I celebrated Palm Sunday at St. Paul Parish in Cambridge (March 28). We began with the Blessing of the Palms and procession followed by a very beautiful Mass. Pilot photo/CardinalSeansblog.org
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The media reports on the situation of the Church in Europe and on the Holy Father have been very disturbing to all faithful Catholics. We are saddened by much of the news and also saddened knowing that victims of sexual abuse in our own community are, in a sense, re-victimized every time this issue comes to the fore.
Since being named Bishop of Fall River in 1992 and subsequently as Bishop of Palm Beach and Archbishop of Boston, I have had the painful but privileged opportunity to meet with hundreds of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their loved ones. During the course of Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, at a meeting with survivors from the Archdiocese of Boston, I presented the Holy Father a book inscribed with the first names of 1500 children who had been sexually abused by clergy and shared that the names marked with a gold cross were children who had died under tragic circumstances. The Holy Father was visibly moved as he read the names.
There is much confusion and misinformation about the Holy Father’s historic role in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse of children by clergy. What is very clear to me -- and I think to all who are fair-minded -- is that Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict has been dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse in the Church and trying to rectify the mistakes of the past. Until the sexual abuse crisis really became part of the consciousness of the Church in Europe, there were many who were unsympathetic to our efforts in the U.S. to deal with the problem in a transparent way and assure that our Catholic schools, parishes and agencies would be safe for children.
During this period of at least a decade, the strongest ally we had in this effort was Cardinal Ratzinger. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he allowed us to move forward with the Essential Norms which became local Church law in the U.S. and facilitated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The Norms allowed for mandated reporting to civil authorities and embraced a zero-tolerance policy for abusers. In addition, the Charter called for abuse prevention training that has been attended by literally millions of Catholics. It also requires yearly public audits to ensure that dioceses are in compliance with these requirements.
During this Holy Season I urge all of our Catholics to pray for the survivors and all who have been impacted by the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. I also hold in my prayers and ask us all to pray for those persons for whom this crisis has been an obstacle to the continued practice of their faith. Let us pray, too, for our Holy Father, that God will grant him the light and wisdom he needs to guide the Church. And during this Year for Priests, let us pray for our priests, who labor quietly everyday doing the good works of the Lord.
Last Friday (March 26), I went to St. Michael’s in North Andover for the tenth in our series of vicariate dinners with the priests. It is a way that we’re celebrating the Year for Priests and an opportunity for me to get together with the priests in an informal setting.
St. Michael’s is an extraordinary parish. The team ministry there of Fathers John Delaney, Paul Keyes and Jerry Hogan is doing a fantastic job.
They invited me to see the Stations of the Cross that the young people were putting on. It was a beautifully artistic presentation using screens and lights so that people would see the silhouettes of the different scenes of the 14 stations.
They do this every Friday during Lent, and different classes from the school participate. The church was full of people. It was a very beautiful and moving experience.
(Saturday) afternoon, I had confirmations for our college and university students at the cathedral.
Each year, we gather in the cathedral with university students from the various campus ministries who, during the course of the year, have been preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. It’s always an extraordinary moment.
This year we had 40 students from several schools including Bentley, Boston University, Bridgewater State, Emmanuel College, Harvard, MIT, UMass-Boston, UMass-Lowell, Salem State, Northeastern and Wellesley.