The Nov. 16 interview of Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley by the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” generated so much of its own buzz that the cardinal decided to write about it Nov. 19 in Boston’s archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot.
He acknowledged that “as a person who is just an occasional viewer of television,” he was “amazed to learn of the number of people” who tune into the program each week. He also said he hopes that one take-away from the interview will be that “cardinals, bishops and priests are human, and that we love the church.”
The cardinal said that he knew from the onset that he would not be asked “about the weather and the Red Sox.” He also said that television interviews are “not at the top of my list of favorite things to do.”
He commended the news team for their hard work, dedication and faith and said the interview touched on “three provocative issues that are seldom addressed by members of the hierarchy, but which once raised capture everyone’s attention.”
He also pointed out that these topics call for “more time and consideration than can be given in a 20 minute broadcast segment.”
In the interview, Cardinal O’Malley was asked about Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who was convicted in 2012 on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse. Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official to face criminal charges related to the priest sex abuse scandal that erupted within the U.S. church in 2002. In this case, diocesan authorities who had been told in December 2010 of child pornography found on a priest’s computer did not tell civil authorities until six months afterward.
“It’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently,” said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established last December by Pope Francis.
Reflecting further on this issue in the Pilot, he said that one of the significant concerns for this Vatican group is the accountability of bishops.
“We are all aware that Catholics want their leaders to be held accountable for the safety of children, but the accountability has been sporadic. We need clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters. Bishops also deserve due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing. The situation in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is a painful one.”
He added that “after all that American Catholics have been through in the past decade, survivors and the community at large understandably are demanding transparency and accountability. As a church, the safety of children must be our priority. At the same time, we need to provide justice for all and avoid crowd-based condemnations.”
Another topic covered in the “60 Minutes” interview was the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and efforts to reform the organization which Cardinal O’Malley described as “a disaster.”
He elaborated about this in his column saying: “Unfortunately, many religious women have been alienated by the process and the bishops in this country have been blamed for shortfalls in communications and the process.”
He also said he hoped that when the final report of the visitations of the women religious is presented, “it will be a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our church and be helpful for the cause of religious life.”
When asked on air about the possibility of the church ordaining women as priests, the cardinal said: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
He wrote that this subject is “particularly painful to many Catholic women who feel that the teaching on women’s ordination is a rejection and unfair.”
“Throughout history, many wonderful Catholic women have wished to be priests, among them St. Therese, the Little Flower. In my comments I was trying to communicate that women are often holier, smarter and more hard-working than men, and that the most important member of the church is a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
He added that the church is “called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular. Understanding the church’s teaching is always a process that begins with faith.”