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Cardinal O’Malley: Pope’s words ‘a source of great pain’ for abuse survivors

“I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time,” says the chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse.

Pope Francis listens as Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, speaks during an audience with commission members at the Vatican Sept. 21, 2017. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout) See POPE-SAFEGUARDING-COMMISSION Sept. 21, 2017.

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2018 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse has said that recent comments from Pope Francis were painful and alienating to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in a Jan. 20 statement.

The statement refers to a comment made by Pope Francis to a Chilean reporter Jan. 18. The Pope was asked about Bishop Juan Barros, a Chilean accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Pope Francis told the reporter. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The Pope has long been a defender of Barros.

On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno “is praying and suffering for you.”

“Osorno suffers, yes,” Pope Francis said, “for silliness.” According to a video of the conversation released by Chile’s Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that “the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope added.

O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it was established by the Pope in 2014. He is widely lauded for his leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, amid widespread reports of clerical sexual abuse under Law’s leadership.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

“My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain,” he added.

“In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.”

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  1. “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

    Than for the love of God please shut up. I am so over all of the Church’s politicos. For the faithful really a bit disgusting.

  2. Yes, dear pew sitters, the bishop of Rome has a temper. Displayed in public for the first time in a nasty way.
    After five years, the mask is gone. The man and the agenda all becoming very clear.
    God Bless Holy Benedict.

  3. What is “clear” to everyone in the world now is (1) Pope Bergoglio does not in fact “get it” and thinks he’s free to make up his own rules as he goes along, whether it’s in dogma (Communion for divorced and remarried public adulterers) or discipline (suspension and punishment for homosexual priest child-rapists); (2) Pope Bergoglio’s explicit and undeniable words and actions reveal his megalomania with no possibility of being “mistranslated” or “misinterpreted” or “misunderstood”; (3) Pope Bergoglio personally gutted and effectively abolished the Vatican commission on sexual abuse just as he personally gutted and effectively abolished the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and traditional orders like the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception and the Trappists of Mariawald; and (4) Pope Bergoglio has directly and unilaterally reignited the issue of clerical homosexual rape and episcopal coverup and untouchability in such spectacular fashion that even Cardinal O’Malley, his hand-picked point man on this very issue and charter member of his Vatican G9 governing council, had to repudiate publicly Pope Bergoglio’s outrageous remarks in an attempt to save his own credibility.

  4. The Pope and Barros… “The Pope has long been a defender of Barros”. That statement alone may tell a story. Like most cases in the US a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. But this is heavily Catholic Chile and it may take the Pope to intervene for that to happen. The Pope has “promised” to “clean house” of all clerics who committed the crime of pedophilia or were directly involved in shuffling priests to cover up their crime. He failed in at least 3 cases. Mahoney in LA, Law in Boston, (now deceased), and Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera.

    The mix up between civil law and church law may be where the confusion resides. If the pontiff is unable to execute his authority on clerical wrongdoers then civil law must apply. What does the church do if they find that the Pope is covering up?

  5. Are we now in a place where someone is guilty until proven innocent, where someone is assumed to be guilty once accused, where “He might have known” or “He ought to have known” are equivalent to actually committing a crime or knowing about a crime? There are sexual predators who are skilled liars, and there are accusers who are skilled liars. Yes, people have suffered because there’s wasn’t enough evidence to “convict”, but does this mean we can dispense with credible evidence? I don’t care about consensus or loud accusations, show me the evidence…any evidence.

    • Your comment addresses the heart of the matter. Does “credible evidence” exist or not?

      Have begun to convict on the basis of “hear-say” only? Have those who are angry stopped to think of the consequences of such a policy?

      A rumor, unproven, unsubstantiated, can ruin a life. The Hebrews understood this; the church also understands but has not emphasized its understanding. “Detraction”, “Calumny” and “Slander” are mortal sins. These offenses against another person, once committed, are almost impossible to correct.

      Every charge of any offense must be taken seriously and carefully investigated. The Pope statement seemed to imply that that has been done in this case. Does evidence to the contrary exist? If so it should be produced without delay.

  6. As reported in the Catholic Hersld by Damian Thompson, among others, Pope Francis restored priestly faculties to boy rapist Mauro Inzoli, reversing the sentence handed down by Pope Benedict. It was believed that PF did this at behest of a Cardinal who knew Inzoli. Subsequently, Inzoli was tried and found guilty in civil courts, and then apparently PF had to undo his undoing of B16’s verdict.

    It is no wonder that PF has problems facing sex abuse, because his election was run by the sex abuse coverup artist Cardinal Danneels of Belgium (and his St Galens Mafia friends). Danneels retired in disgrace under B16, after the Belgian Press revealed that he was caught on audio tape trying to coverup the homosexual predatory incest of a friend of his, Bishop Vanderweighe, who had raped his own nephew.

    After 10 long years of the sex abuse scandal – PF and his “team” are detached from reality if they expect Catholics now to tolerate this kind of episcopal clericalism again.

  7. 1. This may be a turning point, in that cardinals like O’Malley are saying things in public to try and gently advise Pope Francis and do some damage control.

    2. My prediction: Cardinal O’Malley will soon be kicked out of the Council of 9. Pope Francis doesn’t tolerate opposition of any kind.

  8. O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

    And yet he weighs in. Seriously? The perceived irrelevancy of Rome is largely the result of its leadership’s cluelessness. O’Malley. Francis… who knows what to even think much less say…

  9. Certainly I agree with some that we’re innocent until proved guilty, although in complete support of Cardinal O’Malley there is much more at stake in this. What I posted elsewhere here expresses my reaction to the Pontiff’s words and actions: Notice the voices of concern and anguish come and disappear. Cardinal Burke now inexplicably silent. Cardinal Mueller repentant. Fr Weinandy’s stark repudiation a memory. Brave aux bishop Athanasius Schneider clamoring exquisitely from remote Kazakhstan. Voices in the Wilderness. Darkness has enveloped the Bride of Christ. Something strange is afoot. Two thousand years of the fragrant words of the Word made Flesh rolled back. A New Paradigm. An ancient affront to decency. And a clarion call to spiritual warfare.

    • Dear Fr. Peter, my view is we have to look at each issue or incident on its own merits and in relation to Church teaching on the particular subject, and not let our views on one issue color other issues. As to clergy abuse, if we don’t start with evidence, if we don’t separate the evidence, or lack thereof, in relation to a specific accusation from our general condemnation of sexual abuse, then we fail the tests of justice and reason. The world doesn’t care about justice and reason, only its agenda and whatever it takes to push that agenda, but the Church does care, and we must too.

  10. Prayer For The Silence of A Pope.

    Dear loving and merciful Father,
    We pray for your Son’s earthly guardian
    of the deposit of faith.
    Grant to your humble servant N. fRANCIS
    that he may reserve and decline both speech and writing so as to safeguard your tradition that you so lovingly have bestowed on us for thousands years.
    May you grant our Vicar the peace and courage needed for earthly solitude and contemplation.
    Eternal and loving giver of all that is good, we beseech thee, to guide Him in his duties in living the gospel without words.
    We ask this thru Christ Our Lord.

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