A new leader reaches out
Installed as archbishop, O'Malley voices remorse
looks to renewal
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 7/31/2003
Sean Patrick O'Malley, the 59-year-old Capuchin friar who
has become an expert at taking over troubled Catholic dioceses,
was installed yesterday as the sixth archbishop of the scandal-racked
Archdiocese of Boston in a solemn ceremony overlaid with sadness
Speaking to an overflow crowd that packed every pew in the
Cathedral of the Holy Cross, O'Malley introduced himself to
the archdiocese with a passionate, and at times humorous,
homily in which he pointedly begged forgiveness from victims
of clergy sexual abuse, about 70 of whom joined about 2,000
He reached out to priests who feel ashamed by the misconduct
of their colleagues, to laypeople who feel disenfranchised
by the church, and to immigrants who struggle to adjust in
the United States. He greeted the assemblage in English, Spanish,
Portuguese, and Haitian Creole, forcefully articulated his
Franciscan devotion to the poor, and declared his loyalty
to the pope and his opposition to abortion.
At the heart of his 35-minute homily, he spoke of the depth
of the clergy abuse scandal, acknowledging ''our mismanagement
of the problem of sexual abuse,'' and included the church
hierarchy in a list of those who have harmed young people.
O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, resigned
in disgrace in December after enduring a year of criticism
for not removing abusive priests from ministry.
''The whole Catholic community is ashamed and anguished because
of the pain and the damage inflicted on so many young people,
and because of our inability or unwillingness to deal with
the crime of sexual abuse of minors,'' O'Malley said, his
voice deep and booming. ''To those victims and their families,
we beg forgiveness.''
The new archbishop also said that the Catholic Church, although
wounded, will survive, and he called attention to the work
the church does to educate and provide health care and social
services throughout the country.
''Although we live through a sad chapter in the church's
history, we must recall that it is a chapter,'' he said. ''It
is not the whole book.''
O'Malley appeared briefly overcome by emotion at several
points during the two-hour-and-20-minute ceremony, and paused
to collect himself as he was handed the crosier that is meant
to resemble the staff of a shepherd. He also appeared to be
suffering from the heat -- several times during the ceremony,
including while distributing Holy Communion, he removed his
glasses and used a handkerchief to wipe his brow.
He wore the brown habit of his Capuchin order under the white
robe he wore as a bishop; the pointed hood of his habit dangled
down his back, and beneath the robe his bare feet, in sandals,
were clearly visible. There were regal touches, too -- O'Malley
wore a gold miter on his head, and the pulpit from which he
spoke was decorated with an elaborate display of flowers arranged
to form the complex images of the archbishop's coat of arms.
After the Mass, O'Malley greeted invited guests at a reception
at St. John's Seminary in Brighton where sandwiches and soft
drinks were served, a sharp contrast to the elaborate parties
at downtown hotels held in 1984 to celebrate Law's installation
Among the few dignitaries present yesterday were US Senators
Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Mayor
Thomas M. Menino of Boston, all of whom are Catholic. Invited
but absent was Governor Mitt Romney, who is vacationing in
''The words were just what we wanted to hear -- a time for
healing, a time to bring us together, a time for renewal,''
Menino said. ''We're all going to move forward as a church.
The past is the past. It's a new day in this archdiocese.''
The Mass was also attended by representatives of Orthodox
Christian, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
''I was fascinated by the fact that there was applause at
the conclusion of the homily, because I don't think I've ever
heard that before, and that says something remarkable about
how the people assembled responded to it,'' said the Rev.
Diane C. Kessler, the longtime executive director of the Massachusetts
Council of Churches. ''He was forthright in naming the tragedy
that the Roman Catholic Church has been dealing with in the
archdiocese and other places, and he was appropriately straightforward
about the daunting nature of the tasks that lie before him.''
O'Malley, who wanted an understated celebration, sought to
limit the number of prelates attending. Law declined an invitation
to attend, but two cardinals did come: Cardinal James Francis
Stafford, an American who serves in Rome as the president
of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Cardinal Oscar
Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa,
Rodriguez's appearance, which church officials said was unexpected,
drew some criticism. The Honduran cardinal, who is considered
a candidate to be the next pope, last year criticized The
New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe
as ''protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a
persecution against the church'' and said the media had covered
the abuse scandal with ''a fury which reminds me of the times
of Diocletian and Nero and more recently, Stalin and Hitler.''
Two attorneys representing abuse victims, Roderick MacLeish
Jr. and Jeffrey Newman, and a pediatrician, Eli Newberger,
issued statements criticizing the appearance of Rodriguez.
O'Malley himself referred twice to anti-Catholicism, at one
point observing that ''many Catholics feel that it is unfair
that national concern on sexual abuse has focused so narrowly
on the Catholic Church.'' At another point, he said that the
Catholics who built Boston's cathedral ''were despised for
this religion, for their accents, for their rough ways,''
and he alluded to an incident in 1834, when a mob of brickmakers
and other workers stormed and burned the Ursuline convent
in what was then Charlestown.
O'Malley did not say whether he believes the sexual abuse
crisis has been fueled by anti-Catholicism, saying only that
''we can only hope that the bitter medicine that we have had
to take to remedy our mismanagement of the problem of sexual
abuse will prove beneficial to the whole country.''
O'Malley's remarks were widely praised, although many said
they will be watching to see how he does over the next few
One alleged victim, Gary Bergeron, said yesterday's Mass
was the first he had attended in decades. ''Bishop O'Malley
was the first official in the Catholic Church to invite me
back,'' he said. ''I've met with Cardinal Law and Bishop [John
B.] McCormack, but nobody ever extended me an invitation.
If this man was big enough to extend the olive branch, I'm
big enough to accept it.''
There was some criticism. James E. Post, the president of
the lay Catholic organization Voice of the Faithful, said
he wished that O'Malley had said more about the role of lay
people in the church, and Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for
alleged abuse victims, said he wished O'Malley had asked for
a round of applause for victims since the congregation applauded
good priests. Both men offered praise for O'Malley's homily.
The new archbishop was installed in a traditional ceremony
that is intended to demonstrate his roles as the new teacher,
shepherd, and leader of the 2 million Catholics of metropolitan
He entered the cathedral to a great cheer at 11 a.m., preceded
by hundreds of deacons and priests and about 30 bishops from
New England. In a break with tradition, he chose to be greeted
not at the door of the cathedral, but in the middle of the
nave, so more people could witness him kneeling to kiss a
O'Malley blessed the crowd, sprinkling the congregation with
holy water, and then strode up to the sanctuary, where the
pope's ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel
Montalvo, said O'Malley would demonstrate ''compassion for
you all . . . and above all the ordinary Catholic, especially
those who feel most vexed and dejected.'' Montalvo urged Boston
Catholics to give O'Malley a chance. ''Give him time,'' Montalvo
said. ''Be patient, for he is but a man.''
In the most formal part of the ceremony, the archdiocese's
vicar general, Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, read aloud an English
translation of the Latin letter from the pope appointing O'Malley
as archbishop. In the letter, the pope said he chose O'Malley
for his ''outstanding virtues, complemented by . . . human
qualities.'' Edyvean displayed the letter for verification
to the auxiliary bishops and priests who serve as the archdiocese's
college of consultors and then gave it to the archdiocesan
chancellor, David W. Smith, for safekeeping in church archives.
Then Montalvo invited O'Malley to sit in the cathedra, the
episcopal throne that signifies O'Malley's role as archbishop.
There, O'Malley greeted representatives of various constituencies
of the archdiocese before delivering his homily and celebrating
''For Catholics, this third millennium has opened with one
long penitential rite,'' he said, referring to the ordeal
of the abuse crisis. ''And at the beginning of this installation
ceremony, I again ask forgiveness for all the harm done to
young people by clergy, religious and hierarchy.''
He promised to work to protect children, saying ''much has
been done, much needs to be done.''
During the moments of silence in the liturgy, the din of
the outdoor protests could be heard faintly through the cathedral
''Your pain will not be in vain if our church and our nation
become a safer place for children,'' O'Malley said to the
victims who were scattered among a rapt audience that interrupted
him 13 times to applaud. ''Despite the understandable anger,
protests, and litigation, we see in you our brothers and sisters
who have been wronged, and we thank you for coming forward.''
O'Malley also addressed priests, many of whom have struggled
over the last year and a half as many of their fellow priests
were revealed to be alleged child abusers. He drew a huge
round of applause simply by saying, ''we gather here with
so many priests, so many good priests, struggling to make
sense out of it all.'' He urged the priests to persevere.
''Never forget that serving Christ and his people is worth
suffering for,'' he said.
And then he addressed disenfranchised Catholics, saying,
''I invite you to return to help us to rebuild the church
and carry on the mission Christ has entrusted to us.''
O'Malley, who has devoted his life to reaching out to immigrants
and the poor, repeatedly referred to those concerns in his
homily. He asked that intercessory prayers be read in Cape
Verdean Creole, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean,
Nigerian, Vietnamese, and English, and in his own brief introductory
remarks in Haitian Creole, he said he hopes to study that
language so he can better celebrate Mass for Boston's Haitian
O'Malley drew applause when he paraphrased Mother Teresa's
justification for reaching out to the downtrodden and mentally
ill, saying, ''the homeless, schizophrenic man off of his
meds . . . is Jesus Christ in a distressing disguise.''
O'Malley also referred twice to his staunch opposition to
abortion. At one point, he said the unborn ''have a claim
on our love'' and at another point, alluding to the church's
opposition to abortion and euthanasia, he said, ''no matter
how small the unborn, no matter how debilitated or unproductive
the aged or the infirm, we must take care of each other.''
''No one is expendable,'' he said. ''Each and every person
counts in God's sight. The Gospel of Life will always be the
centerpiece of the church's social teaching.'' His antiabortion
remarks were greeted with applause, but Kennedy and Kerry,
both of whom support abortion rights, did not appear to join
O'Malley also offered a critique of consumer culture.
''Too often people's quest for success in our culture is
misguided -- to have lots of money, to be good-looking and
thin, to be popular, it is not enough,'' he said.
Instead, O'Malley urged Catholics to pray, saying ''in prayer
we will find the strength to carry out the mission entrusted
Michael Paulson can be reached at email@example.com.
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 7/31/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.