NY -- Cardinal O'Malley Calls for 'Compliance' not Enforcement

Statement by Mary Caplan of New York City, SNAP Leader, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])

Cardinal Sean O’Malley claims a church panel will recommend "methods for measuring compliance" with abuse policies. That’s unnecessary and virtually impossible.

It’s unnecessary because church abuse policies don’t impact church abuse practices. No matter what’s written on paper, in reality, every bishop deals with abuse in whatever way is most convenient and safe for him. That may sound harsh. But that’s what we continue to see after 25 years of work on this crisis.



It’s virtually impossible because “measuring compliance” means church officials will ask other church officials to voluntarily disclose whether they’re doing anything wrong. That’s not "measuring compliance." That's posturing. 

“Measuring compliance” won’t protect kid. Enforcing compliance – by punishing bishops who endanger kids – might protect kids, if ever church officials could bring themselves to do this.

US bishops claim that for more than a dozen years they’ve had "methods for measuring compliance" with abuse policies. But not a single church official here has in any way experienced any negative consequences for NOT complying. So it’s an utterly meaningless exercise, except that it’s used to mollify parishioners and the public. (“See, we’re abiding by the guidelines we’ve adopted,” bishops claim. If they were being honest, they’d say “See, we have found ourselves ‘abiding’ by the vague, weak and unenforceable guidelines we’ve been forced to adopt by intense outside pressure and by our clever  public relations consultants.”)

(And Cardinal O'Malley, by the way, has been found - by other church officials - to be 'not in compliance' with the US bishops abuse policies.)

O’Malley also promises a Day of Prayer on abuse. How about a Day of Action on abuse? A day on which every bishop makes public the name of even one child molesting cleric whose crimes have been hidden. A day on which every bishop lobbies secular politicians to adopt better child safety laws. A day on which every bishop demotes one church staffer who ignored, concealed or enabled child sex crimes.

O’Malley disingenuously talks again about long-promised “policies that will allow the Church to respond in an expeditious way when a bishop has not fulfilled his obligations.” This is insulting and deceptive.

O'Malley knows that the church has plenty of ways, right now, to “respond” when bishops are complicit in clergy sex crimes and cover ups. The Pope can oust them. He’s done it when bishops have “not fulfilled” their “obligations” in other ways. He refuses to do so when the wrongdoing is concealing and enabling the rape of children.

So this claim that church officials have insufficient policies to fire a bishop is a flat out lie.

Let’s keep in mind a few realities.

This panel has no power. It’s just an advisory group.

Its first members were appointed a full year into Francis’ papacy.

Its first full meeting takes place two full years into Francis’ papacy. 

It’s one of hundreds of similar groups appointed by Catholic officials over the past few decades.

And over decades, thousands of individuals and organizations have given tons of advice, solid advice, to Catholic officials.

But all that advice has had very little impact. It’s been great public relations for the church hierarchy, but otherwise mostly meaningless.


Because the advice-seekers – church officials – haven’t sincerely been seeking advice. And because they don’t have to take any advice. They are the lords of their own kingdoms, answerable to no one.

Bishops pretend to seek advice because this implies that they’re genuinely trying to reform but need education. And that’s simply not the case. They know what to do. But they refuse to do it.

And since the church is a monarchy, with one pope purportedly “overseeing” 4,000 bishops, no one forces bishops to do what’s right or take advice.

Bishops know precisely how to deal with abuse and cover ups. This new panel will tell them nothing new. The panel’s recommendations will be adopted and ignored, just like the recommendations of panel after panel across the globe.

Remember this panel’s job. It has been asked to recommend changes “in (church) norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.” Two points need to be stressed here.

First, in 2011, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith required all dioceses in the world to develop guidelines on handling allegations of abuse. But some have ignored this edict. Yesterday, in fact, in a letter to all bishops, Francis “reminded” them to do this.  


(Of course, none of these bishops who are violating the CDF’s order have been punished or even exposed, which shows just how irrelevant Catholic abuse policies are.)

So if some bishops won’t even follow orders the home office, after four years, what makes anyone think they’ll follow recommendations from this new powerless panel?

If some bishops don’t even have abuse norms, why bother setting up yet another church panel to tweak the “church norms and procedures” that already exist and are changing nothing?

Second, hundreds of thousands of kids have not been sexually assaulted because of inadequate “church norms and procedures.” Again, advice and information isn’t what church officials lack. They lack the courage and compassion to do what’s right. They fear doing what’s right will derail their clerical careers. They see none of their colleagues being defrocked, demoted, or disciplined for hiding abuse. So they keep hiding abuse.

Remember the Bishop of Bling, who was quickly ousted from his German diocese because of his outrageous ostentatiousness? Francis didn’t wait two years to convene a volunteer panel to recommend changing “church norms and procedures.” Francis just fired him. But he’s never done this with a single bishop who stonewalled police, deceived prosecutors, transferred predators, hidden crimes and endangered kids. Not one.

Again, as we said hours ago, if my house is filthy, I don’t need to learn “best cleaning practices.” I just need to start sweeping out the dirt.

In that same letter to the world’s bishops, Francis also wrote that priests and heads of religious communities “should be available to meet victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those who have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness”, he wrote. How sad that Francis has to tell bishops that this is their duty.

Prodding independent and professional secular authorities – police, prosecutors, legislators – is the best way to safeguard kids, not prodding recalcitrant and self-serving Catholic figures. 




(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is  www.SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy +1 314-566-9790, [email protected], Barbara Dorris +1 314-503-0003, [email protected], Barbara Blaine +1 312-399-4747, [email protected]

Showing 5 comments

  • Iain Pattison
    commented 2015-02-09 14:50:08 -0600
    Church going roman catholics aren’t actually going to ‘buy’ this Day of Prayer on abuse are they?
    I agree with SNAP’s Mary Caplan when she says how about a Day of Action on abuse instead.
    I also agree with Mark Belenchia’s comments that the roman catholic clergy/hierarchy couldn’t care less about all the carnage and stolen childhoods they have created. The hierarchy is one of the problems, it causes selfishness and lust for power/promotion.
  • Mark Belenchia
    commented 2015-02-08 13:49:10 -0600
    O’Malleys promised Day of Prayer sickens me to the core. It’s nothing more than a continuation of piously propping up the confidence of church going catholics. This institution remains entrenched in damage control mode quite like the very early days of the clergy sex abuse scandal. They could care less about all the carnage and stolen childhoods created in the process. In reality their strategy is to just keep placating the issues until the media and the public are worn out and all of their indiscretions become a non-issue and yesterday’s news.
  • Iain Pattison
    commented 2015-02-08 13:37:18 -0600
    I like this post, well said Mary. SNAP has ‘hit the nail on the head’, it’s action that is needed not talk. SNAP also correctly points out that Pope Francis (Bergoglio) quickly fired the German Bishop of Bling but hasn’t acted in the same way regarding the clergy child sex abuse & cover up crisis.
    I also agree with the comments of SNAP’s Dave O’Regan, particularly his point about this being a centuries old problem.
    SNAP makes ALL the relevant points forcefully, not abusively.
  • David O'Regan
    commented 2015-02-08 10:41:43 -0600
    The time is long past to be talking about solutions to this (century’s old) crisis. “If my house is filthy, I don’t need to learn “best cleaning practices.” I just need to start sweeping out the dirt.” – Mary Mary Ward Caplan SNAP Leader of New York
    Children will never be safe in the Church until this reality is acted on. I have heard both Cardinal O’Malley and Pope Francis ask for forgiveness from sexual abuse victims in the Church.
    Forgiveness involves contrition. (Feeling sorry for the sin, resolving to sin no more, and making right the wrong committed.)
    Forgiveness involves ACTION, not lip service. Until the Church finds the courage to clean their house and throw out all the fifth that has corrupted and destroyed the integrity of this institution, children’s lives will continue to be destroyed.
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