Pope appoints Boston priest as Vatican's abuse investigator

Fr Robert W Oliver Courtesy of Archdiocese of Boston CNA US Catholic News 1 2 13 Father Robert W. Oliver. Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Boston.

Pope Benedict XVI has named Boston priest Father Robert W. Oliver as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's promoter of justice, the "chief prosecutor" at the office responsible for promoting and safeguarding Catholic doctrine and morals.

"It is with deep humility and gratitude that I received the news that the Holy Father is entrusting me with this service to the Church," Fr. Oliver said Dec. 22. "Receiving this assignment during the Year of Faith is inspirational and it is challenging."

Fr. Oliver has served the Archdiocese of Boston as Assistant to the Moderator of the Curia for Canonical Affairs. He is a visiting professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In his new position he will investigate serious violations of Church law, including desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, violations of the seal of confession and the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston said Fr. Oliver is a "distinguished" canon lawyer, describing him as "a gifted priest who has served the archdiocese with distinction."

"We assure him of our prayers and our support for this important ministry," he said Dec. 22.

Bishop-designate Robert P. Deeley, the archdiocese's vicar general and moderator of the curia, said Fr. Oliver will serve "faithfully and effectively."

He said the priest has been an "important voice" in the decisions of the archdiocese and of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

Since 2002, Fr. Oliver has served as assistant for canonical affairs for the archdiocese's vicar general, as judge and promoter of justice in tribunals and as a consultant for the Boston archdiocese's review board on sex abuse cases.

He helped train diocesan officials across America to implement the U.S. bishops' 2003 reforms crafted in response to sexual abuse by clergy, the Boston Globe reports. The Boston archdiocese itself was thrown into crisis in 2002 by sex abuse scandals which led to the resignation of then-Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law.

Fr. Oliver is a member of the Brotherhood of Hope, a small Boston-based Catholic association of the faithful involved in campus ministry work. He was born in New York City on April 7, 1960 and raised on Long Island. His late father, Robert W. Oliver, served as a justice on the New York State Supreme Court.

He attended the Catholic University of America, the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

He was ordained to the priesthood in Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral in May 2000.

Fr. Oliver said he "humbly" asks for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in assisting Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prefect Archbishop Gerhard Muller. The Vatican congregation was headed by the Pope before his election to the papacy in 2005.

The American priest succeeds Monsignor Charles Scicluna, whom Pope Benedict recently named auxiliary bishop of Malta.

Bishop-designate Deeley said Fr. Oliver's "experience, intelligence, understanding, compassion and respect for all of God's people" have prepared him well for the congregation's "important ministry of justice."

"Fr. Oliver's talents and good counsel will be missed here in Boston but we are comforted in knowing that his presence will be felt across the universal Church," the bishop-designate said Dec. 22.

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