Top Papal Adviser On Sex Abuse Says Catholic Church Has ‘Major Gap’ When Leading Clergy Stand Accused

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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  • The archbishiop of Boston said accusations of sexual abuse against Catholic bishops and cardinals shows “a major gap” in abuse policies.
  • Cardinal Sean O’Malley released the statement after allegations against retired archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick.
  • O’Malley said the church needs to act swiftly to close the gap left by a lack of policies to deal with abuse by bishops.

The Catholic archbishop of Boston said Tuesday that accusations of sexual abuse against bishops and cardinals  show’s “a major gap” in the church’s abuse policies.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of ­Minors, released the statement in the wake of allegations against retired archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick, who stands accused of sexually abusing at least five men, one of whom he allegedly abused for over 20 years.

O’Malley said that while the church had strong policies in place to deal with sexual abuse by priests, it needs to act swiftly to close the gap left by a lack of policies to deal with abuse by bishops. (RELATED: Cardinal Faces Sexual Abuse Allegation From First Person He Baptized)

Failure to do so not only endangers the victims, according to O’Malley, but also threatens the continued strength and efficacy of the church’s ministry.

“These cases and others require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the Church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse,” O’Malley wrote, according to The Boston Globe. “While the Church in the United States has adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests we must have clearer procedures for cases involving bishops.”

O’Malley asserted that in every case of alleged abuse, whether it involves a priest or a cardinal, the top priority of the church must be caring for the victim and commending them for having the courage to bring their accusations forward. He also proffered three actions that he said were necessary for the church, if it is to survive.

“First, a fair and rapid adjudication of these accusations; second, an assessment of the adequacy of our standards and policies in the Church at every level, and especially in the case of bishops; and third, communicating more clearly to the Catholic faithful and to all victims the process for reporting allegations against bishops and cardinals,” O’Malley wrote.

Failure to take these actions could spell doom for the church’s authority and future role in society, according to O’Malley.

“Failure to take these actions will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church and can destroy the trust required for the Church to minister to Catholics and have a meaningful role in the wider civil society,” he wrote.

O’Malley argued that addressing this “major gap” must be the church’s top priority, and that he would personally bring up these issues when meeting with the Holy See “with great urgency and concern.”

O’Malley also responded to news that the commission over which he presides received a letter of concern in 2015 about “a form of sexual abuse/harassment/intimidation or maybe simply high-jinks as practiced by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick with his seminarians and perhaps other young men” relating to McCarrick’s tenure as a bishop in New Jersey, according to The Washington Post.

O’Malley echoed and supported Rev. Boniface Ramsey’s response to that news, saying that the commission does not review individual cases that fall under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement. The commission instead reviews child protection policies and makes recommendations as to how they can be improved. He also stated that he did not personally receive or review the letter.

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