Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: March 8, 2019

Ash Wednesday

Hello and welcome,

I want to begin this week by sharing my Lenten letter, which was issued earlier today.

In order to assure our Catholic people that we are doing everything possible to build on the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, in which the accountability of bishops was weak, and while we are waiting for a definitive solution from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we are implementing an interim action, as has been done in Baltimore. We are taking this step to show our goodwill and our desire to move the issue ahead.

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we begin the holy season of Lent, this annual time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving affords us the opportunity to be renewed by God’s love and mercy as we recommit ourselves to lives of prayer and service to others.

This year, Lent has particular significance for the leadership of the Church at every level, local, national and universal. Recently Pope Francis called bishops from every country in the world to come together at the Vatican for the Summit to Protect Children and Minors. The summit included powerful testimony from survivors of clergy sexual abuse, religious sisters and laypersons who made clear that a meaningful and effective response from the Church is long overdue and of critical importance. I participated in the summit as the President of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors and, with all present, was deeply impacted by those who addressed us.

Given the depth and seriousness of the crisis and the failures of the leadership of the Church, the expectations for the meeting were high and people are anxious to see concrete results. I left the meeting convinced that no bishop could possibly say that his diocese is not affected by these issues or that this is not a problem in his country and culture. Patience among our people and in the wider community is exhausted and understandably the call is rising for effective action.

A dominant theme at the meeting was 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. Although I believe an effective set of procedures will be developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I nonetheless wish to address this need immediately for the Archdiocese of Boston.

To that end I have decided to implement EthicsPoint, a confidential, anonymous and third-party system, exclusively for the reporting of misconduct by a Cardinal, Bishop or Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. Since 2011 we have utilized EthicsPoint for concerns of potential ethics violations, financial improprieties, and other violations of the Archdiocesan Code of Conduct related to financial matters.

Like the existing system currently in use, this will be web based and have a toll-free hotline to make a report. Reports will be sent to members of my Independent Review Board who will be charged to immediately notify law enforcement for claims of abuse as well as the apostolic nuncio; the diplomatic representative to the U.S. of the Holy See. The system will be hosted on secured servers at the EthicsPoint facility and is not connected to the Archdiocese of Boston website, intranet system or the existing EthicsPoint system currently in use. We anticipate the system being up and running soon and will provide more information at that time.    

In January 2002 the clergy sexual abuse crisis was revealed by the media in powerful and compelling reports on the failures of the Church to protect children.  Courageous survivors came forward and forced the Church to face the crisis and accept responsibility for the crimes committed against them. That same year the American Bishops implemented the Dallas Charter of Norms. Where it has been faithfully implemented, it has been effective. But we must aggressively build on the Charter to ensure that there are clear paths for reporting misdeeds of the hierarchy by utilizing the expertise of independent lay professionals.

During the meeting in Rome, the most powerful moments were when survivors of abuse spoke to us. 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. In Boston we will continue to provide pastoral care and counseling for survivors. We will continue to carry out programs of prevention and education in our schools and parishes. We will continue to do background checks annually for bishops, priests, all archdiocesan personnel, and all volunteers who work with children and young people.  You may find the depth and breadth of those efforts in the Archdiocese of Boston on our dedicated website at

For more than twenty-six years my ministry has involved responding to the abuse of minors by clergy. The crisis of sexual abuse by clergy is the greatest failure of the Church in my lifetime. It has eroded our moral authority, it endangers our pastoral, social and educational ministry, but worst of all, it devastates children and families.

We must face our past with transparency. Those who were sexually abused by clergy, their families and loved ones must always be the central focus of our response to the crisis. Their courage in coming forward has forced the Church to face the crimes committed against them. We are committed to accompanying them on their journey toward healing. Often it is survivors who teach us not to lose hope. 

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.

With the assurance of my prayers for you and your loved ones,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.

Last Thursday evening, I attended a fundraising gala for the Paraclete Center held at Boston College High School. The center is an educational enrichment program that offers such things as homework assistance, tutoring and enrichment classes to help Boston students in grades 4 through 8 achieve academic success.

There was a very good turnout, which is just an indication of the great support people have for the educational works that are being offered by the Paraclete Center.IMG_0051

With Sister Ann Fox, who is the foundress of the center and a sister from Rwanda

During the evening, they honored Ambassador Ray Flynn and his wife Kathy with Paraclete’s Founders Award. IMG_0054

With Kevin Phelan and Ray and Kathy Flynn

Last Saturday morning, I celebrated the funeral Mass of Msgr. Roger Brady at Immaculate Conception in Everett, which is the parish where he was baptized and remained very close to throughout his life. IMG_0060

His sister Alice Mary, who is a Sister of St. Joseph, was with us along with many other family members friends and loved ones.IMG_0058

Msgr. Brady had a very long ministry working as a chaplain to our veterans at VA hospitals. Father Aidan Walsh, who had worked with him for many years in that ministry and was a very close friend of his, was the homilist.

It was a very fine send-off and he will be sorely missed.

Over the weekend, I celebrated three Masses in different parishes of the archdiocese to mark Appeal Commitment Weekend.

The first was on Saturday at St. Mary’s in Wrentham. Wrentham-IMG_0063

Then, on Sunday morning, I celebrated Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington. Cardinal O’Malley celebrates Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington to mark Appeal Commitment Weekend March 3, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault Cardinal O’Malley celebrates Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington to mark Appeal Commitment Weekend March 3, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault Cardinal O’Malley celebrates Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington to mark Appeal Commitment Weekend March 3, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

In the afternoon, I had a Mass at St. Angela’s in Mattapan for the Haitian community.Catholic Appeal St. Angela-0002Catholic Appeal St. Angela-0007Catholic Appeal St. Angela-0033Catholic Appeal St. Angela-0095

In my homily at each parish, I reminded the people that, in the history of the Church, St. Paul was very involved in taking up collections to help the Christians in the Holy Land. But it was also a way for him to help create bonds of unity among the different communities of the Church. Our Appeal, I told them, is much the same. In giving to the Appeal, we are supporting those who perform the works of mercy and evangelization for the Church, but also showing that we are not just Catholics in our own parish, that we are part of a larger family and have responsibility for one another.

There are so many wonderful programs and ministries that are being supported by the Appeal. This year, they have produced a very fine video to help highlight some of those ministries, and I would like to share it with you here:

Tuesday, I met with Pierre-Marie Dumont, founder of Magnificat, who came accompanied by Jesús Colina and Tony Rodé. I have known Pierre for many years, and he has a great love for the Church and has spearheaded many successful Catholic publishing initiatives.

They came to talk to me a bit about their work and the success they are having with their Catholic information website, Aleteia. It was a very nice visit, and I was impressed to hear of the great strides they are making in reaching Catholics online, particularly young people, which is so important.

Wednesday was, of course, Ash Wednesday, which is a very important day for Catholics as we begin the baptismal retreat that is Lent.

At the cathedral, I celebrated Mass with the Spanish community, where there was a very good turn out.

We are particularly gratified that the new Seaport Shrine attracted throngs of young people who went there on Ash Wednesday to receive their ashes. 54208029_628657314250158_1995466935575248896_n52818240_628657480916808_2879159123901939712_n53365749_628657274250162_2226214440099905536_n53405400_628657594250130_717553464518901760_n53588319_628657554250134_862136000871137280_n

It is always amazing to see how many thousands of people come to church to receive the ashes. Of course, some of these people have very little contact with the Church, so Ash Wednesday is a significant moment to minister to these people.

So, Lent is a wonderful opportunity for Catholics to reconnect with the community of faith and to deepen their baptismal commitments. It is also a time to perform the traditional works of penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which can help us deepen our own personal conversion and rediscover God’s loving presence in our lives.

The beginning of Lent is also a reminder that the renovations to the cathedral are nearing completion for Holy Week. Even now, from the outside, the illumination of the stained glass windows has just been spectacular and made our cathedral a real landmark in the South End. IMG_0064

People are so pleased with the progress that has been made and are anxious for the reopening of the upper church so they can once again come and enjoy the beauty of this temple of faith.

The cathedral exists because of the faith of poor immigrants who, over 150 years ago, worked hard and created that magnificent church as a sign of their devotion to God and their Catholic faith. So, now it is our responsibility to make sure that future generations of Catholics will be able to have this magnificent cathedral as their spiritual home.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

March 2019