The ‘hurt is still there,’ says Cardinal O’Malley at news conference

| Mark Labbe | December 21, 2017 | 7 Comments
Cardinal Law

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley answers questions from the media on the death and legacy of Cardinal Bernard F. Law at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Boston Dec. 20 in Braintree, Mass. Cardinal Law, who resigned as head of the Boston Archdiocese when the clergy sex abuse scandal was uncovered in 2002. He died early Dec. 20 in Rome at age 86. CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, the Pilot

Journalists crowded into a room in the Archdiocese of Boston’s Braintree headquarters Dec. 20 as Cardinal Sean O’Malley answered questions following the death of Cardinal Bernard Law, whose death was officially announced by the Vatican earlier that day.

The former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law resigned in 2002 amid allegations of mishandling cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests in the archdiocese. In 2004, the cardinal was named archpriest of a basilica in Rome, where he died at age 86.

“This is a very difficult day for survivors and all of us in the Archdiocese of Boston and for me,” said Cardinal O’Malley at the news conference.

“We have anticipated this day, recognizing that it would open a lot of old wounds and cause much pain and anger in those who have suffered so much already, and we share in their suffering,” he continued.

“As the church must always do, we seek forgiveness for the sins of the past and for all the things that were done or not done that have contributed to the suffering of so many,” he said.

The archdiocese has a continued commitment to “provide for the assistance and support for victim survivors and their families, and to strive to maintain safe environments in all of our churches, schools, institutions, and agencies,” said Cardinal O’Malley, who succeeded the late cardinal as Boston’s archbishop.

For victims, the “hurt is still there, the healing is still necessary,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “We must all be vigilant, particularly for prevention of child abuse and to create safe environments and to be constantly monitoring how we’re doing following our policies, our commitment to the whole community to take this very seriously and do whatever we can to guarantee safe environments for our children.”

Asked to comment on Cardinal Law’s appointment as archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore following his resignation in Boston, a move that many victims saw as almost a reward, Cardinal O’Malley said he doesn’t believe that would happen today.

“I think there’s been enough growth and consciousness of this problem in the Holy See that that would not happen,” he said.

Responding to a journalist’s question on a statement issued earlier that day in which Cardinal O’Malley touched briefly on the positive aspects of Cardinal Law’s legacy, which has angered some victims, Cardinal O’Malley said, “All of us are more than one-dimension. To be realistic, we have to recognize there was more to this man than his mistakes.”

“We tried to craft a statement that would be fair and, at the same time, sensitive to the particular suffering of people in the archdiocese,” he said.

In response to a question on whether he can forgive Cardinal Law, Cardinal O’Malley said that “forgiveness is what Christianity is all about, and that doesn’t make it easy.”

“Christmas is about healing, relationships and forgiveness, and a big part of healing is being able to come to grips with our own difficulty in forgiveness,” he said.

Asked if he believes Cardinal Law’s soul will be welcomed into heaven, Cardinal O’Malley said he doesn’t know if anyone can answer that question, but added, “I hope that everyone goes to heaven.”

“This is what the mission of the church is, to work so that everyone will go to heaven, but I am not here to sit in judgment of anyone,” he said.

Labbe is a reporter at The Pilot, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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  • Charles C.

    Have we progressed?

    We know that the vast majority of victims of priests were male themselves.

    We know that in 1961 the Instruction, “Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates

    For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders” was promulgated. It contained the following:

    “Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.”

    In 2005 with the “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Voacations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders” we find:

    “In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question,
    cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’

    “It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed, despite everything, towards ordination. Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterize the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and his Church in the
    ministerial priesthood.”

    And yet we have Father Gregory Greiten, of Milwaukee, who just annunced to his parishoners that he is gay and has been since at least his time in the seminary. He received a standing ovation from his parishoners and a letter of praise from his Archbishop, Jerome Listecki.

    Father Greiten said he could now better serve the gays of his parish and “I have lived far too many years chained up and imprisoned in the closet behind walls of shame, trauma and abuse because of the homophobia and discrimination so prevalent in my church and the world”

    We can only pray for those men and our Church.

    PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that Father Greiten has assaulted anyone. As far as I know he may have remained completely celibate for the last 25 years, thus avoiding the sin of fornication. What I am pointing out is that out “in the field” Church teachings are being changed or ignored in the area of homosexual seminarians and priests, which is likely to lead to a continuation of serious problems or the creation of new ones.

    • Daniel Bauer

      Charles C. you need to stop fixating on Gregory Greiten’s sexuality and probably mind your own business. One who is totally obsessed with another persons sexuality usually has very serious issues of their own . Issues that they believe can be hidden behind a closet door in their own little delusional universe.

      • Charles C.

        Dear Daniel Bauer,

        May I restate the point of my comment?

        The Church has rules governing the situation of homosexuals seeking admission to seminary and Holy Orders. These have been in place for decades, if not centuries. These rules were designed to prevent many of the ills we have witnessed, such as abuse of children, destroyed clerical careers, scandal to the Church, and endangerment of souls.

        Many priests, including Father Greiten, violated these rules while in the seminary, either with or without their superiors’ knowledge and support. The feared consequences have occurred, much to the sorrow of the Church.

        Father Greiten has proclaimed that he broke the rules, and that by announcing his same-sex attraction he will be a better priest than if he hadn’t. (Why that is isn’t entirely clear. A parishioner might ask what other rules is he breaking.) His Archbishop gave his permission and support to the announcement and has had nothing but praise for Father Greiten. His parishioners gave Father Greiten a standing “O.”

        Yet those inside and outside the Church have been condemning the actions of priests with same sex attractions for years and have pledged to do whatever is necessary to stop it. The world awaits a coherent explanation for these two apparently contradictory reactions.

        • Jon Biel

          I will have to agree with Daniel. You go on and on about homosexual priests and it isn’t any of your business. In addition, you don’t comment on this – if all of these high and mighty bishops, cardinals and the pope were so concerned about Law and others protecting rapists, then why did they do everything to protect him and the others? Why not hand them over to the police? It can’t be because they are holy or associated with Jesus. I’m guessing Jesus wouldn’t be about any of the ways the Catholic church handled any of these criminals. It is because of the good old boy network and scaring everyone that they are a conduit to Heaven when in fact, they are con artists protecting their own.

          • Charles C.

            Dear Jon Biel,

            I apologize for not writing clearly, and for failing to convey my meaning.

            The Catholic Spirit has posted at least two articles on Cardinal Law’s funeral which resulted in some of the most angry and bitter posts I have seen. This anger indicates that, for some, sexual abuse is still a burning and pressing issue, indeed it may be the issue that fills their minds when thinking about the Church. I have made only one post, which I’m still trying to explain.

            Cardinal Law did many good and valuable things for the Church and the people, yet he will only be remembered for his failures, specifically the handling of two priests, John Geoghan and Paul Shanley. And Cardinal Law was not the only servant of the Church who was brought low because of the way he handled priests with sexual problems.

            Paul Shanley was unabashedly homosexual in orientation and his acts. He was not stopped by Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Medeiros, Cardinal Law, or their supporting bishops and clergy in the Archdiocese.

            John Geoghan said he preferred molesting young boys, but claimed to be heterosexual.

            As I wrote, Fr. Greiten is homosexual in orientation but I know nothing of his sexual activities. He may very well be perfectly celibate, as we ask of all our priests. I have prayed for his success.

            Because the abuse problem (which has been reduced to a tiny fraction of what it was in the past) has been so significant, it seemed useful to me to ask about priests having problems with their sexuality and what the Church is doing now, especially in light of the widely reported story of Fr. Greiten in Wisconsin.

            As these three priests are homosexual in act or orientation, I looked at the Church’s instructions on ordaining homosexuals. Not surprisingly, they are not for it. From the Catholic Catechism, 2358:

            “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion,
            and sensitivity.”

            I am not objecting to Fr. Greiten as a person or a priest. I do wonder about the enthusiasm with which he presented his belief that he, a priest, is better because he is homosexual. I also wonder about the approval obtained from his parish and bishop for that statement.

            Would he have received the same praise if he announced he had an objectively disordered inclination towards alcoholism, kleptomania, or gluttony? It would seem that his best course of action in those cases would be to admit the problem, seek help (spiritual or medical), and continue as best he could with prayer towards self-mastery.

            You ask, why there were cover-ups? Many reasons, some more blameworthy than others. You are right in saying that some wish to protect their own. In certain cases it is a homosexual official protecting a homosexual priest. In others it is a desire to prevent scandal, in others it is because attacking homosexuality (especially in the West) carries social penalties, and in still others it is the believe that a wayward priest can be treated, cured, and returned to duty.

            There are many possible reasons for a cover-up, I haven’t listed all of them.

            (Oh, and hand them over to the police? As far as I can tell from looking at the Massachusetts laws of the time, clergy were one of the groups not required to report child abuse. Times change.)

            I hope I’ve answered your questions. Let me know if I’ve misunderstood you.

          • Daniel Bauer

            The only thing YOU MISUNDERSTAND is sexual abuse of children !!!!!!!!!!!

      • tschraad

        Daniel Bauer, I find it interesting that you can determine that a person who is obsessed with another person’s sexuality is seriously flawed in an issue of their own sexuality.

        Then, using your criteria, I am a serious murderer of unborn children as I have been active for over 40 years in condemning the sacrificing of unborn babies as cruel and inhuman torture.

        Maybe your advice to Charles C. pertains also to me as to “mind my own business” and let these children of God fight their own battles. SAD