Archbishop O'Malley Addresses Conference on Clergy Sexual Abuse

By Denise Lavoie
January 14, 2004

NEWTON, Mass. -- Archbishop Sean O'Malley said Wednesday that the Boston Archdiocese will offer special training to help parish priests better reach out to victims of clergy sex abuse.

Speaking at a conference for mental health professionals at Boston College, O'Malley said victims of abuse will need counseling services long after they've received their financial settlement from the church.

"The wound that was left by the abuse was not only to one's psyche, but also to their spiritual life and identity," said O'Malley, who has met with many victims since he was appointed to the post last summer.

The clergy sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston and spread to Roman Catholic dioceses around the country and the world. O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, resigned in December 2002 amid criticism of his handling of the crisis.

O'Malley succeeded Law and helped to broker an $85 million settlement with more than 500 sex abuse victims.

About 150 social workers, nurses, psychologists and other mental health professionals attended the all-day conference, which was co-sponsored by the BC Graduate School of Social Work and the Boston Archdiocese's Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach.

O'Malley said many victims who were abused as children have expressed feelings of shame to him. He said many came from deeply religious families who were very involved in the life of the church, making them especially vulnerable to abusive priests.

"I've tried to help people overcome these feelings of guilt, but it's very hard to do," he said.

The archbishop also said many of the victims have sought pastoral help in their parishes, but the priests have been ill-equipped to help them. The Archdiocese will hold a workshop to teach priests how to better offer spiritual counseling to abuse victims, he said.


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