In his first public comments since Tuesday’s release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that documented a systemic coverup of child sex abuse by more than 300 priests, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said the crisis the church faces is “the product of clerical sins and clerical failures.”
The church, he said in a statement released Thursday, has “yet to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur.”
The Pennsylvania investigation, the broadest inquiry into church sex abuse in US history, identified 1,000 children who were victims but added that there probably are thousands more.
On Thursday, O’Malley, who was reappointed as the head of a Vatican commission on child sex abuse in February, said, “The Church must embrace spiritual conversion and demand legal transparency and pastoral accountability for all who carry out its mission.”
He added, “The way we prepare priests, the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case.”
Catholics, said O’Malley, “have lost patience with us and civil society has lost confidence in us.”
O’Malley said he refuses to accept the notion that the church’s failures cannot be corrected.
“Often it is survivors who courageously teach us we cannot lose hope,” he said.
The church, he said, cannot become complacent.
“This is a life-long ongoing work that demands the highest levels of our constant awareness and attention,” he said in the statement.
Material from The Washington Post was used in this report.