June 22, 2003 – A select cadre of U.S. Catholic bishops assigned to serve as "fixers" in the church's efforts to promote healing in parishes that have been victimized by sexually abusive priests includes Sean P. O'Malley, former bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas.
According to a report on Sunday in The New York Times, "After nearly 20 years of sporadic sexual abuse scandals culminating in last year's four-alarm crisis, there is now a small company of at least eight American bishops who have been called on by the pope to rush into troubled dioceses and help extinguish the flames."
And O'Malley, the Times said, is one of two who are now into their second such assignments.
O'Malley, a Capuchin friar, worked for a decade in Fall River, Massachusetts, where a priest had been accused of sexually molesting dozens of children. There, he reached a settlement with the victims and instituted "a policy on preventing abuse that would be studied by other dioceses," the Times reported. Last September, he was reassigned to Palm Beach, Florida, where "two consecutive bishops assigned there [had] admitted to sexually abusing minors."
The article stated that the work of the "fixer" bishops "requires multiple skills: reaching out to victims and their families, comforting parishioners, disciplining bad priests and reassuring good ones, negotiating with prosecutors and lawyers, raising money to pay off settlements."
One large diocese affected by the sexual scandals that is without a permanent replacement for a departed leader is Boston. There, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who spent his youth on St. Thomas, attending Charlotte Amalie High School, was forced to resign six months ago after documents made public showed that he had known of child abusers among the priests serving under him.
A meeting of the nation's Catholic bishops on Saturday in St. Louis included a report on progress toward removing priests from ministry, appointing a national lay review board to keep the bishops accountable and preparing for teams of "auditors," some of them former FBI agents, who will arrive in each troubled diocese to check whether the bishops are complying with new policies.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.