O'Malley Appeases Panel: Vows to Consult on Future Moves

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
October 4, 2003

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley assured a panel of outside advisers yesterday the archdiocese would make no further changes in its policies on sexual abuse without consulting with them first.

He also told the panel it could review a disputed policy change made quietly over the summer that has infuriated victims' advocates.

"Archbishop Sean gave us an absolute commitment that no future change will occur without our input and apologized for the change that did happen," said Suzin Bartley, head of the Children's Trust Fund and a member of the oversight panel. "He agreed it was a mistake and said nothing like that would happen under his watch."

O'Malley's spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, confirmed O'Malley's promise. Coyne said O'Malley spent about 40 minutes with the panel, which met for four hours to discuss issues arising from the church sexual-abuse scandal.

Those included the progress of programs aimed at training archdiocesan priests, lay workers and parishioners about how to identify, prevent and report sexual abuse.

The policy change that upset the oversight panel and the victims' advocates stripped accusers of the right to review data collected by the church during its abuse investigations. The change was initially brought to light last month by the Coalition of Catholics & Survivors.

Archdiocesan officials made the changes on materials accessible to the public via the archdiocese's Web site but took no steps to draw attention to the revisions.

After attention was drawn to the changes, church officials said they had been made to protect the rights of accused priests whose personal information might be reviewed as part of an investigation.

"They need to rectify the mistake by going back to the original language guaranteeing accusers the right to review the full file on their cases," said Lori A. Lambert, a co-founder of the coalition.


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