Pope Francis has appointed the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, widely seen as a leading reformer in the Catholic hierarchy, as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful Vatican department that deals with clerical sexual abuse cases.
The appointment is being seen by many as a further move by the Pope to ensure bishops are held accountable for their failures to protect minors from clerical sexual abusers.
Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, welcomed the news saying the appointment reflects the influential role Cardinal O’Malley is playing in addressing the child sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
“He is certainly among the people in the Catholic world committed to the protection of minors and vulnerable people from sexual abuse,” Mr Sullivan said. “And he has, for many years, been an outspoken campaigner for bishops to be more accountable, particularly in the area of child protection. Having him on one of the Vatican’s most influential and powerful departments sends a clear signal that the protection of children is very much uppermost in the Pope’s mind.”
The main responsibility of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is defending Catholic teaching, but since 2001 it has also played a leading role in prosecuting cases under Church law for priests charged with sexual abuse.
In June 2015, the Vatican announced the establishment of a new judicial section within the CDF to handle ‘abuse of office’ cases against bishops accused of failing to protect their congregations from child molesters.
The Truth Justice and Healing Council is coordinating the response of the Australian Catholic Church to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.