Church Has Much to Do to Restore Trust, Ensure Child Safety, Boston Cardinal Says on Sex-Abuse Scandal's 5th

Catholic Online
January 9, 2007

Boston, Mass. (Catholic Online) The Catholic Church has much to do to restore trust among the faithful and ensure the safety of children five years after the clergy abuse scandal broke here, said the archdiocese's current prelate.

In a Jan. 7 feast of the Epiphany "op-ed piece" that ran in the Boston Globe, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said that the abuse scandal "shook the Archdiocese of Boston and the wider community," but the exposure of the "truth of the abuse had to be confronted."

"God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to lift us out of the darkness of sin," he said. "Only with the truth of clergy sexual abuse exposed could we again seek to walk fully in his light."

In the column entitled "Rebuilding faith, five years on," the cardinal apologized to those then-young people who were abused by Catholic clergy and asked for their forgiveness.

"On my own behalf and on behalf of the good and faithful men, women, clergy and religious of our archdiocese, I again express my most heartfelt apology to all the children and young people, most now adults, who were abused by priests or other representatives of the church," he said. "We will forever be sorry for the harm you have suffered and humbly ask your forgiveness.

Cardinal O'Malley said that the "wounded hearts and shattered spirits" of the abused children have a "special claim on the church, the body of Christ."

He noted the many "broken hearts and tear-filled eyes" he had seen of the family members of the abused as they shared "agonizing stories about your children, some of whom have even taken their own lives."

"You trusted and loved your priests unconditionally," he said. "Tragically, that trust was betrayed.

Cardinal O'Malley said that the clergy sexual abuse scandal has impacted both parishioners and "faith-filled priests."

"They have borne the shame, grief and confusion of these devastating revelations with heroic faith," he said. "For the clergy and parents, in particular, the ability to impart the gift of faith to children has been especially challenging."

For the community at large, he added, "the scandal of clergy sexual abuse has given rise to anger and mistrust."

The cardinal recalled that in 2002, as the Catholic Church marked the feast of the Epiphany celebrating "the manifestation of God's love for all humanity," the archdiocese was hit with "the devastating revelations that Catholic clergy had sexually abused children."

"The contrast between the feast, which celebrates the light of Christ, and the dark and unremitting truth of clergy sexual abuse seemed, at first, impossible to accept," he said.

"But the truth of the abuse had to be confronted. These crimes against children were all the more heinous because they were committed by men who vowed themselves to emulate Christ, and were further enabled by the failure of the Church leadership to respond appropriately," he said.

The archdiocese has learned much over the last five years about implementing programs and policies to ensure the safety of children "due to the generosity of so many who have committed themselves to the rebuilding of the church," the cardinal said.

Yet, he added, there is much "to be done to regain confidence and trust."

"We must, and will, continue our vigilance and improve on these efforts," Cardinal O'Malley said. "Nothing less is acceptable. Our responsibility to children and families is paramount."

He offered "hope and prayer" that adequate protection will be implemented in other societal settings "where children depend upon the care of adults."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.