Cardinal Sean O’Malley has accepted responsibility for failing to respond to a letter detailing sexual abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
The letter, sent by Fr Boniface Ramsey, contained details of Archbishop McCarrick’s illicit behaviour with seminarians but was not followed up. McCarrick was eventually stripped of his title by the Vatican in June, following credible allegations of sexual abuse from a former altar boy.
In a statement published on the Archdiocese of Boston’s website, Cardinal O’Malley explained the failure as an oversight on the part of his secretary, Fr Robert Kickham.
“Fr Ramsey’s letter came to me in my role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors,” he wrote. “Fr Kickham’s response to Fr Ramsey noted that individual cases such as he proposed for review fell outside the mandate of the Commission. Consequently, he did not bring the letter to my attention.”
Last week, Cardinal O’Malley withdrew from his hosting a panel discussion on ‘Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable adults’ at the World Meeting of Families in order to investigate allegations of abuse at St John’s Seminary in his own Archdiocese of Boston.
“In retrospect, it is now clear to Fr Kickham and to me that I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an Archbishop in the Church,” he stated. “I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.”
“Allegations regarding Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual crimes were unknown to me until the recent media reports. I understand not everyone will accept this answer given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people. My hope is that we can repair the trust and faith of all Catholics and the wider community by virtue of our actions and accountability in how we respond to this crisis.”
Fr Boniface’s letter was the second he had written about Cardinal McCarrick’s alleged activities. Writing that the letter “has taken me years to write and send,” Fr Boniface described accounts of abuse, some of which were “not presented to me as mere rumours, but told to me by persons directly involved” as well as passing on an account of a conversation he had with Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville, during which Archbishop Kelly told him that “stories about Archbishop McCarrick had been circulating amongst the American Bishops”.
Fr Boniface’s first letter had been written more than a decade before, in 2000, but the lack of response, and McCarrick’s continuing presence at official events, prompted him to write again.
Cardinal O’Malley’s statement did not address whether or not Fr Boniface’s request that the letter be forwarded to the proper agency was honoured.