BOSTON — The Archdiocese of Boston is implementing a reporting system to handle confidential and anonymous reporting of misconduct by high-ranking Church officials, including cardinals and bishops.
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley announced in a Lenten message March 8 following the Vatican’s February summit to protect children and minors that the third-party EthicsPoint reporting system would begin “soon” to accept reports of misconduct related to the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.
The internet-based system, the cardinal said, would be separate from the archdiocesan website, its intranet system and the existing EthicsPoint program that has been used since 2011 to accept reports of potential ethics violations, financial improprieties and other violations of the archdiocese’s code of conduct related to financial matters.
Cardinal O’Malley said his decision to expand the
EthicsPoint reporting system followed the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis Feb. 21-24. The cardinal attended the summit as president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
He said the summit further impressed on him the “need for an effective reporting mechanism when a bishop or cardinal has failed in his duty to protect children or has himself abused children or vulnerable adults.”
Under the system, allegations of sexual abuse against high-ranking Church leaders would be forwarded to the archdiocese’s Review Board, which “will be charged to immediately notify law enforcement … as well as the apostolic nuncio” in Washington, Cardinal O’Malley said.
The process the cardinal described is similar to a proposal that was discussed during the November general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, proposals that had been developed by conference leaders to address misconduct by bishops and cardinals were tabled pending the February summit at the request of the Vatican.
Cardinal O’Malley described hearing from abuse survivors during the four-day summit as the gathering’s “the most powerful moments.”
“This confirmed my own experience. The way forward for the Church is to hold as a priority the voices and experience of survivors, to keep them close to every step we take and make all possible efforts to provide the means for them to be heard,” the cardinal wrote.
He also pledged that the Boston Archdiocese would continue to provide pastoral care and counseling for survivors.
“The crisis of sexual abuse by clergy is the greatest failure of the Church in my lifetime,” the cardinal said of the more than 26 years he has been involved in responding to the clergy sexual abuse. “It has eroded our moral authority, it endangers our pastoral, social and educational ministry, but worst of all, it devastates children and families.”
He also repeated a call for transparency in dealing with clergy sexual abuse.
“As we strive to live this season with renewed seriousness and commitment, we pray and work for renewal in the life of the Church. We are firmly committed to zero tolerance, transparency and accountability, at all times holding survivors as the priority, always being vigilant to do all possible to prevent any harm to children,” he concluded.