On 10th Anniversary, Cardinal O'Malley Recaps Church Response to Sex Abuse Scandal; Critics Are Unimpressed

By Brian Macquarrie and Martin Finucane
Boston Globe
January 4, 2012

The Archdiocese of Boston has settled approximately 800 clergy sexual abuse claims, is providing care to about 300 abuse survivors at any given time, and has given anti-abuse training to nearly half a million children and adults, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said in a report issued today outlining the church's response in the wake of the scandal that first broke 10 years ago this month.

But critics said they were unimpressed. "To this point, the church has failed miserably, miserably, miserably," said Bernie McDaid, 55, of Peabody, who was abused in the late 1960s in Salem.

"Nothing has been done but whatever the court has made them do," McDaid said.

O'Malley also said in his report that the church had strengthened its training standards for priests and made the candidate screening process "the strongest possible, with particular attention to any issues related to child safety." The church conducts more than 60,000 criminal background checks a year on priests, teachers, volunteers, and other people working with children, according to the report, "Ten Years Later Reflections on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston."

Addressing the "spiritual dimension," O'Malley said that the church had held special services in parishes that were hit particularly hard by the crisis. And five clergy abuse survivors had been given the opportunity to meet and pray with the Pope in 2008.

"Since the time I was named Archbishop of Boston in July of 2003 our highest priority has been to provide outreach and care for all the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to do everything possible to make sure this abuse never happens again," O'Malley said.

"As an Archdiocese, as a Church, we can never cease to make clear the depth of our sorrow and to beg forgiveness from those who were so grievously harmed," he said.

O'Malley acknowledged that "one effect of the abuse scandal is that many people view a priest's Roman collar and clerical appearance with suspicion."

While saying that "the task is never complete," he also said he hoped that the church's response would convince Catholics to return to the church.

"It is our prayer that by seeing the response of the Church, and by viewing the issue in its proper context, all those who have been away will return to join with us, to make the church stronger and always a safe place for all people," he said.

But McDaid said, "What people don't understand about survivors is that we have a trust issue. For us to move on, we have to have some degree of faith" that those clergy responsible for the abuse "will be charged, reeducated, something. If anything, it's worse than we ever thought."

McDaid, who founded a group called Survivors Voice, was one of those who met Pope Benedict XVI in Washington in 2008. He said he told the pontiff he had "a cancer in his flock."

Terence McKiernan, president of, also assailed O'Malley's statements. "I'm very underwhelmed," McKiernan said, adding that the cardinal "basically recycles the usual claims that we've heard a lot already, that they've experienced a learning curve, that they really didn't understand the situation."

Although criminal background checks of clergy and increased educational awareness about abuse are positive developments, McKiernan said, 'it shows not so much that the church wants to do the right things here, but that they've been forced to do the right thing."

The clergy sex abuse scandal first broke on Jan. 6, 2002, when a Globe article disclosed how O'Malley's predecessor as cardinal, Bernard F. Law, had repeatedly transferred a priest from parish to parish as reports of sexual abuse arose. The scandal sparked a flood of lawsuits and investigations, spreading across the nation and then worldwide, rocking the Catholic church.

Click here to read a Globe interview with O'Malley in which he said the scandal has changed the church for all time.



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