'I can't think of a better choice' says local abuse survivor

BRAINTREE -- A local clergy abuse survivor and playwright welcomed the news that Pope Francis had tapped Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley to serve as one of the first members of the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Michael Mack, creator and performer of the one-man play "Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith," said a Vatican announcement, March 22, that the pope had established the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors came as welcome news to the survivor of clerical sex abuse.

"I think it was an important step," said Michael Mack, creator and performer of the one-man play "Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith."

"I am especially excited by the makeup of the commission, because there are actually more laypeople than clergy on it -- five laypeople, three clergy," he said. "I was really pleased to see that one of those laypeople is a sexual abuse survivor herself."

Mack said that aspect of the commission gave him hope because the commission will include the voice of a survivor -- Marie Collins, a native of Ireland who survived abuse as a 13-year-old girl.

"I think a sexual abuse survivor can speak to the effects of abuse more deeply and personally than anybody else. They can talk about their struggles and their trials, and the confusion that comes out of it, with greater authority than anyone else," Mack said.

Mack said he has experienced efforts Cardinal O'Malley made in reaching out over time to abuse survivors in the Archdiocese of Boston, particularly as he has attended the annual Mass for survivors celebrated by the cardinal over the past three years.

"I have been struck by the simplicity of his character. He seems like a quiet, unassuming person with simple tastes, deep, thoughtful, and like I said, accessible," Mack said.

Having worked closely with the archdiocese for some early performances of his play, which he debuted in 2012 and performed at a Catholic Church for the first time that April, he noted that archdiocese policies for the protection of youth and young people included robust training programs for church staff and personnel, a zero-tolerance policy for clergy abuse, and an office to help survivors get counselling for coping with the results of abuse.

"I can't think of a better choice to pull from the U.S. as a clergyperson than Cardinal Seán. He has done more to my knowledge, certainly as cardinal, to implement in our archdiocese what has become a model program for how, not only archdioceses but also organizations, large organizations, can respond to this problem," Mack said.