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Cardinal O’Malley: I accept ‘full responsibility’ for not reading letter exposing McCarrick

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BOSTON, August 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The American cardinal who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has apologized for the brush-off his office gave a 2015 letter exposing the abuse of now disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. 

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, released a statement August 20 in which he accepts “full responsibility” for allegedly not seeing a letter sent to his office by Father Boniface Ramsey which outlined concerns about McCarrick’s “behavior with seminarians.” (Full statement posted below.) 

Last week the Cardinal canceled his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin on the heels of sex abuse accusations at his St. John’s Seminary and the revelation that he fundraised and traveled with McCarrick after his office received the letter warning of the ex-cardinal’s predation.

Father Boniface Ramsey, a professor at Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary from 1986 to 1996, is one of the clerics who knew about McCarrick’s predatory behavior and who attempted to put a stop to it. 

“I have blown the whistle for 30 years without getting anywhere,” he told New York Times in July.  

It was not for want of trying. 

“Early on in my tenure at the seminary,” Ramsey wrote in his letter to O’Malley, “I heard from several seminarians that Archbishop McCarrick was in the habit of inviting seminarians to his house on the New Jersey Shore -- always one more seminarian than there were beds; the extra seminarian was then told that he could share the archbishop's bed.” 

“Archbishop McCarrick would ask the rector of the seminary to find seminarians to go to his beach house, which the rector apparently did with a great deal of reluctance, not knowing how to refuse his ordinary,” Ramsey continued. “The rector was a man whom I admired, and a friend. When I had a chance to speak with him about this, I believe that he resolved to resist the archbishop, and I think that he did. I am not sure, however, that the archbishop ceased his invitations.” 

“There were also stories of seminarians and seminarian-age young men sharing the archbishop's residence, of special privileges (like studying in Rome) for his "nephews," and so forth. Some of these stories were not presented to me as mere rumors but were told me by persons directly involved.”

At first Ramsey was inclined to keep quiet, thinking the scandal was a “natural secret”, but when he discovered that McCarrick’s habits were widely known, he felt released from confidentiality. He spoke first to an archbishop friend about the matter, and then, when in 2000 McCarrick was named the next Archbishop of Washington DC, the priest took the matter to a higher authority. 

Ramsey reported McCarrick’s behavior to a papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, who advised him to write to the Vatican of the matter. Ramsey did so, but never received a response. He also wrote to the late Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York, and to Cardinal O’Malley of Boston.

“In July of 2015 Rev. Boniface Ramsey sent a letter that was received at my office at the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pastoral Centre,” stated O’Malley in his apology. 

Ramsey had turned to O’Malley because he was the President of the Pontifical Commission of Minors. However, the Cardinal said he never saw the letter, because his secretary, Father Robert Kickham, decided that McCarrick’s misdeeds with legal adults fell outside his boss’s purview.  Now O’Malley regrets his assistant’s gatekeeping. 

“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 wrote. “I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.

O’Malley repeated that the existence of the letter came to his attention only after the media reported it last month. He apologized to Ramsey and to anyone whose personal concerns were reflected in the letter.

The Cardinal Archbishop also underscored that he himself had not heard of McCarrick’s “sexual crimes” before the media reported them and said that he accepted that not everyone will believe this statement given the way the Church has “eroded the trust of our people.” 

He followed this up with questions over how an unchaste priest could have been ordained to the episcopate at all. O’Malley said that it is his experience--he did not elaborate--that priests whose fidelity to their “promise of celibacy” is in doubt are precluded for consideration as bishop. He stated that the USCCB is “anxious” to understand how McCarrick could have risen through the ranks, and that they must be certain that this never happens again.  

Father Dariusz Oko, a Polish expert on the existence of a “gay mafia” in the Catholic Church and author of With the Pope Against Homoheresy, told LifeSiteNews that up to 50% of American bishops have “homosexual inclinations.”

***

August 20, 2018 - Statement of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap

In June of 2015 Rev. Boniface Ramsey sent a letter that was received at my office at the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pastoral Center. Rev. Robert Kickham, my Priest Secretary, received the letter on my behalf, as he does much of the correspondence that comes to my office at the Pastoral Center. Fr. Ramsey’s letter came to me in my role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; specifically the letter presented matters concerning Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians. 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. 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. I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.  

My first knowledge of Fr. Ramsey’s letter occurred when media reports of the letter were published last month. I apologize to Fr. Ramsey for not having responded to him in an appropriate way and appreciate the effort that he undertook in seeking to bring his concerns about Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior to my attention. I also apologize to anyone whose concerns were reflected in Fr. Ramsey’s letter.

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.

What makes all this so difficult to understand is that it has been my experience that when a priest is being vetted to be named a bishop, any doubt or question concerning his faithfulness to his promise of celibacy would result in removing his name from consideration to be named Bishop. The Bishops Conference is anxious to understand how Theodore McCarrick could have been named Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal. We must be certain that this never happens again. That is why the Bishops Conference are requesting an investigation by the Holy See with the participation of lay people.

Let me close with the words of Pope Francis who yesterday wrote: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sins helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

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