Action Alert!

More clear signs that the papal abuse commission is adrift

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 27, 2017

A Crux interview with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), includes at least three eye-popping admissions:

Cardinal O’Malley explains that the PCPM sought a clear means of ensuring that bishops will be held accountable for the handling of sex-abuse complaints.

Do you feel you have that now?

I hope we do, but we need to see how it’s going to work.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the new procedure, is it? But then there’s a reason for the cardinal’s uncertainty. Back up a few lines:

If an accusation surfaces that a bishop has failed to act, who looks into it? Is it the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, or who?

I think it would be the Congregation for Bishops that would do the initial investigation. That’s my understanding.

Let’s get this clear. The president of the papal commission on abuse prevention thinks that a complaint would be directed to the Congregation for Bishops. That’s his understanding of the process. In short Cardinal O’Malley—the Vatican’s point man on this issue—isn’t sure how the system works! If he isn’t clear about the procedure, who would be? How “transparent” can this system be, if even the head of the PCPM can’t describe it?

Then the cardinal is asked about the members of his panel who testified before an Australian royal commission that the PCPM is underfunded:

I was kind of surprised by that. The truth is, we’ve never been denied anything we’ve asked for.

What can we infer from this remarkable statement? That the president of the papal commission was unaware of the frustration among the group’s members? That the PCPM had never asked for the resources its members felt they needed? That the cardinal and the other members of the PCPM aren’t on the same page?

Cardinal O’Malley sets out to reassure us that the Vatican is fully committed to transparency and accountability. The interview, unfortunately, is not reassuring.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Mar. 28, 2017 8:58 PM ET USA

    And Cardinal O’Malley was one of those who championed "Zero Tolerance" and "One Accusation and YOU are OUT." If this is all he does, no wonder most other Bishops do nothing.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Mar. 27, 2017 7:52 PM ET USA

    Phil, how about providing some *specific* examples of what you see as wrongdoing by bishops and then telling us how you think they should be "held accountable" under Church law?

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Mar. 27, 2017 1:58 PM ET USA

    This Cardinal has always stuck me as so low-key as to be practically comatose. Nothing gets a rise out of him. Maybe that's why he was selected for this position. The PCPM is on autopilot.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 27, 2017 12:31 PM ET USA

    "We have to pass the bill before we can read it and know what is in it." Said by a prominent Catholic politician.

  • Posted by: shrink - Mar. 27, 2017 11:50 AM ET USA

    Another shining example from the Alfred E. Neuman School of bishop accountability. Its motto: What! Me worry? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯