By Robin Gomes
Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Speaking on the sidelines of the February 21-24 Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church in the Vatican, the Capuchin cardinal explained to Fabio Colagrande of Vatican News the importance of hearing about the ordeal that victims of clerical sexual abuse go through.
Card. O’Malley said the “witness of the victims is always so powerful” and it is very important for bishops to understand the pain and the seriousness of the problem. This is why, he said that bishops were asked to meet and listen to sex abuse survivors in their countries, as a preparation for the Rome meeting.
The 74-year old cardinal said some of the bishops did not have the opportunity to do so and so being able to meet and listen to some of the victims in Rome “has been a very important part of this experience to help people, to have a pastoral heart and to realize that real suffering has been caused and that we have a great responsibility to respond.”
The Archbishop of Boston also stressed on the importance of the “spirit of collegiality” in responding to the scourge of sexual abuse of minors in the Church. He noted that what happens in one part of the “global village” has repercussion all over. Hence as a college of bishops, they need to help each other, adopting “common criteria” in helping other “parts of the Church where they may lack the resources to be able to respond adequately” to the crisis. Hence, coming together to pray, reflect and plan in a meeting like this is very important.
Card. O’Malley also underscored the importance of the role of the laity in addressing the sexual abuse of minors in the Church. The bishops alone cannot do it because the credibility of the Church depends upon the participation of lay people who bring their expertise. Their involvement in the Church is part of their baptismal role. Hence, “