Beliefs

Cardinal O’Malley repeats: Church needs to discipline bishops over sex abuse

Catholic Appeal Appreciation Mass and Reception with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

(RNS) Following up on remarks to “60 Minutes” about the clergy sex abuse crisis and other controversial topics, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has stressed that the Catholic Church needs a system to hold bishops accountable and must “avoid crowd-based condemnations.”

“We are all aware that Catholics want their leaders to be held accountable for the safety of children, but the accountability has been sporadic,” O’Malley wrote in a column posted Wednesday night (Nov. 19) at the website of the archdiocesan newspaper. “We need clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters.”

“Bishops also deserve due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing,” he added.

O’Malley’s column was responding to both praise and criticism of his CBS interview broadcast Sunday (Nov. 16) in which he said the Vatican needs to respond “urgently” to cases like that of Missouri Bishop Robert Finn, who remains in office despite a conviction in 2012 for failure to report concerns about a priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who was later convicted of federal child pornography charges.

Catholic Appeal Appreciation Mass and Reception with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Photo by George Martell - BCDS, courtesy of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Catholic Appeal Appreciation Mass and Reception with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The cardinal said Francis, who recently sent a Canadian archbishop to Finn’s diocese to investigate, was personally aware of the situation.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, O’Malley also called the Vatican’s investigation of American nuns a “disaster” and said if he were starting a church “I’d love to have women priests,” but he added that’s not what Jesus did. Both comments sparked strong reactions.

In his column, O’Malley — in his characteristically wry tone — praised the “60 Minutes” team that spent months on the piece and said he knew “the questions would not be about the weather and the Red Sox.” He also acknowledged that he was speaking frankly about “provocative issues that are seldom addressed by members of the hierarchy.”

He said he wanted to expand on his comments, especially his remarks about holding bishops accountable for shielding priests and other misdeeds — an issue that goes to the heart of the institutional church’s credibility crisis.

The cardinal was sent to Boston in 2002 to help clean up the abuse scandal that rocked a bastion of U.S. Catholicism and quickly spread to the rest of the American church. Pope Francis has since tapped O’Malley — considered his closest adviser in the U.S. church — to head a Vatican commission to address the abuse crisis.

“After all that American Catholics have been through in the past decade, survivors and the community at large understandably are demanding transparency and accountability,” O’Malley wrote. “As a Church, the safety of children must be our priority. At the same time, we need to provide justice for all and avoid crowd-based condemnations.”

While Francis has fired bishops for various reasons, and in one case defrocked and tried a Vatican diplomat who abused children, the pontiff reportedly wants to develop a system for judging and disciplining bishops, something that has always been left to the personal discretion of the pope.

The goal is to make hierarchical accountability more transparent and common, and also to counteract any tendency by church authorities to defensively circle the wagons when one of their number is criticized.

Referring to the Vatican’s long-running investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most of the 50,000 Catholic nuns in the U.S., O’Malley reiterated his criticism of the way the probe was conducted and the way it has “alienated” many sisters and caused a public relations headache for the American bishops.

“Hopefully when the final report of the visitations is presented, it will be a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life,” O’Malley wrote.

The cardinal also recognized that the church’s ban against ordaining women to the priesthood is “particularly painful to many Catholic women.” He noted that St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a priest and that Catholic women “are often holier, smarter and more hard-working than men.”

But he said the church “is called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular.”

 

YS/MG END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

14 Comments

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  • The Catholic Church still has no idea
    what it is up against with the enormity of lost trust because of pedophilia networks in its clergy.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of the Church, “We are in the forgiveness business.”

    To the untrained eye, forgiveness looks like a good thing.
    But on closer examination it is the most corrupting, immoral tenet in Christian philosophy.

    Further, if priests have the power to forgive – and they continue to forgive each other for pedophilia and other crimes – then the Church remains a deeply criminal organization.

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State.
    Question religion.

  • Last I checked, Jesus never set out to set up a church, so it makes no sense to ask how Jesus would run a church.

  • The church’s prohibition on women priests comes entirely from two letters attributed to Saint Paul that were written decades after he was already dead. By all means, cite Pauline Christianity if you literally believe everything in those letters, but don’t attribute positions to Jesus he never advocated.

  • Before the Vatican and the bishops begin look at he Truth of homosexualsin the catholic church and the history with a deeper understanding stop ignoring the truth and face it with Christ Amen

  • I always thought it interesting that the first person to change organic matter into the body and blood of Christ (the Eucharist) was a woman – Mary, and she did it far better than any male since 🙂

    And apparently it was a woman to whom Christ first appeared after his Resurrection …

    Methinks Christ gave preeminence to women in his “church” – a fact downplayed or expunged by later male leaders …

  • “..Christ gave preeminence to women in his “church” – a fact downplayed or expunged by later male leaders …”

    Downplayed? Then what good is Christ?

    Obviously his pro-woman position is so ineffectual over 2000 years that not a single Catholic Priest has been ordained. What a record of failure! Even I get some things right!

    Furthermore, the Holy Spirit itself appears to have been working DIRECTLY AGAINST Jesus if what you say is true.

    The Word of God is supposedly inspired by the Holy Spirit. What does the Holy Spirit supply to the Bible? Insipid nonsense.

    “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord [as a servant]…wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission..I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11-12).

    If The Holy Spirit approves of women being nothing more than cattle, don’t you think Jesus would have known that?

    Religion is not benign.
    Women pay a big price for believing this nonsense.

    Putting women in a second class status is corrupting to modern life and it is WRONG and it is Primitive. If Jesus intended for it to be otherwise – and if Jesus had power – it should alarm Christians that the Holy Spirit didn’t get the memo!

    “WOMAN, WHAT HAVE I TO DO WITH YOU?” – Jesus
    (to his own mother!) (John 2:4)

    We men and women have to respect ourselves more than this.

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civility and the Separation of Church and State
    Question the claims of religion.

  • Only with true heartfelt pain from causing pain can forgiveness be true to changing of the hear. Hence the term “a change of heart” you can’t have one with out the other.

    i use to hate the thought of illegal immigrants would be in my country now my heart has changed and my attitude toward this situation, because of the complexity and the children and families that just want peace, food, and a roof over their head….isn’t that reason to change my heart enough? Conversion is daily, I listen to Jesus everyday and finally a ton of bricks will fall on my head and I have an “a huh” moment, that is God speaking to my heart. I change my heart, and ask for forgiveness of my prior attitude towards something.

    So has it been someone denied you love and forgiveness too? i often think if the most deplorable leaders that have ever spanned our human history were ever truly loved by their mothers and forgiven from time to time we my have experienced less global heartache. Though some person of history may have still slipped through the cracks, evil exists it is out there plain and simple. But ultimate divine forgiveness to be loved for the sake of love that is only upon us in that wide, deep and broad way by Jesus and no one else could do that for us.

    To say that is this is most corrupt tenet of the Christian Teaching is so sad for you, you must be a sad, and feel like an unloved person at least that is what you may think of yourself. So I will say it, I love you! Atheist Warts and all!

  • @Jennifer,

    “To say that forgiveness is most corrupt tenet of the Christian Teaching is so sad for you, you must be a sad, and feel like an unloved person….”

    OH, GOOD GRIEF!

    Your argument is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. All dressed up in kindness but really it is condescension and presumption and a disregard for what your religion preaches.

    Jesus said you must forgive “Not seven times but seventy time seven.”
    This is profoundly immoral.

    There are times when forgiveness MAY be the correct option.
    Pedophilia is not one of those times.

    You should never have felt negatively toward immigrants to begin with!
    Shame on you.
    You don’t need to open your ‘heart’ you need to open a book.
    America is a nation of immigrants. All are welcome.

    I don’t need a god to grant me ‘the heart’ to forgive as I deem necessary, nor do respect the claim the I MUST forgive because Jesus says so.

    If I forgive it is because I have decided for myself that it is the moral decision to make. Not because God ‘opens my heart’ (good grief! How I hate that nonsense.)

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Decency and The Separation of Church and State
    Question the claims of religion.

  • Jesus had a worldwide united brotherhood in mind, not the churches (Catholic or Protestant) we see today…. There would need to be organization so that all would be taught the same commands and principles but he never intended a priesthood or clergy class. (Luke 22:24-26)

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