The clergy sex abuse scandal exploded onto front pages across the country in 2002. A painful decade later, the Archdiocese of Boston has begun to rebuild. But a stubborn question remains: What kind of man wants to become a priest?

boston archdiocese catholic church rebuild after sex abuse scandal

After graduating from Harvard, Eric Cadin moved to Hawaii, where he lived in a tent, prayed, and surfed—a last hurrah before dedicating his life to the church. / Photo by Matt Kalinowski

Clearly, then, a number of institutions have had problems with sexual abuse, but the Catholic Church’s failure was compounded by decades of cover-ups and the practice of moving priests with a confirmed history of abuse from one parish to the next, thereby exposing new victims to them. “Repeat offending was more common in the Catholic Church,” McKiernan says, “because the managers were letting it happen.”

As mainstream America became more aware of the existence of pedophilia in the 1980s, incidences of the sexual abuse of children began to decrease. Laws were passed that mandated the reporting of sexual abuse to the authorities, and in 2002, during the height of the Church’s scandal, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which required church leaders to report allegations to police. Since then, the Church has instituted mandatory training for all children—and for all adults working with children—related to the dangers of sexual abuse.

Seminaries, meanwhile, strengthened their psychological screenings and ­application process for prospective students. Today, there are multiple interviews, as well as a daylong psychological test. Applicants are required to tell psychologists their life story, to explain their understanding of celibacy—a check on sexual identity, history, and maturity—and to take a version of the Rorschach inkblot test. Those who make it through that screening process are trained differently today than were priests in the past. In addition to the traditional academic, pastoral, and spiritual teachings, seminaries now provide instruction in something called “human formation,” which according to the Church requires discipline, emotional balance, self knowledge, a fully evolved sexual identity, and an understanding of celibacy.

Allegations have dropped dramatically. According to the Archdiocese of Boston, 96 percent of the allegations that were made between 2005 and 2011 were for incidents alleged to have taken place prior to 1990. And the archdiocese now takes great effort to react immediately to any accusation. When Father Andrzej J. Urbaniak, a priest from Poland working in South Boston, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography this past August, the archdiocese immediately suspended him in advance of the case making its way through the legal system.


In March 2007, Eric Cadin was taking pre-med classes at Harvard, part of his goal to attend medical school and become an oncologist. He’d begun dating—the first time he’d done so since his sophomore year of college—and was working as an ER services assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, his mother suffered a heart attack while watching the parade. At the hospital, Cadin called up two priests from St. John’s. Soon, the on-duty chaplain was performing the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, the Catholic ceremony at the end of a life. She died shortly after.

Overwhelmed at the hospital by his mother’s sudden death, Cadin found solace in the presence of the priests. There was something about seeing the uniform that was comforting. Even in this moment of crisis, God seemed to be telling him, I am here.

Over the next few months, Cadin began to reexamine his faith and life, wondering whether he truly wanted to be a doctor. His girlfriend pointed out that he seemed to enjoy praying with his patients more than providing medical care. Shortly after, Cadin broke off the relationship and reapplied to St. John’s.

Upon his return in 2008, Cadin found a seminary in transition. The students who’d lived through the abuse scandal were gone, having graduated or departed. Their replacements, meanwhile, were people who, like him, had chosen to enroll despite the scandal. Where Cadin had once been one of just 30 students at St. John’s, the seminary now had 87 pupils. The new arrivals had come from all over, as O’Malley and Father Arthur Kennedy—the rector he’d recently recruited from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota—had been reaching out to dioceses across the world to send students to Boston.

Cadin was credited for the two years he’d already spent at St. John’s. In his final four years, he took courses on the books of the New Testament, church history, and counseling; worked on his Spanish and ancient Greek; assisted the pastor at St. Columbkille Parish in Brighton; and practiced saying Mass in the basement of the seminary.

This past May, in a plain classroom decorated with a cross and a portrait of a bishop on the wall, Cadin completed one of his last classes at the seminary, the Sacraments of Healing. He and his fellow students practiced going through the rite—the blessing, the laying on of hands, the anointing with holy oil—and then reviewed PowerPoint slides related to the history of the sacrament.

After class, Cadin walked through the halls with the confidence of a graduating senior. He’d earned a Master of Divinity from St. John’s, as well as a license in sacred theology from BC’s School of Theology and Ministry. He found himself overjoyed by the continued growth of St. John’s, where the enrollment had reached 108. The seminary felt alive.



  • John McCormack

    Every Catholic priest is a bizarre, odd guy who didn’t fit in to normal society to begin with. No normal 17 year old male decides never to have sex with a woman, and then spends the rest of his life fighting gays.

    That part would be fine, but the Catholic church protects their pedophile priests like Christ would protect the children, and the Catholic church tries to teach you that this practice is ok.

    The psychological damage that happens to a 10 year old boy when he is raped by a Catholic priest is unfathomable. The boy thinks he is being stabbed to death, in a disgusting way, by “Christ on earth”, and that God is there watching it happen. Until 2002, every one of those boys thought he was the only one, making it worse. Those boys spend every day of their lives thinking constantly about that moment.

    The Catholic church KNEW about every rape the day that it happened, since every pedophile priest went to confession to admit that he did it. Jesus said in John 20:23 that some sins weren’t forgiven, but the Catholic church forgave every child rapist and fought every child victim, or lied about it, and bullied the victims.

    The Catholic church, in unison, did the exact opposite of What Jesus Would Do. God has made it so clear – the Catholic church isn’t God’s church.

    • Alan Crone

      John McCormack — you are quite omniscient.

  • John Geoghan

    Catholic priests certainly don’t represent God, or Christ, or Christianity, and God has proven that to everyone, despite the fact that the Catholic church tried to hide it. God gave us the Internet and the journalists that exposed this organized crime, so every Christian could decide to support or to fight a church that raped children in God’s name, hid the child rapists, and bullied the victims.

    The Catholic church hid AT LEAST 4,392 child rapists in the US alone (that they admitted in their own John Jay report of 2004), moving child rapists to new locations where they could rape more vulnerable children, lying about it, and bullying the victims that came forward. All in the name of God.

    One thing is for sure – God was there when every child was raped, and He doesn’t have to show any mercy to anyone who didn’t stand up for those children. Catholic priests are the worst of all. None of them spoke up and did What Jesus Would Do. Catholic priests have convinced a billion followers that it is ok to hide rampant child rape in God’s name, because God would rather have the Pope wear $100,000 hats and have Catholics spend an hour a week in the world’s richest buildings than spend money to get therapy for children that were raped by Catholic priests.

    God is just, but He does not have to forgive Catholic priests or those that follow them.

    • Truth Detector

      A section of this comment has been removed for violating our commenting policy.

      True, a few priests have acted reprehensibly and will face the judgment of God. However, for you to spew hatred and lump all priests and religious with pedophiles is factually wrong. You are entitled to believe what you want, but your hate filled and ignorant comments should be countered. Read the Scriptures and learn your history.

      The Church is made up of sinful men, as is EVERY church. But God works through human instruments and the Church is greater than the flawed humans in it. Last I checked the bible, the self righteous were condemned by the Lord.

      • John Geoghan

        You missed the point because you listen to the false idols in the Catholic church. The fact that the Catholic church had more pedophiles per person than any institution in history is bad.

        However, the fact that they then hid the pedophiles, lied for them, moved them, and bullied the victims, all in God’s name, is unforgivable. So is the fact that you support them in doing so. In God’s name.

        Read the second half of John 20:23. Some since aren’t forgiven. Organized child rape, in God’s name, is one of them.

  • Jackson

    Congratulations to Eric and to all those recently ordained. You are doing God’s work, and the world needs it more than ever.

  • Warren

    Composed charge knowledge: It is a collaboration this pieces out what expert services areLack connected with earnings establishing means that quite a lot of organizations get it wrong.Most function which includes a push button for you to thrust as a way to turn the home to the carousel about.

  • DPierre

    I am sure I am not the only one who has grown weary of seeing the Globe pat itself on the back with every mention of the clergy scandals in Boston.

    • DPierre

      Oops. My bad. Boston Magazine. I was thinking this was the Globe magazine published on Sunday.

      Still … The narrative of clergy abuse in Boston did *not* start with the Globe on Jan. 6, 2002.

    • Neil Allen

      No, but you are one of the few that gets PAID to defend known pedophiles for the Catholic church.


      Some facts about Dave Pierre and TheMediaReport everyone should know:

      TheMediaReport, and its owner, Dave Pierre should have mentioned that he is trying to sell books at THEMEDIAREPORT website about how innocent these pedophile priests are, even after they plead guilty, multiple times, to child rape.

      On example is Fr Gordon Macrae, a convicted pedophile priest who Dave supports (and who recommends Dave’s books). Macrae PLEADED GUILTY to sex with 3 children, and was also accused by at least another 7. Macrae is serving 30-60 years for raping another, but Dave will tell you how those 3 GUILTY pleas aren’t an admission that he’s a child rapist.

      Dave is literally a paid pedophile protector, and worst of all, he claims to do so in God’s name. There will be no forgiveness for that.

  • DRX

    The Church is only concerned with money,power and protecting the “brand”. As in fact are most religions. But as an ex Catholic I find it hard to believe that the Church is going to survive much longer.

  • John

    I’m happy to read an article that shows the real situation in the Church–difficulty due to sin, but also life due to God’s grace.

    Congrats to Fr. Eric for persevering and thriving now as a priest!

  • Edgar

    Father Eric sounds like a credit to the priesthood, the devout, righteous type of man it sorely needs.

    Unfortunately he’s serving an institution that struggles with basic transparency and honesty, an institution that has made essentially no changes in the structure that allowed rampant abusers like John Geoghan to sate their reprehensible lust for years.

    Where is the lay oversight of archdiocesan finances and personnel records? Where are the panels of lay Catholics empowered to independently review priest transfers, church closings, and financial practices? Where are the checks and balances in the structure of the church to ensure another church official can’t keep documents and other evidence of abuse secret?

    Not only abuse. Read here about how for almost 20 years the archdiocese mismanaged its priest retirement fund:

  • Christian

    “about to be ordained priests and marry God.”

    Priests, in imitation of Christ, marry the Church- not God.

  • Robert Carney

    Great article covering what is going on in the Boston Archdiocese! I had the honor of hearing Father Cadin celebrate Mass for my first time today. He has a true and deep love for The Lord and his parishioners.

  • Wally Saunders

    I love this article. To me the sex abuse scandal ia one of the best things that could have happened to the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus said that the seed must die to bring forth fruit. He spoke of Himself as the Vine and his followers as the branches. His Father is the Vinedresser who prunes away the dead wood so that the vine bears more fruit. And what a painful but fruitful pruning this whole scandal has proven to be.

    Jesus told us that the truth would set us free. We had to learn that it would make us angry first.

    Dorothy Day was well aware of the corruption and hypocrisy that exists in the Church. She also pointed out that, despite these goings on–at least since Constantine bestowed the trappings of empire on her–the Roman Church has continued to produce saints like Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John Henry Newman, Mother Teresa and Dorothy herself.

    I have been most fortunate to have known a lot of good and holy and dedicated priests. It is easy, therefore, for me to understand why a young man might want to become a priest today and have the guts to follow that through. It truly is a Resurrection. Such an apt title for this piece. Thanks for putting it out there.