(RNS) Ten years after the sex abuse scandal erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley has written a contrite public letter, faulting the church’s response and insisting that the church can never again fail to protect the young.
“As a church we must continue to express the depth of our sorrow and contrition for how badly we failed those entrusted to our care,” O’Malley wrote in a Wednesday (Jan. 4) pastoral letter.
“As leaders in the church we must accept our responsibility for those failings and clearly acknowledge that church leadership could have and should have responded more quickly and more forcefully.”
In early 2002 the Boston Globe published a series of stories that detailed widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests, who were then shuffled from parish to parish. The series, which won a Pulitzer Prize, prompted revelations of widespread abuse across the United States and abroad.
In the decades since, thousands of people have come forward to report abuse at the hands of priests, and several dioceses sought bankruptcy protection under the weight of legal settlements.
A 2002 study commissioned by U.S. bishops found allegations of abuse of more than 10,000 children by more than 4,000 priests since 1950, and last year a separate report faulted the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s for the scandal.
In response to the crisis, which cost the U.S. church billions in legal and other costs, U.S. bishops launched a series of reforms to better screen candidates for the priesthood, and to teach children how to protect themselves from predators.
O’Malley details these steps and others in a five-page document released with the letter.
But for Terry McKiernan, founder and president of Boston-based BishopAccountability.org, the letter and accompanying report contain too much self-congratulation.
McKiernan said O’Malley could better help victims by releasing the names of several dozen priests who work or worked in the archdiocese and who are accused of sexual abuse.
“Some of those men are still in the community and nobody knows their names,” McKiernan said. “It’s so important to survivors. It could bring this to the point to where it’s truly resolved.”