O’Malley on the sex abuse crisis: ‘It’s not behind us’

National Catholic Reporter

by John L Allen Jr on Jan. 06, 2012 All Things Catholic

Breaking news: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named 22 new cardinals, including two Americans, Archbishops Timothy Dolan and Edwin O’Brien. John Allen’s coverage and analysis can be found here:

Pope names 22 new cardinals, including Dolan and O’Brien
Five observations on the new cardinals

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Although you won’t find it on any liturgical calendar, Friday marks a monumental milestone for the Catholic church in the United States. It was exactly a decade ago, on Jan. 6, 2002, that the first Boston Globe article appeared on a serial predator and former priest named John Geoghan, triggering what we now know as the “sexual abuse crisis.”

Within a year, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston resigned in disgrace, his legacy permanently tainted by perceptions of having presided over the Catholic Watergate. The man tapped to clean up the mess Law left behind — a humble, self-effacing Capuchin Franciscan named Sean O’Malley — was already a veteran drawn from the frontlines of the crisis, well before the term even existed.

Back in 1992, O’Malley was quietly serving as a missionary bishop in the Virgin Islands when he was dispatched to the Fall River diocese in Massachusetts, where he was forced to deal with a mushrooming sex abuse scandal involving former priest James Porter. Among other things, that experience occasioned O’Malley’s first meetings with abuse victims. A decade later, O’Malley was transferred to Palm Beach, Fla., where another diocese was in disarray after two consecutive bishops had resigned following revelations of abuse.

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