Ethics Institutions

Cardinal O’Malley: The Catholic sex abuse scandal is far from over

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. RNS photo by Gregory L. Tracy/The Pilot.
Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi. * NOTE: This photo can only be used with RNS-VATICAN-ABUSE, originally transmitted Feb. 6, 2015.

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi. * NOTE: This photo can only be used with RNS-VATICAN-ABUSE, originally transmitted Feb. 6, 2015 or RNS-OMALLEY-SCANDAL, originally transmitted on February 17, 2015.

ROME (Reuters) The U.S. cardinal who heads the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse of children by clergy warned his fellow Roman Catholic bishops on Monday not to behave as if the problem had passed.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told a conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University that some prelates were still reluctant to deal with the problem openly.

“It would be perilous for us, as leaders of the Church, to consider that the scandal of clergy sexual abuse is for the most part a matter of history and not a pressing concern here and now,” said O’Malley, whose commission advises Pope Francis on how to root out the abuse that has shamed the Church.

“Its not a pleasant topic. It’s easier just to ignore it and hope it will go away (but) when we are defensive and secretive, the results are disastrous,” he said in his speech.

O’Malley said last week, after the 17-member commission held its first full meeting at the Vatican, that the group is studying sanctions for bishops suspected of cover-ups or of failing to prevent abuse.

Victims groups have been urging the Vatican for years to make bishops more accountable for abuse in their dioceses, even if they were not directly responsible for it. Few have lost their posts because of a scandal on their watch.

Earlier this month the pope sent a stern letter to bishops around the world ordering them to cooperate as a matter of priority with the commission to root out “the scourge” of the sexual abuse even if it unearths new scandals.

Part of the task of the commission, made up of clerics and lay people from around the world, is to help dioceses put in place “best practices” to prevent abuse and work with victims in a process of healing. Eight members are women.

The worldwide scandal, which first became prominent in Boston in 2001, saw known abusers shunted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to authorities.

Cardinal Bernard Law, O’Malley’s direct predecessor, fled to Rome after the abuse scandal broke out there and was given a prominent ceremonial post by the late Pope John Paul.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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  • Of course they abuse scandal is far from over. It’s been going on for at least 1000–ONE THOUSAND– years. Read St. Peter Damian. Read Boccaccio and Chaucer–it’s all in there. Read Karen Liebreich’s “Fallen Order”.

    The church has long served as a haven for predators: sexual, moral, financial, and power hungry. The last boy castrtaed for the musical pleasure of the pope lived 100 years ago.

  • The intention of this link is to defame gay men. When will we be hearing about the HETEROSEXUAL priests, enabled and covered up by HETEROSEXUAL bishops, who abuse girls.

    Flagged as abusive.

  • More than 80 percent of the victims of these despicable priests were young boys. The reason the problem has to do with gay priests is that many gay young men would join enter the Catholic seminaries to hide. They had no intention of serving God, only themselves. My sister knew many of these gay men who attended a Catholic seminary in the Northeast (name withheld), and to them, it was the perfect world. They did not have to explain why they were not dating women, and would slip into each other’s rooms at night. All of these men are now dead, having died of AIDS, mostly. But back to the subject, it became a fad in the gay community of the 1970’s and 80’s to do this. Hopefully they will all be rooted out before doing any more damage. As for the future, well the Church has tightened up its selection process. But I for one would like to see the Church loosen up its discipline regarding the married priesthood, as many good married men would love to become priests. I think the time is ripe for that.

  • To frame this as a gay or heterosexual issue is a waste of time. This is about child molesters or child rapists. Lets keep our eye on the problems here, people. As someone who lived through this hell at the age of 13 I can tell you that this crisis (scandal does not cover this problem) is far from over. Bishops will not change their behavior of “protecting the church” and isolating victims until their risk calculus is radically changed. Until the Church, the bishops in particular, are forced to pay an obscene price (status, position, humiliation, criminal prosecution, and yes, treasure) for their complicity in covering up crimes committed by pedophile priests, laity and other religous within their Dioceses, there will be no change to their behavior. The same can be said of other institutions that have a history of protecting the interests of the institution above the need to protect children and vulnerable adults from the predators that they shield. I don’t think a “stern letter” from the Pope is going to do it.

    I can say from experience that I will be portrayed as looking for an easy payout. For years I have never asked for a dime, I have asked for the truth. The Catholic Church Hierarchy is institutionally unable to tell the truth. They probably wouldn’t know the truth if their Saviour came and showed it to them.

    I hope Cardinal O’Malley is sincere. There is very little hope in the survivor community.

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