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Cardinal pledges child protection 'at all times and in all places' on crisis anniversary

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Marking the 10th anniversary of the clergy abuse scandal, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley released a letter on Jan. 3, outlining the Archdiocese of Boston's ongoing response to the tragedy and continuing commitment to the protection of children.

In the letter, Cardinal O'Malley commits the archdiocese to a continued focus on the protection of children in the face of the clergy sexual abuse crisis of 2002.

The crisis erupted in January 2002 when a series of Boston Globe reports revealed that archdiocesan officials had transferred Father John Geoghan from parish to parish despite having received accusations that he was sexually abusing children. Subsequent reports and lawsuits exposed numerous other instances of clergy sexual misconduct with children, many dating back decades.

"We never can and never will forget our shock and revulsion at the revelations that for decades, children had been subjected to sexual abuse, devastating their lives and those of their families and loved ones," Cardinal O'Malley began the letter.

The cardinal went on to focus on the accountability of leadership within the Church.

"As leaders in the Church we must accept our responsibility for those failings and clearly acknowledge that Church leadership could have and should have responded more quickly and more forcefully," he said.

The cardinal lauded work done to ensure a safe environment for children in the Church and throughout society. He gave singular praise to those whose work helped ensure that protection programs became "always and everywhere" in Church life.

"They rightfully made clear in the earliest days of the crisis that nothing short of complete and total protection for children would be acceptable if we were to go forward together," the cardinal wrote.

Cardinal O'Malley went on to acknowledge priests for their undaunted commitment to priestly life and ministry throughout the crisis.

"We are also indebted to the priests of the archdiocese who have been and continue to be good and faithful servants to the people of God," wrote the cardinal. "Our priests have remained true to their mission and calling while carrying many burdens because of the crimes of some of their colleagues."

The cardinal restated Church commitment to upholding moral standards and civil statutes in all matters related to the safety of children.

"There is no place for compromise or equivocation concerning the welfare of children and young people," wrote the cardinal.

He committed the Church to continued and ubiquitous protection of children.

"It is my solemn pledge that at all times and in all places we will be vigilant in the protection of children, our responsibility to God and the community demands nothing less," Cardinal O'Malley wrote.

He pointed readers to a document called "Ten Years Later -- Reflections on the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston," reviewing the Archdiocese of Boston's continuing priority to protecting children, ongoing response to the crisis, and maintained commitment to building on that protection.

"We offer the reflections for your review and consideration," the cardinal wrote. "They are not and are not intended to be a final word or closing of a chapter."

The reflections documented the archdiocese's views on the roles of survivors, priests, parishes and the media throughout the course of the past ten years dealing with clergy sexual abuse, and moving forward.

The reflections explained that in response to the crisis priests, deacons, religious, and the cardinal visited affected churches throughout the years; arranged personal meetings for five survivors with Pope Benedict XVI in 2008; and settled roughly 800 claims of abuse since 2003.

"Although we have made much progress over the past ten years, we do not mark this anniversary as a time to congratulate ourselves on or achievements," the document stated, in the context of explaining efforts by the Church to combat the effects and prevent recurrence of sexual abuse of minors.

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