Says comments ‘abandon’ survivors
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, a top adviser to Pope Francis, rebuked the pontiff’s disparaging remarks targeting Chilean abuse claims, saying the comments “abandon” survivors of the church’s sex abuse crisis to “discredited exile.”
In a strongly worded statement rebuking Francis’ comments, Boston’s archbishop said the remarks were clearly “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,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Francis was leaving Chile Thursday when he accused victims of the country’s most notorious pedophile priest of having slandered another bishop, Juan Barros, by claiming Barros covered up the abuse from the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Francis told Chilean journalists in the northern city of Iquique. “There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
The remarks shocked Chileans, drew immediate outrage from victims and their advocates and once again raised the question of whether the 81-year-old Argentine Jesuit “gets it” when it comes to sex abuse.
After cutting deep into Francis’ statement, O’Malley insisted the pope does understand the Church’s abuse crisis that’s still unfolding in many parts of the world.
“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,” O’Malley said.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, whose Boston firm has represented hundreds of clergy sexual abuse victims, said O’Malley’s comment about the pope “indicates the Church is circling the wagons tighter than ever.”
“Why don’t Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley step up to the plate and accept full responsibility and help victims try to heal?” Garabedian told the Herald. “Instead of providing hope and faith, Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley have provided pain and more pain to victims. It indicates how little the Church cares about victims healing, preventing clergy sex abuse and making the world a safer place for children.”
O’Malley headed Francis’ much-touted committee for the protection of minors until it lapsed last month after its initial three-year mandate expired. Francis has not named new members, and the committee’s future remains unclear.
O’Malley, who took over as Boston archbishop from the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law after the sex abuse scandal exploded there in 2002, was traveling to Peru yesterday to meet with the pope. His spokesman said the trip was previously scheduled. Francis will leave today to return to Rome.
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