Cardinal O’Malley: We have a moral and ethical responsibility to report abuse

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Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on Feb. 16, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on Feb. 16, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholic clergy have a “moral and ethical responsibility” to report sexual abuse, the cardinal tasked with reforming the Vatican’s approach to sexual crimes said after criticism of the Holy See.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley sought to reaffirm the church’s position on reporting abuse in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis set up in 2014.

“Our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society,” O’Malley said in a statement Monday (Feb. 15).

O’Malley’s comments followed a report that a French priest told new bishops they were under no duty to report abuse allegations to the police.


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Monsignor Tony Anatrella, who serves as an adviser to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, made the statement during a presentation, it was reported last week.

O’Malley denied that churchmen were effectively told to ignore abuse.

“Every year at our November meeting, at a training session for new bishops, this obligation is reaffirmed,” he said, adding: “And every other February the conference runs a second training program for new bishops, which also clearly and explicitly includes this obligation.”

The pontifical commission has come under renewed scrutiny recently after one of the two victims on the panel was sidelined. Peter Saunders, who was abused as a child in Britain, is taking a “leave of absence,” the commission announced.

Saunders disputed the nature of his leave and said only Pope Francis could permanently remove him from the commission.

“A number of members of the commission expressed their concern that I don’t toe the line when it comes to keeping my mouth shut,” Saunders said on Feb. 6, describing the advisory body as “a public relations exercise.”

The second abuse victim on the commission, Marie Collins from Ireland, said she remained committed to the commission’s reform goals.

Collins did, however, raise concerns about the reaction of some within the Vatican administration to the pope’s commission.

“I feel strongly that anyone criticizing the commission is choosing the wrong target. There are many of good will in the Curia but unfortunately there are still those, at this top level, who worry more about their own fiefdoms and the threat of change than they do about the work the Commission is trying to do to protect children,” she told National Catholic Reporter on Feb. 9.

(Rosie Scammell is the RNS Vatican correspondent)

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  • Betty Clermont

    This pope continues to appoint and promote prelates with horrendous records for covering up, aiding and abetting pedophiles and persecuting victims. He has not held one prelate accountable for malfeasance in the rape of children. But then he’d have to begin with himself since is record as cardinal primate of Argentina is despicable.

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  • bernie law

    And he hid notorious pedophile Archbishop Wesolowski at the Vatican for 2 years before Wesolowski died suspiciously, on the eve of his trial.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  • bernie law

    Why would you not print the critical line from the article where the Vatican instructor tells the new bishops, “For instance, Anatrella argued that bishops have no duty to report allegations to the police”.

    The statement, the philosophy, and the training, could not of been more clear.

  • Randy Orso

    Your Eminence, Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley what did you do to protect the public from Rev. Philip McConville of Marshfield and Dennis, Massaschusetts? You too had a moral and ethical responsibility!

  • Debbo

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I doubt the Vatican will improve until it’s absolute power is gone. Chop off at least half of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and make the remainder accountable to the members of the church. Reduce the economic benefits for the leadership by half. It still won’t be perfect, but it will be dramatically improved.

    The ECUSA (Episcopal) is quite top heavy too, but the leadership is accountable to the people. They have some issues, as does every church, but the lack of absolute power makes all the difference.

  • Randy Philip Edward Orso

    Your Eminence, Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley what did you do to protect the public from Rev.Philip McConville of Green Harbor, Marshfield, MA and Dennis, MA? Even after John C. Dam shot himself after being confronted with his collaboration with Rev. McConville to abuse boys at Our Lady of the Assumption?