Cardinal O’Malley: Caring for Victims of Abuse Should Be a Pastoral Priority

Cardinal O’Malley spoke at the International Conference on the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults in the Churches of Central and Eastern Europe. The Conference takes place in Warsaw from September 19 to 22.

Newsroom (21/09/2021 11:20, Gaudium Press) For Cardinal Sean O’Malley,  President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, caring for victims of abuse in the Church should be a pastoral priority.

The Archbishop of Boston addressed the issue in his opening address to the Conference on the Protection of Minors. The Cardinal emphasized the “need for pastoral conversion” within the Church. Conversion is based on recognizing the truth about what has happened and listening to the victims.

As an example of “pastoral conversion,” he shared experiences in several dioceses in the United States dealing with pedophilia scandals caused by priests.

Listening and understanding

The first step is to listen to the victims and their families. Far from disapproving the information provided on these matters by the Media, O’Malley praised journalism for exposing the cases of abuse. The work of the Media has helped the Church measure and understand the scope of the cancer of sexual abuse present in its midst. The publication of the facts is painful, but in the Cardinal’s opinion, it is a source of healing. This cancer is not dead. It is spreading in several countries, regardless of cultural background.

The prelate, who has heard moving accounts from victims over the past 30 years, said victims are often not ready to tell what happened to them until many years after the events have occurred. So when they disclose the facts, they are often ignored or silenced, adding more pain to their suffering.

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Cardinal O’Malley deplored this policy often conducted by Church representatives. He considered it as vile as the crime of abuse itself. He also stated that part of this “pastoral conversion” is the Church’s recognition of what has happened.

On the topic of assistance to individuals claiming to be a victim of abuse within the Church, the Cardinal emphasized that officials must receive such a person’s testimony with respect and without judgment. Victims need to realize that each wounded individual needs their own time to begin the healing process.

Cardinal O’Malley emphasized that a ‘defensive attitude,’ often displayed instinctively as a concern for the institutional Church‘ must be abandoned. Defensive attitudes must give way to prioritizing the care for the victims.

The Cardinal also indicated that recurrent revision and verification of policies dealing with abuse is a fundamental practice.
He also warned that regulations alone are not enough when there is no will to implement them.

With files from Aica.

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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