Is there an example of a Bishop/Archbishop/Cardinal who handled claims of abuse in a proper way right from the start?


I have continued to read about the abuse scandal and now realise its enormous reach and the depths if irresponsibility shown by many in power. Now I realise that only a small number of clergy and religious have been accused and that only a minority of Bishops, Priests and Cardinals have been accused of mishandling the situation. But try as I might I have yet to be able to find an example of a leader who, faced with such claims, handled them in an exemplary way i.e. to the standards now set down in most areas of the Church. I had once thought that Cardinal Pell was such an exemplar with the ‘Melbourne Way’. But the Royal Commission into institutional child abuse has changed my mind on that (irrespective of the claims against him personally now being tried in court).


From my limited observation, it appears that Cardinal O’Malley gets it. He has worked extensively to right some of these wrongs.


It seems that the ones who handle it correctly and quietly are not going to be getting publicized attention.

You’re much more likely to hear from the media about the ones who get it wrong, then the ones who get it right.

Doesn’t mean that the good ones aren’t out there, but you’re not going to see as many headlines.



Cardinal O’Malley is looking forward: I am looking for someone who acted correctly in the past and before the abuse scandal became common knowledge.


I don’t think anyone can claim any credit for condemning someone using a chid prostitute after they were arrested. What systems did the diocese have in place to prevent this or encourage people who know of it to go to the authorities?


The Church in Boston was well into the Scandal when he was consecrated, and he has done wonders in the healing.

In all charity and fairness, it needs to be pointed out that not all of the bishops who reassigned priests were doing it to hide or protect them. It was generally thought that this was a matter of sin, and that repentance and change were possible.

We, including the church, now know that this was just plain incorrect, and to the harm of those we need to protect.

Not that they are comparable, but noone would blink at the assignment of a priest who had been habitually drunk to the detriment of his parish but was now dried out and years sober to a new parish away from where he had failed–and we would not expect the bishop to send out a circular saying “Hey, watch out; Fr. Tom is a drunk!”

I’m not saying to praise the bishops from that time, nor that they couldn’t have done far better, but judging them through the lense of modern scientific and psychiatric understanding is unfair.



Don’t dismiss Cardinal O’Malley. He truly “gets it,” and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he “got it” even before he became a Bishop and Cardinal.


The Annual Report highlights several recommendations and best practices based on what was observed by the auditors across the dioceses/eparchies visited. While these recommendations are not requirements of the Charter, nor are they related to compliance with the Charter, they may prove helpful to the bishops in their ongoing implementation of the Charter, particularly in stemming the wave of complacency.
In recent months there has been much attention paid to sexual abuse in general and of minors in particular in the media as a result of allegations in other sectors of our society, such as higher education, Olympic sports, Hollywood and the political world. The Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis due to the commitment and efforts of the bishops stands out as a model to be emulated by other institutions. The bishops have taken their responsibility seriously as progress continues to be made in addressing this sin and crime. Nevertheless, this year’s audit is also a reminder that the bishops must remain vigilant, courageous, and bold in their on-going commitment to address this problem. The National Review Board is grateful to the bishops for all they have done and continue to do in confronting clerical sexual abuse. We encourage the bishops in their efforts and leadership on this issue, not only within the Church, but also society at large. This could be a moment for a restoration of the moral leadership of the Church, which should be seized. The members of the National Review Board commend your own commitment and leadership in supporting the Charter, the audit, as well as the efforts of the NRB. In addition, the members of the National Review Board pledge to use our expertise and knowledge to provide advice, counsel, and support to the bishops as they continue to address this issue, as we seek to assist you in restoring the credibility of the episcopacy in nurturing a culture of safety for our children.”


Archbishop Charles Chaput seemed to have very good approach to the situation when he was in Denver. Although he wasn’t in the middle of the mess, he seemed to have both eyes wide open and lead the way through the mucky path for his flock.


You asked, “What systems did the diocese have in place to prevent this or encourage people who know of it to go to the authorities?” The mother of the minor reported it to the police and not to any cardinal, bishop, or priest. The diocese immediately acted on it after they found out about the complaint. The rest is in the news article.

To address in general,

Yes, we detest all clerical abuse especially on innocent children.

Yes, we hope that there is a more definitive, an aggressive way to eradicate all these abuses but even in industrial countries like the United States with its laws and enforcement plus ammunition, crimes still prevail to this day.

Yes, we need to prevent pedophiles/criminals from finding opportunities in the habit. There are those who suggest a stricter screening of seminarians. Seminary applicants today undergo screenings like psychological tests and intensely personal interviews. Yes, these screenings may, in a way, prevent, but where there is already a shortage of priests, we tend to embrace those who enter.

Many of these abuses are decades old. Initially, according to Thomas Plante of Stanford University, it appeared to be reasonable to cure erring priests through counseling, and return them to priestly duties. He said that in hindsight, it was a tragic mistake. The Bishops, who were accused of covering up these abuses, must have acted in such leniency to preserve the number of clergy due to the shortage, but oh, the consequences…

Is the Vatican under the Papacy of Francis doing something about this?

Pope Francis created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Some members were themselves victims of abuse.

Pope Francis regularly spoke sternly against these abuses.

Pope Francis humbly acknowledged grave mistakes in the handling of a sexual abuse crisis in Chile, saying he felt shame and inviting victims to Rome to seek their forgiveness personally.

Pope Francis accepted without delay the resignations of cardinals, bishops, and priests who were proven guilty of abuse or were guilty of cover ups.

Will these abuses immediately go away? We must understand that these problems are a result of decades of inaction. Pope Francis is doing the best he can. He inherited a Church mired with many problems…sexual abuse is one of them…


I think that was last year. I remember when our parish priest heard about he turned very red and actually broke his ruler in half (cheap rulers) from anger. But he never said a word during that moment


So it seems that answer is tat lots of good leadership is being shown now but that during the time the majority of these offences were taking place (50s,60s,70s,80s) it is hard to find examples of good leadership. Very sad.


That’s right, they are not. You just don’t hear much about the cases where the priest is promptly removed, prosecuted or deported or whatever, and that’s the end of it. I have read about two such cases in two different dioceses that were covered locally and they received no further attention beyond the local news, probably because the problem was solved. One of the priests got 20 years in prison.


Yes, that’s correct, unfortunately.
I think part of the problem was that they did not realize that these predators would likely continue to re-offend. There was a school of thought that they could reform. Which didn’t work out.

With respect to good leadership today, Archbishop Lori of Baltimore has also been quite active at promptly removing questionable priests. I have no doubt that when he was appointed, he was probably told he needed to clean things up down there because there were a lot of past abuse cases.


I wouldn’t simply brush off the majority of the offenses happening in that time frame. What we ave been seeing is a tidal wave of the ones that have been ignored. Society has also changed and people are more aware and proactive in preventing this. Just about every event regarding children requires background checked adults and often has at least two adults present. The the days of assuming Fr. O’Riley is above reproach since he is a priest, has no sexual desires (or perversions), and wouldn’t harm a mouse are well over.


Yeah, the parish I was just reading about where a priest was attacked by someone he was counseling actually has an off-duty police officer who works for the parish mostly enforcing the “safe environment policy” for children. (Sounds like maybe he also needs to focus on making a “safe environment” for elderly priests.)


He lived so long ago, but I see that some people are once again recalling St. Peter Damian, Cardinal and Bishop (1007-1072) as one who certainly did not turn a blind eye nor sweep the problem of clerical abuse in his day under the rug.


I have heard that Cardinal Wuerl handled abuse cases well when he was a Bishop in Pittsburgh. And this was back in the 90’s before the scandal came out, too.


I don’t get what there is to get right about it. It’s a no-brainer: if someone is accused of criminal sexual misconduct the proper action is to report it to the authorities immediately. I can’t imagine wanting to hide a bad guy in my flock, whether it’s 2018 or 1968.

The leadership shouldn’t have to be anything beyond a “memo to staff”: if you’re accused of these things we will report it to law enforcement authorities immediately. And then you’re on your own. We won’t hide you.

The hierarchy can counsel, support, offer pastoral care to everyone involved, but that has to come after the initial report.

Organizations that suffer from criminal or moral corruption are generally organizations that are living in fear. They’re afraid that if the public finds out, the public will attack them. There’s a fair amount of anti-Catholic bias, so the natural inclination is to hide the bad stuff. You can’t hide from God and you can’t hide from the news media. Eventually they both find out. With God, maybe you get forgiveness. With the media, forget it.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit