Cardinal O’Malley praises media in statement on ‘Spotlight’

The film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley
Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley –Brian Snyder / REUTERS

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley praised the media for its role in leading the church to acknowledge systemic sexual abuse by priests in a statement released Tuesday on the importance of the film Spotlight. The film, which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, chronicles the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by reporters for The Boston Globe that ultimately exposed the abuse crisis within the Roman Catholic Church.

The archbishop of Boston didn’t mention the paper by name or reference the film’s awards in the statement posted to the Archdiocese website:

Spotlight is an important film for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse. By providing in-depth reporting on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the media led the Church to acknowledge the crimes and sins of its personnel and to begin to address its failings, the harm done to victims and their families and the needs of survivors. In a democracy such as ours, journalism is essential to our way of life. The media’s role in revealing the sexual abuse crisis opened a door through which the Church has walked in responding to the needs of survivors.

Protecting children and providing support for survivors and their families must be a priority in all aspects of the life of the Church.

We are committed to vigilant implementation of policies and procedures for preventing the recurrence of the tragedy of the abuse of children. These include comprehensive child safety education programs, mandatory background checks and safe environments training, mandatory reporting to and cooperating with civil authorities with regard to allegations of abuse, and caring for survivors and their families through the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach. The Archdiocese consistently provides counselling and medical services for survivors and family members who seek our help and we remain steadfast in that commitment. We continue to seek the forgiveness of all who have been harmed by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse and pray that each day the Lord may guide us on the path toward healing and renewal.

The film also won the award for Best Original Screenplay.

Survivors of clergy sexual abuse accused the cardinal of posturing in a statement released Tuesday afternoon by Ann Webb, former co-director of Boston SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, written on behalf of the group:

It’s so tiresome watching Cardinal Sean O’Malley posture about clergy sex crime and cover ups. The latest example: his comments today about Spotlight. By shrewdly using words like “historical’’ and “forgiveness,’’ he perpetuates the comforting but irresponsible myth that most of this is “in the past,’’ when he knows that’s just not true.

Months ago, we urged O’Malley to tell all Catholic employees to go see “Spotlight.’’ As best we can tell, he ignored us. He’d obviously rather posture for the public in meaningless ways rather than advise his parishioners in helpful ways.

No one ever asks “Do teachers still molest kids?’’ Or day care workers. Or Scout leaders. We know child molesters always have and always will seek out those jobs. It’s the same with priests.

O’Malley knows that last month, Vatican officials lifted the suspension of a priest who pled guilty to molesting a girl last year. (Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul)

O’Malley knows that in January, two US bishops who’d resigned for hiding child sex crimes were quietly put back on the job in different states. (Bishop Robert Finn and Archbishop John Nienstedt)

O’Malley knows that seven year old girls and 12 year old boys don’t ride their bikes downtown to the prosecutors’ office to report current child sex crimes. There always has been and always will be decades of delay between when child sex crimes happen and when they’re reported. So years from now, we’ll hear from the kids being assaulted today by priests. It’s silly to assume otherwise.

O’Malley knows that last month, a high-ranking Catholic official told bishops in Rome they need not report child sex crimes to police.

O’Malley knows that no bishop on earth has been defrocked, demoted or disciplined for enabling child sex crimes.

Yet instead of aggressively prodding his colleagues to reform, and denouncing those who won’t, he insists on repeating platitudes that comfort adults (“Protecting children must be a priority in the Church’’) instead of taking action that protects kids.

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