Even a tiny bit of progress beats no progress at all. And any acknowledgement, however slight, that Catholic officials have hurt others can bring a small bit of comfort to the wounded.
In that sense, we're glad this investigation has been announced. At the same time, however, we believe that every person who may have seen, suspected or suffered Cardinal O'Brien's misconduct should report first to law enforcement authorities. It may seem, initially, that no criminal charges are likely. But in recent years, secular authorities have slowly begun to be more creative and aggressive in pursuing sexual predators, even those who hurt adults and even years later.
And we recall, with deep sadness and frustration, another Vatican probe of a high profile cleric who was a serial offender - Fr. Marcial Maciel. That investigation took years and years, despite multiple credible accusers, and resulted in a very tepid, belated and oblique 'admonition,' which enabled many of Maciel's backers to continue to believe in his alleged innocence. So announcing a Vatican investigation is easy. Making sure it's fair, thorough and results (if the evidence warrants it) in a harsh penalty that will deter future wrongdoing by others is apparently hard.
Finally, Catholic officials will often make impressive promises when public pressure is mounting. The real test is how they act once public attention wanes. We welcome the day when the Vatican promptly and voluntarily discloses credible allegations against a prominent church official without external pressure.
We hope this news will bring at least a measure of solace to the brave men who have been hurt by O'Brien yet found the strength to act responsibly, report him, and protect others from him.