Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley was appointed Saturday to a powerful Vatican office that reviews sex abuse cases, expanding his global involvement in the prevention of clergy sex abuse, according to church officials.
O’Malley’s appointment to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Francis was announced by the Vatican press office.
The duties of the Doctrine of Faith office, which is responsible for Catholic teaching, were expanded to include the review and handling of clerical abuse cases in the early 2000s, said Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.
O’Malley’s appointment to the office is a reflection of the influential role he’s played to address the global clergy sex abuse crisis, Groome said.
“There’s nobody in the Catholic episcopacy at this time that is more committed to the protection of minors and vulnerable people from sexual abuse than Cardinal Sean O’Malley,’’ Groome said in an interview Saturday night. “I don’t think that’s just a local opinion. I think people around the world recognize his leadership in moving the church.’’
It’s not the first time O’Malley has been chosen by the Vatican to assist in reforming the global pattern of clerical abuse. Almost three years ago, Pope Francis appointed O’Malley to serve as president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
O’Malley will remain the archbishop of Boston while serving on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to sources close to the Archdiocese of Boston. He will be a nonresident member and will consult through various communications, making visits to the Vatican when possible.
Groome said the appointment of O’Malley is a “very significant and a very positive move’’ and means that “Pope Francis is determined to forge ahead with an aggressive policy.’’
Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse had a mixed reaction to O’Malley’s latest appointment.
Phil Saviano, a sex abuse survivor, said the appointment is “certainly a step in the right direction’’ by the Vatican to address the needs of victims. But Saviano said Francis needs to be more transparent regarding both the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“Whether anything significant will come from it, and whether he will be willing to reveal the details of what he does with this committee, so that we can judge if it’s a good thing or another way of stalling for time ... we’ll have to tell,’’ he said.
Saviano added that he’s been impressed with O’Malley’s outlook regarding the clerical obligation to report sexual abuse cases to civil authorities.
Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of www.bishop-accountability.org, said O’Malley has a reputation of being “the pope’s go-to man for clergy sex abuse,’’ but she has not been impressed with his work thus far.
“The [Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors] is taking very modest steps and hasn’t achieved anything like real change,’’ Doyle said. “So I don’t know how he can cause the CDF to change.’’
Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.