THE Pope announced on Monday that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston will travel to Ireland to assist the Archdiocese of Dublin come to terms with the shocking results of the extent of clerical abuse in Ireland reveled in the Ryan report last year.
O’Malley, 65, will be joined by other archbishops from around the world to work with various parishes in Ireland, including the New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan who will oversee an apostolic visitation to Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.
Although the scandal will be the main aspect of the investigation, Dolan will focus on Irish seminaries and "all aspects of priestly formation," the Vatican said.
The nine-person contingent will act as “apostolic visitors” around Ireland. Their role, according to the Vatican’s statement, will be to “offer assistance to the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the church in Ireland.”
The probe comes two months after the Pope wrote a letter in March promising an investigation by the Vatican into chronic child abuse in Ireland and years of cover-ups by church authorities.
Dolan will head up the investigation of the Irish seminaries and two nuns were appointed to investigate religious institutes for women.
Each archbishop will explore “more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims,” said the Vatican statement.
They will also “monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.”
O’Malley, who was born Patrick O’Malley in Lakewood, Ohio in 1944, professed his vows in the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin and took the name Sean in honor of St. John the Apostle.
After serving as coadjutor bishop for one year, O’Malley was ordained bishop of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 1985.
While serving in the Virgin Islands, O’Malley worked with the homeless and opened a home for people with AIDS.
This will be O’Malley’s fourth time in his career intervening in a diocese that has been severely damaged by clerical sexual abuse.
As a bishop in New England in 1992, O’Malley attempted to settle the sexual abuse scandal created by serial abuser Rev. James Porter in Falls River.
In 2002, he was named bishop of Palm Beach where the two previous bishops had admitted to abusing children.
Then, in 2003, he was named archbishop of Boston. He replaced Cardinal Bernard Law who resigned having been criticized for his failure to remove abusive priests from their positions.
To date O’Malley has settled 101 abuse claims and claims to have initiated a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse. He also instituted one of the first comprehensive sexual abuse policies in the Roman Catholic Church.
O’Malley’s role in Dublin is to begin “in autumn this year,’’ the Vatican said.
“Our work here isn’t done,’’ said the Reverend John Connolly, a special assistant to O’Malley who oversees the archdiocese’s response to sexual abuse. “It’s very much a work in progress.’’
O’Malley issued a statement about his new appointment. “The church must be unfailingly vigilant in protecting children and young people. Our ongoing efforts in the Archdiocese of Boston are to ensure their safety will be helpful for the visitation,” he said.
“It will also be important to respond to the concerns of the Catholic community and the survivors in the manner that will promote the process of healing.”
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, issued a hopeful and positive statement. Martin said he welcomed O’Malley’s appointment to the Dublin diocese.
His statement said he welcomes his “experience and personal commitment render him particularly suited to bring ecclesial solidarity to the faithful and the clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin at this moment, in which the Church in Dublin addresses the truth of a dark moment in its history and undertakes a period of conversion, purification and renewal.”
In Boston, one Irish immigrant told the Boston Globe he was happy to hear of O’Malley’s intervention.
“I have a lot of respect for the man,’’ said Larry Reynolds, 77, a retired carpenter who lives in Waltham.
“I really think he would be good, because he’d go with an open mind, and give very sound advice.’’
The cardinal, who has his own blog, www.cardinalseansblog.org, is sure to write about his experiences in Dublin.