By Devin Watkins
The Archdiocese of Boston was at the epicenter of controversy in 2002 when the clerical sex abuse scandal first broke in the United States.
A report that year by the Boston Globe brought the issue of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy into the national spotlight, and 5 priests from the Archdiocese of Boston were sentenced to prison.
Now, 17 years later, the Archdiocese is working to be a model of transparency when dealing with whatever allegations of sexual abuse may emerge.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley is the current Archbishop of Boston. Pope Francis appointed him in 2014 to head up the Church’s efforts to combat the scourge of sexual abuse, naming him the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Transparency to face problems
As 19 US Bishops gather in Rome this week for their ad limina visit, one of Cardinal O’Malley’s auxiliary bishops of Boston spoke to Sr Bernadette Reis.
On the topic of protecting minors, Bishop Mark O’Connell said the model is “transparency” and “not being afraid”.
Cardinal O’Malley launched an independent investigation into Boston’s three seminaries in 2018, after two former seminarians made allegations of sexual advances and sexual misconduct at St. John’s Seminary.
“He brought in an outside panel. He allowed that process to happen completely, without any interference whatsoever. And he’ll deal with the result – whatever it is – when it comes out,” Bishop O’Connell said.
“I think it’s important to have the transparency to face a problem, as I think we have in the Archdiocese of Boston,” he added.
“I think we’re in a far better place than we were,” he said. “And that’s because we faced it head on.”
Ad limina conversations
This is Bishop O’Connell’s first ad limina visit to Rome. He was ordained a bishop in June 2016.
Ahead of their encounter with Pope Francis on Thursday, the first group of US Bishops has already held meetings at several Dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
What has stood out for him, he said, was that “we were not lectured to. We had a conversation.”
“I’ve already got a lot out of this ad limina visit,” said the Bishop.
As for meeting with Pope Francis, Bishop O’Connell said it will be “fascinating just to be in the room.”