Words that convey the message "if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed" abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.
[Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley released the following statement Jan. 20 after Pope Francis's response to a journaalist in which he defended the 2015 appointent of Bishop Juan Barros to lead the Diocese Osorno in Chile. Bishop Barros had been accused by abuse advocates of covering up abuse perpetrated his friend Father Fernando Karadima. -- Ed.]
It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message "if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed" abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.
Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday's interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and it's clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.
Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope's statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.
My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain. In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM Cap. Is Archbishop of Boston