New director to bring street smarts to archdiocese’s child protection efforts

| Dave Hrbacek and Jessica Trygstad | August 25, 2014 | 0 Comments
OMalley

Tim O’Malley – Photo by Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Tim O’Malley calls himself a man with “street smarts.”

And now, he’s going to put decades of professional experience in the criminal justice system to work for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as the new director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment. O’Malley will report directly to Archbishop John Nienstedt beginning Sept. 15.

Creation of this new position was one of the key recommendations called for in a report from the independent Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force. Released in April, the report identified problems with the archdiocese’s safe environment organizational structure, communication, record keeping, compliance auditing and complaint-reporting system.

The new office will combine the existing Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Promoter of Ministerial Standards program, and the Advocacy and Victim Assistance program.

O’Malley, who grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 16 years through college, said he is excited to use his background to help keep kids safe and to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of criminals . . . and I’ve done a real lot of undercover work,” said O’Malley, who currently serves as the state’s deputy chief administrative law judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings. “I think I can bring some street smarts [to the archdiocese].”

In O’Malley, the archdiocese has someone who is able to communicate effectively with law enforcement personnel and other key stakeholders in the important work of child protection. He has made it clear that he plans to be a man of action.

“We owe it to both the victims and those being accused to have some integrity in the investigation and to get to the truth and then provide care for victims and hold people accountable if they’ve done something wrong,” he said. “And if they haven’t, then we owe it to them to clear their name.

“One of the key pieces for success of not just this position, but this whole effort, is that the archbishop — and he has indicated to me this is what he wants — and I develop a relationship of trust, and one in which he wants me to come into his office and have the responsibility to close the door and make recommendations to him that are very blunt. And disagree with him if I disagree with him. And explain the reasons why, and that he would then really consider that as he makes his decisions.”

In other words, O’Malley fully intends his new position to be one of substance, one that faces — and resolves — the hard questions.

“We do this by ripping the Band-Aid off and dealing with the stuff in the past, things that are coming out now [in lawsuits being filed],” he said. “But [then] turn the focus to the future. From this point forward, we’re going to make sure we do this right and give people hope.”

Leading the way in the selection process was Kinsale Management Consulting, the firm hired by the archdiocese in November 2013 to review all of its clergy files. Kathleen McChesney, the former No. 3 official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, leads the firm and was part of the selection panel, which included Father Reginald Whitt. Last fall, Archbishop Nienstedt appointed Father Whitt to convene the task force and help implement its recommendations.

“Each member of the panel concluded that Tim O’Malley was the superior candidate in light of his leadership skills and his ability to work with various constituencies to achieve consensus and goals in matters of public safety and ethical conduct,” McChesney said. “The board was also impressed with his extensive experience in working compassionately with victims of crime and their families, and [with] his sensitivity of their emotions and needs.”

A strong supporter of the choice to bring O’Malley on board is Patty Wetterling, whose son Jacob was abducted in 1989. She met O’Malley shortly after Jacob’s abduction, and expressed appreciation for how he worked with the family.

“I can tell you, he is greatly respected in both the law enforcement and victim services communities, and has proven his commitment to building a world without sexual violence,” she said. “He is smart and tough, yet practical and compassionate. He is a man of action who follows through and gets things done. I commend the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in taking this vital step to address the serious problems in the past and hold great hope for a better future.”

Archbishop Nienstedt, likewise, is hopeful about what O’Malley, a husband and father, will accomplish in his new role.

“We are honored that Judge O’Malley has offered to share his experience and insights with the Church to help protect the young and vulnerable, and hold accountable those who have caused harm,” he said. “He brings with him a high level of intellect, an impressive background of experience and leadership with local law enforcement, the FBI, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the judicial system, and he has a compassionate heart for victims and survivors [of abuse].”

O’Malley thinks there might be people who question his decision to leave a job he loves to try to sort through lawsuits and mistakes of the past.

But, now that he has made the move, he is all in. And, like so many others, he, too, has reacted strongly to the continual news reports about clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese.

“I have been profoundly troubled and disappointed by how the Church has addressed reports of abuse,” he said. “I want to help change that. The archdiocese must do everything possible to prevent the kind of abuse that Pope Francis has accurately and pointedly described as ‘despicable.’ Protecting children must be our highest priority.”

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