‘Zero Tolerance’ Questionable

Church Militant [Ferndale MI]

October 5, 2022

By Nicholas Wylie

Cardinal retains post

Pope Francis wants Boston’s Cdl. Seán O’Malley to remain president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The news comes as the pope added 10 new members to the commission this past week, while retaining 10 others. 

O’Malley’s continued leadership role on the committee seems to contradict Pope Francis’ zero-tolerance policy toward abuse.

“No abuse should ever be covered up, as was often the case in the past, or not taken sufficiently seriously, since the covering up of abuses favors the spread of evil and adds a further level of scandal,” Francis proclaimed at the 2019 Vatican sexual abuse summit, formally known as the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church.”

The cardinal appeared to be a prudent choice when Francis established the commission in 2014 because of O’Malley’s reputation for being a “fixer” capable of contending with the homopredator problem. After O’Malley became bishop of the Fall River diocese in 1992, he settled 101 abuse cases. O’Malley was informed of McCarrick’s serial abuse in 2015, three years before the former cleric was exposed. 

He became Boston’s archbishop in 2002, immediately confronting The Boston Globe’s report about predator priests.

However, it became apparent O’Malley was just another prelate covering up abuse with the discovery that he knew about homopredator Theodore McCarrick’s malfeasance. O’Malley was credibly informed of McCarrick’s serial abuse in 2015 — three years before McCarrick’s exposure. O’Malley even welcomed McCarrick to a fundraiser after finding out about his abuse. 

O’Malley’s tolerance of a predator seems to contradict his 2021 remarks during the “Faith and Flourishing Strategies for Preventing and Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse” symposium. 

“We all have a moral and legal obligation to as best possible provide protection and care for the people we serve, especially minors, young people, vulnerable adults in all religious, civic and social groups, and the people we serve rightfully expect that protection,” he told more than 2,000 attendees.

Pope Francis clearly trusts O’Malley, despite the cardinal’s silence on McCarrick.

A second recent example of Francis’ tolerance for cover-up clerics is the fact that the Vatican has taken no action on German bishop Franz-Josef Bode. Bode, the vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, refused to resign after his own diocese revealed he covered up credible allegations of abuse by transferring accused clerics to other positions, like youth ministry. Bode acknowledged and apologized for his errors, but declined to offer his resignation to the pope. 

A third example of papal tolerance involves the pope’s close friend, Argentine bishop Gustavo Zanchetta. Zanchetta was convicted in an Argentinian trial court of aggravated sexual abuse (at least two seminarians were victims), but Pope Francis refused to believe the allegations. 

In a fourth example, the Vatican has remained silent on the collusion between Francis adviser Cdl. Oswald Gracias and Bp. K.A. William of Mysore, who has allegedly fathered children, entertained multiple mistresses and had priests murdered. 

These examples stand in stark contrast to the pope’s impassioned words at the Vatican sexual abuse summit.

“Here again I would state clearly: If in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse — which already in itself represents an atrocity — that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness,” Francis declared, noting that “in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons.”

“The echo of the silent cry of the little ones who, instead of finding in them fathers and spiritual guides encountered tormentors, will shake hearts dulled by hypocrisy and by power,” Francis added. “It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry.”

Critics claim nothing has changed since the McCarrick revelations, leading some faithful Catholics to question the sincerity of the pope’s zero-tolerance policy.