By Sean O'Donnell - 21 January, 2018
In a statement issued on Friday (20th January), Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, said that Pope Francis fully recognises the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children.
The Cardinal who leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said, “It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday (Thursday) in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. 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”.
The Pope’s comment was made in response to a question by a Chilean journalist about Bishop Juan Barros who was appointed in 2015 to lead the Diocese of Osorno. He has been accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Bishop Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his appointment.
“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?”
The Cardinal continued, “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 recognises the egregious failures of the Church and it’s clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.
Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors, I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope’s statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.
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. 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 fulfilment 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.”