Coakley on Catholic Church: “this institution has to change”

Marcony Almeida

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As new reports of clergy sexual abuse roil the Catholic Church, former Attorney General Martha Coakley said Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley shares in the blame for a lack of accountability among the Catholic Church’s leadership, according to a report from SHNS.

In the wake of a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report alleging decades of abuse and cover-ups by church officials there, O’Malley — who leads the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors — said that while some of the abusers have been held to account, the church has “yet to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur.”

Appearing as a guest on WGBH’s “Greater Boston” on Monday night, the former attorney general who successfully prosecuted former priests for abuse-related crimes said O’Malley’s words are hollow. “It’s far too little too late and I think that what we saw in Pennsylvania is probably more emblematic of what really happened in other dioceses in this country,” Coakley said.

“All of these people, particularly in 2018, to say, ‘oh we failed, we failed’ … they can say they’re sorry but it’s too late for that.” As for an open letter from Pope Francis acknowledging that the church “showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Coakley said it was also “far too little.”

Coakley said she thinks the Catholic Church will continue to be rocked by abuse allegations and cover-ups until church officials “who knew about it or should have known about it” resign or are held accountable. “This institution has to change. They have to allow priests to marry and they have to ordain women,” Coakley, now a partner at Foley Hoag, said. “And if they’re not willing to make those structural changes within the institution, I don’t think there is any chance that any of this will change.”

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