Rebuilding From the Ruins: Cardinal O’Malley on the 2002 Boston Sex-Abuse Scandal and Aftermath

National Catholic Register


A decade ago, the Boston clergy sexual abuse crisis engulfed the archdiocese, ultimately drawing global attention to a once-hidden scourge that has destroyed the innocence of minors, shattered families, severely damaged the credibility of Church leaders everywhere and led to an estimated $1 billion in settlements to American survivors.

Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley was named archbishop of Boston in 2003. He replaced Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned after the 2002 publication of archdiocesan personnel files revealed that clergy with credible allegations of child sexual abuse were reassigned to new parishes, rather than removed from ministry, and that parishioners were not warned about their history.

In a two-part interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Cardinal O’Malley discusses a range of topics, from the path to healing and spiritual reconciliation for survivors, to rebuilding the moral credibility of the Church, and penalties for bishops that neglect to protect the innocent.

When he arrived in Boston nine years ago, then-Archbishop O’Malley had already addressed clergy sexual abuse scandals in two other dioceses. In 1992, he was appointed to the nearby Diocese of Fall River, Mass., where then-Father James Porter would subsequently receive an 18- to 20-year prison sentence for sexually abusing 28 children.

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