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Archbishop Seán O’Malley was in Washington D.C. for a meeting of the U.S. Catholic Bishops when the settlement offer to victims of clergy abuse was announced Sept. 9. He spoke to The Pilot the following day about the settlement offer.
By Antonio Enrique
Q. Six weeks as archbishop and a settlement has been reached. Were you expecting such a quick resolution?
Archbishop O’Malley: Well, I had hoped for it. As I met with the finance council the day after my installation and appointed a new attorney to officially take the lead in negotiations, I realized that this needed to be a priority, so I am very pleased that we were able to arrive at this conclusion.
Q. Many people have been struck by your personal involvement in the talks. Why do you feel such involvement was important?
Archbishop O’Malley: It became evident that it was necessary for the archbishop to be personally involved in the conversations in order to expedite a time of going back and forth and the long drawn out consultation process, because at times your counsel can speak for you, but at other times people want to know a direct answer from the archdiocese. So, it became evident that, in order to expedite the process, it would be important for me to be involved in the dialogue, and that is why I became involved.
Q. How would characterize the negotiations?
Archbishop O’Malley: I think that they went very well. I think that there was a meeting of the minds and they were always very respectful on both sides. We realized how much was at stake — the well being of the victims, the reputation of the Church, the credibility of the Church and also the fiscal viability of the Church.
Q. Questions are being raised about the ability of the archdiocese to fund such a large settlement without disrupting the normal workings of the Church. How does the archdiocese expect to come up with such a large sum?
Archbishop O’Malley: As I had told the plaintiffs, if we had worked with the insurance companies first, the process could have gone on for years. So, we chose to deal first of all with the victims and now we will deal with the insurance companies. We are in the process of securing a loan to be able to pay the settlement before the end of the year, and then we will pay off that loan with money from insurance companies and by the sale of diocesan properties. We will not use any parish funds or any diocesan collections for these settlements.
Q. You addressed the settlements during your first day in Boston, calling them “the rightful indemnification of persons who have suffered gravely at the hands of priests.” Do you feel that this settlement is a legitimate step in their healing process?
Archbishop O’Malley: Oh, yes. I think that this is a very important part of a process of healing. We realize that this is only part, one ingredient, but I think that this was an important one and that’s why I was very anxious to reach the settlement as soon as possible.
Q. Where does the archdiocese go from here in the healing process?
Archbishop O’Malley: We, the diocese, will continue to work with victims, providing counseling services for them. We will also do pastoral outreach and continue to work in our education programs and our screening programs in order to assure that our parishes and schools will be safe places for children.
Q. Would you add anything else?
Archbishop O’Malley: I am grateful for all the cooperation and support that I have received in this whole process — from our finance committee, from all of the chancery staff, our attorneys, from many of the victims themselves who have been in constant contact with me, and in general from our Catholic population, which I think has been very anxious to see this process move forward and expressed their support in many ways. Particularly, I am grateful for all the assurances and prayers that I have received personally and for the archdiocese.