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New Clergy Abuse Scandal Hits Old Wounds In Boston02:08
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Two years ago, Bernie McDaid stepped out of a police escort and into a Washington, D.C., chapel for a secret meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and a handful of clergy sex-abuse victims like him. (AP)
Two years ago, Bernie McDaid stepped out of a police escort and into a Washington, D.C., chapel for a secret meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and a handful of clergy sex-abuse victims like him. (AP)

The clergy abuse scandal making its way all the way to the Vatican is reverberating throughout Boston during Catholics' holiest week of the year. There are diverse opinions among local Catholics about what the scandal means for the church and whether it’s similar to the scandal that erupted here eight years ago.

Many Massachusetts abuse victims say they are energized over the latest allegations that Pope Benedict XVI knew about abusive priests. During Benedict’s 2008 visit to the U.S., he met with a handful of victims. Olan Horne was among them and says Pope Benedict promised him he would take action.

"He was very sincere,” Horne said. “I gave him pictures of me as a kid and said, 'These are the pictures of me when I was 10. When you make policy changes, when you think about what you need to do. That's who you're protecting.' "

Horne believes the meeting was an important first step by a slow-moving bureaucratic Vatican toward addressing the abuse issue. But Bernie McDaid, another survivor at that meeting, is disappointed.

"I put my hand on his heart and said, 'You have a cancer in your flock. You need to do something about it.' The follow-through? I'm sad to say there was no follow-through,” McDaid said.

“This was just a Boston issue, now it's Europe, South Africa. This is a world issue.”

-- Bernie McDaid

McDaid and Horne don't agree with the calls for the pope to resign. First, they want to give him a chance to make significant reforms. This week, they wrote to church officials with some suggestions. One asks the Vatican to form a board of survivors who would weigh proposed policy changes.

To get their point across, they're trying to organize tens of thousands of survivors from around the world to rally at the Vatican for what they're calling "a day of reformation."

"People are speaking to me from all over the world. This was just a Boston issue, now it's Europe, South Africa. This is a world issue,” McDaid said. “Let's call it for what it is. It's child abuse by clergy where children pray."

Many devout Catholics say at this time of year, the focus should be on religion, not controversy. Eighty-year-old Nancy Caruso regularly goes to Mass at St. Leonard's Church in the North End.

“My whole concern is we keep our focus on what is important," she said. "This is Holy Week. Our focus should be on the beautiful Masses, the beautiful services we're going to get."

But Caruso is still angry that former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law was appointed to a high-level Vatican post after he stepped down because of Boston's abuse crisis in 2002.

“I was incensed. Yes, we did say, and I was one of them, 'He should resign.' Eventually he left and went to the Vatican. I'm not pleased with that," Caruso said.

The man who replaced Law, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, addressed the growing scandal in Europe during a Mass in honor of priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross this week.

"The greatest crisis we have ever experienced in the church continues to weigh heavily upon us all," O’Malley said. “It is a wake-up call, an urgent appeal to live a life of holiness."

The Archdiocese of Boston is very different now from what it was when O'Malley took over. More than 15 percent of its parishes are closed, and five are still in vigil, occupied around the clock by parishioners. The Archdiocese has sold an estimated $60 million of its parish properties and Mass attendance among Boston's almost two million Catholics has declined.

This program aired on April 2, 2010.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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