys released internal archdiocese documents showing how another priest — the Rev. Paul Shanley, now being sued for alleged child abuse — was moved through parishes in the archdiocese despite being, as described by the archdiocese documents, a "very sick person."
In one of the lawsuits, Gregory Ford, now 24, alleges that Shanley raped him repeatedly in the 1980s. Ford's attorneys released documents Monday that show Shanley spoke in favor of sex between grown men and young boys in 1979 — apparently at the meeting where a group advocating the practice, the North American Man Boy Love Association, was formed.
Law himself was responsible for moving Shanley from parish to parish. Law also wrote Shanley a positive retirement letter. The archdiocese recommended Shanley for a position in California without telling officials at that church about the alleged abuse.
Calls for Law's resignation from the nation's fourth-largest archdiocese have come from some of its 2 million Catholics and several publications, including Boston's two leading newspapers.
"In a desire to encourage victims who might not desire to enter a criminal process to come forward to us, we did not communicate cases to public authorities," Law wrote Friday.
"While our reason for not doing so seemed reasonable, I am convinced it was not adequate."
Many expressed bewilderment and disbelief at Law's decision.
Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report magazine and former editor of the Boston archdiocesan newspaper, found Law's letter "bizarre and troubling."
Patrick Schiltz, dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota, has helped defend dioceses in hundreds of sex abuse cases. Schiltz said that Law "is putting his own ego or desire for authority or pride above the interest of the church."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.