NEW YORK — Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who serves as the pope’s point man for sex abuse reform, is calling for decisive action following recent allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Last month, the Archdiocese of New York announced that an archdiocesan review board had investigated and deemed credible allegations that McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, had molested an alter boy while he was a young priest in New York.
Since then, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have reported on multiples cases of abuse against McCarrick spanning decades.
In a statement released on Tuesday, O’Malley — who was brought in to lead the archdiocese of Boston following the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law after devastating revelations of abuse cover-up — said that adjudication of these new cases must be handled “swiftly and decisively.”
Over the past two decades, O’Malley has been widely seen as the leading reformer in the U.S. Church, calling for greater accountability and transparency in how the Church handles claims of clerical sex abuse.
In the past week, however, O’Malley was accused by a New York City-based priest, Father Boniface Ramsey, of brushing aside a letter sent to him in 2015 warning him about McCarrick.
In a Washington Post article on Monday, Ramsey said he sent the letter to O’Malley after running into McCarrick at the funeral for the former archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, but received a note from O’Malley’s assistant noting that the issue did not fall under O’Malley’s purview as president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
In his statement on Tuesday, however, O’Malley maintained that he did not personally receive the letter.
Yet in responding to the most recent allegations against McCarrick — which many U.S. Catholics have described as painfully reminiscent of 2002 when the clerical abuse crisis was beginning to unravel — O’Malley praised victims for coming forward and sharing their stories.
“In every instance of claims made by victims of sexual abuse, whether criminal violations or the abuse of power, the primary concern must be for the victim, their family and their loved ones,” he continued.
He went on to call for a review of the current policies that are presently in place, especially to close the “major gap” for holding bishops accountable and the means in which allegations can be reported — stating that “more than apologies are needed.”
O’Malley, who serves on the pope’s C9 council of advisors and is widely viewed as his closest confidant in the U.S. Church hierarchy, said he intends to address the situation with the pope.
“In this moment there is no greater imperative for the Church than to hold itself accountable to address these matters, which I will bring to my upcoming meetings with the Holy See with great urgency and concern,” he wrote.