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Cardinal O’Malley withdraws from World Meeting of Families

Cardinal Sean O'Malley (Getty Images)

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has decided not to attend next week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin due to the ongoing investigation into St John’s Seminary, the Archdiocese of Boston announced on Wednesday.

Cardinal O’Malley had been set to moderate a panel and discussion at the WMOF titled “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults.” Currently, Cardinal O’Malley is President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In its communique on Wednesday, the archdiocese stated that he would not be able to fulfil his previous commitment in Ireland as “important matters pertaining to the pastoral care of St John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston and the seminarians enrolled in the formation program there require the Cardinal’s personal attention and presence.”

Following the recent public revelation that other dioceses had paid settlements to adult seminarians as a result of abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a number of new allegations from other, younger, former seminarians have been shared on social media. Several of these stories came from men who had studied at St John’s.

St John’s Seminary educates seminarians from most dioceses in New England, as well as those from the Dioceses of Oakland, CA, and Rochester, NY.

These allegations have prompted Cardinal O’Malley to announce a “full, independent inquiry,” of “activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood,” at St John’s. As part of the investigation, the Cardinal has placed Mgr James Moroney, the seminary rector, on “sabbatical” for the fall semester and installed an interim rector.

The inquiry will examine the culture of St John’s “regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood,” as well as issues related to sexual harassment, sexually intimidating behaviour, and discrimination.

In his statement last week, O’Malley addressed the necessary earning of trust a priest must earn from the laity and wider community, saying, “the allegations made are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston.”

“I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”