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On 10th anniversary of Boston scandal, Cardinal O'Malley speaks of recovery

January 02, 2012

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Ten years after the release of a sensational Boston Globe report that exposed the tolerance of sexual abuse within the Boston archdiocese, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that his efforts to revive the faith are based on “our firm conviction that Christ does not abandon his Church.”

In a candid interview with the National Catholic Register, Cardinal O’Malley—who was appointed to head the troubled Boston archdiocese in 2003, after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned—admits that his task was “daunting at the beginning.” But he argues that efforts to restore trust have had positive effects. The cardinal also points to signs of renewal within the local Church, including a dramatic increase in the number of seminarians studying for the priesthood.

Cardinal O’Malley concedes that the programs instituted to prevent abuse were often viewed with suspicion. But he defends those programs—including a “safe environment” program that has been criticized as an inappropriate form of sex education for young children—as beneficial.

Regarding public confidence in the priesthood, the cardinal makes an interesting observation:

Catholics who were involved in the parish were supportive of their priests. But the Catholics who only came to church occasionally were much more suspicious of priests. Those who were already at one arm’s length were now at two arms’ length.

Cardinal O’Malley notes that in the past, when dealing with priests who were guilty of abuse, many bishops “were taking the advice of these professionals who were obviously unaware that there isn’t a cure.” He adds: “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t dawn on the bishop sooner.”

The Boston cardinal says that bishops can restore trust by being present to their people. In an unflattering reference to Cardinal William O’Connell, the powerful prelate who ruled the Boston archdiocese from 1907 to 1944, he says: “One of my predecessors used to go to the Bahamas at Christmas and he didn’t come back until Easter.”


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  • Posted by: normnuke - Jan. 02, 2012 7:55 PM ET USA

    The problem with those in authority taking advice from psychologists who were either incompetent (or worse) in dealing with pedophiles was not confined to Catholic bishops. In California (where else) judges were forced to be foolishly lenient in disposing of pedophilic perps if some psychologist with a piece of paper on his wall told him to be. In one case an outraged mother went to the courtroom in session and dispensed justice herself. With a revolver.