Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002 over a sex abuse scandal, has died aged 86 in Rome.
Cardinal Law was accused of having moved paedophile priests from parishes rather than confront accusations.
After leaving Boston he took a post at the Vatican where he worked until 2011.
The Boston diocese was rocked in January 2002 by allegations of sexual misconduct by dozens of priests over a time span of decades.
It avoided bankruptcy by agreeing to sell land and buildings for more than $100m (£74m) to fund legal settlements for more than 500 abuse victims.
The scandal prompted the Vatican to draw up new plans to combat child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984 but stepped down in 2002 following a series of reports by the Boston Globe newspaper’s investigative Spotlight team.
“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,” he said at the time.
The reports published in the Boston Globe alleged that dozens of priests who sexually abused children had been moved from parish to parish for years under Cardinal Law’s tenure without informing parishioners or police.
The damning reports led not only to the resignation of Cardinal Law, but the uncovering of further abuse in 102 cities in the US and 105 dioceses worldwide.
Cardinal Law was born in 1931 in Torreon, Mexico, the son of a US Air Force colonel and a musician. He graduated from Harvard University and was ordained a priest in 1961.
The story of the Boston Globe investigation by four reporters on how the church had covered up sexual abuse by more than 70 priests in the Boston area was immortalised in the 2015 film Spotlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.