BOSTON – The Boston Archdiocese still hasn't implemented key reforms promised three years ago in its plan to prevent the sexual abuse of children by church personnel, according to the state attorney general's office.
In a letter to a church committee, Attorney General Tom Reilly's office criticized the failure of the Roman Catholic archdiocese to devise a system that tracks abusive priests. It also said the archdiocese hadn't implemented sexual abuse prevention programs for adolescents and teens in its schools and religious education programs.
The lack of followthrough "have us questioning the archdiocese's commitment and whether it learned any lessons at all from the tragedy that led us to issue our report in 2003," according to the letter from Alice Moore, chief of the attorney general's Public Protection Bureau.
Kelly Lynch, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Archbishop Sean O'Malley is committed to protecting children from abusers. "He continues to recognize that, while much has been accomplished, more must be done," she said.
Lynch said an independent oversight committee was asked to review the archdiocese's child protection policy, and church officials will publicly release that report — which is expected to be submitted to the archdiocese by late March.
The committee chair, M.J. Doherty, said while more needs to be done, the archdiocese's child protection policy is generally working. She said the church has done "a severe cleaning of the house," getting rid of abusive clergy and staffers.
"I'm am firmly of the conviction that the policy is doing its job for this time, and that it's also in a state of evolution," Doherty said. "In any large organization, change takes time."
The plan, adopted in May 2003, also included immediate removal from ministry of clergy or staff facing a credible abuse allegation, and quick notification of civil authorities.
Reilly, who is running for governor, praised the plan when it was introduced. His office has since pushed the archdiocese for more openness and faster implementation.
Doherty said Reilly's office was asked to confidentially review her committee's report. She was "surprised" when she learned the press would be calling about Moore's letter, which was addressed to her.
"Other than that, I'm on the side of transparency," she said.
In her letter, Moore said, in general, "either appropriate policies are not in place, or the Archdiocese is not enforcing the ones that are."
She criticized the archdiocese for not implementing a sexual abuse prevention program for adolescents and teenagers "even though this is the age group that historically has been most at risk for sexual abuse by priests."
Moore was also critical of the archdiocese's unmet pledge to create a system to track and supervise abusive priests.
"These men, whether laicized, defrocked, or restricted from ministry, continue to pose a threat to all children they come in contact with," Moore wrote. "The Archdiocese has an obligation to minimize or eradicate that threat."
Doherty said no such system has been developed at any other archdiocese. She said tracking former priests who've left the church is extremely difficult, just like it's hard for civil authorities to track sex offenders once they leave prison.
"It's a big issue, it's a national issue," Doherty said. "There's no quick fixes."