After numerous accusations of sexual abuse of minors and adults have arisen against a former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston called Tuesday for bishops to be held accountable for sex abuse.
“These cases and others require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the Church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse,” Cardinal O'Malley wrote July 24.
“While the Church in the United States has adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests we must have clearer procedures for cases involving bishops. Transparent and consistent protocols are needed to provide justice for the victims and to adequately respond to the legitimate indignation of the community. The Church needs a strong and comprehensive policy to address bishops’ violations of the vows of celibacy in cases of the criminal abuse of minors and in cases involving adults.”
He said he had reached this conclusion through his experience in several dioceses and with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“The Church needs to swiftly and decisively take action regarding these matters of critical importance. In every instance of claims made by victims of sexual abuse, whether criminal violations or the abuse of power, the primary concern must be for the victim, their family and their loved ones. The victims are to be commended for bringing to light their tragic experience and must be treated with respect and dignity.”
The accusations “are understandably a source of great disappointment and anger for many,” Cardinal O'Malley stated.
The cardinal also addressed reports that he was contacted in 2015 by Fr. Boniface Ramsey, who was reporting allegations of McCarrick's misconduct with seminarians.
He said he did not “personally receive” the letter from Fr. Ramsey. “In keeping with the practice for matters concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston, which was shared with Fr. Ramsey in reply.”
Cardinal O'Malley added that three actions are now required of the Church: a fair and rapid adjudication of these accusations; an assessment of the adequacy of our standards and policies in the Church at every level, and especially in the case of bishops; and communicating more clearly to the Catholic faithful and to all victims the process for reporting allegations against bishops and cardinals.
“Failure to take these actions will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church and can destroy the trust required for the Church to minister to Catholics and have a meaningful role in the wider civil society,” said Cardinal O'Malley. “In this moment there is no greater imperative for the Church than to hold itself accountable to address these matters, which I will bring to my upcoming meetings with the Holy See with great urgency and concern.”