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

Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley ordaining Cadin as a new priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. / Photo by Gregory L. Tracy

The following month, hundreds of people filed into the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, brushing raindrops from the shoulders of their dark suits and dresses. The service wasn’t due to start for another half an hour, but the cathedral’s best pews had already been claimed. Some of the seats in the front were reserved for the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston, while others were set aside for the dozens of students from St. John’s, outfitted in black jackets and white collars. The middle pews, the ones right in front of the altar, were reserved for the family members of the six men who were about to be ordained priests and marry God.

Cadin stopped by the front pews to make sure his father and siblings were well situated for the ceremony, then moved to the back of the church, where he joined Cardinal O’Malley, a handful of bishops, and several hundred other Boston priests.

The ordination ceremony, which includes an exchange of “I do”s and a swearing of obedience to the bishop and archdiocese, began much like many Catholic weddings: with a full Mass. At its conclusion, O’Malley ambled up to the pulpit to deliver the cere mony’s homily.

“Being a bishop in today’s world is full of challenges,” he said. “Difficult decisions, skirmishes with the press, dealing with financial disasters, and many trainwrecks—those that are waiting to happen, and those that have happened over and over again. But there are also great joys—like celebrating an ordination.” After a few stories, he got to his point. “Your task as priests is going to be to wake people up,” he said to his new charges. “That’s what the new evangelization is about. Many people’s faith has grown dormant….We must help to awaken people’s faith.”


Ten weeks after being ordained, Father Eric Cadin takes the altar at St. Michael Parish in North Andover. It’s the first cool morning of autumn, and several hundred parishioners have come for the bright and airy church’s 9 a.m. Mass. Wearing his green vestments, Cadin moves through the service easily.

He smiles as he begins telling the audience, full of young families and the elderly, about a time when he hurt himself as a boy. He had cracked his head on a tree branch while biking and, blood streaming down his face, run home to his mother. “She helped me,” he says, “she comforted me. And she brought me to the hospital, where I got stitches.”

Pacing the altar, he continues. “When you’re with your parent, you are loved,” he tells the nodding congregation. He relates this love to what God feels for all of us. “God, the creator of the world, takes this single man and heals him. God says he’s important. It’s like when you run to your parents, and they say, ‘You’re going to be okay.’”

Thirty miles away, fall classes have just started at St. John’s. Eighty-one students are living in the dormitory, and a total of 120 are taking courses there, the most in 20 years. Next year the seminary may need to use space at nearby vacant parishes to house everyone. The number of students being ordained is still far below the replacement level necessary, but it’s moving in the right direction. “The revival at St. John’s is surprising,” says Philip Jenkins, a history and religious studies professor at Baylor University. “It’s so counterintuitive. St. John’s looks like an anomaly.”

Archbishop O’Malley is continuing to deal with a clergy shortage and cash-strapped parishes, but instead of closing them, he’s struck upon a new idea: Small parishes will pool resources and be run by pastoral teams of two or three priests. In March the archdiocese started a $600,000 television and radio campaign, Catholics Come Home, that encourages people to give the Church a try again.

After the Mass in North Andover is over, Cadin stands outside the doors and greets his new parishioners. He’s been trying to memorize names.

As the crowd slows, a middle-aged woman and her son walk up and introduce themselves. “When did you get here?” the woman asks.

“Around Fourth of July weekend,” he says.

“And what’s your name?”


She looks at him quizzically. “Father Eric?”

“Yes,” he says, smiling. “Father Eric.”


  • 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.