BOSTON — Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley is organizing a meeting between Pope Francis and a group of sex abuse victims at the Vatican that will mark the first such encounter for the pope.
Francis announced the meeting on Monday and declared “zero tolerance” for any member of the clergy who would violate a child.
The Archdiocese of Boston said in a statement that the details of the meeting haven’t been finalized yet, and that O’Malley “looks forward to supporting this effort by Pope Francis in whatever manner will be most helpful.” The Archdiocese said the meeting is expected to take place “in the coming months.”
The Catholic Church clergy sex abuse crisis broke nationally in 2002 after The Boston Globe wrote a series of stories revealing that church officials in Boston shifted pedophile priests between parishes without disclosing their alleged crimes.
“On this issue we must go forward, forward. Zero tolerance,” Francis said, calling abuse of children an “ugly” crime that betrays God.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney in Boston who represents clergy abuse victims, said that he has asked publicly for the pope to meet with victims “so that he can educate himself and help victims heal.”
“Hopefully the meeting will be substantive and meaningful. Having a meeting for cosmetic purposes will serve no useful purpose but to re-victimize victims of clergy sexual abuse,” Garabedian said. “There must not only be one meeting, but there must be numerous meetings. The pope must be receptive, objective and listen to victims.”
David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the meeting “utterly meaningless.”
“The simple truth is this is another gesture, another public relations coup, another nice bit of symbolism that will leave no child better off and bring no real reform to a continuing, scandal-ridden church hierarchy,” Clohessy said.
Clohessy said he would be “thrilled to be proven wrong.”
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” in March that Francis was likely going to meet with sex abuse victims.
“He probably will,” Dolan said. “I hope he does. Lord knows I have, and Lord knows, I think most bishops and pastors have.”
Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report from New York City.