February 23, 2006

Worcester diocese lauds elevation of archbishop

Worcester Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Bishop Robert J. McManus of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester joined well-wishers yesterday in lauding the pending elevation to cardinal of Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

Archbishop O’Malley, 61, who took over the Boston archdiocese after the pressured resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law because of allegations that Cardinal Law had mishandled the burgeoning clergy sexual abuse scandal in the archdiocese, was instrumental in quickly settling many of the civil lawsuits involving those allegations. He also became controversial when he made the decision to close numerous churches in the archdiocese, including some bordering Central Massachusetts.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday announced that he will elevate 15 men to the College of Cardinals. Twelve will be eligible to vote for the next pope because they are under age 80.

The two Americans selected are Archbishop O’Malley and Archbishop William J. Levada, 69, who left his position as head of the San Francisco archdiocese to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal-designate Levada, who replaced the current pope in that position, now reviews all allegations of clergy sexual abuse in the church.

“On behalf of our entire diocese, I extend my congratulations to Cardinal-designate Sean O’Malley on this memorable day, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It is a great responsibility to be elected to the College of Cardinals and I am confident that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, his love and devotion to the people of God will continue to serve our church well for many years,” Bishop McManus said.

The bishop also offered his “sincere gratitude” to Pope Benedict XVI for elevating Archbishop O’Malley. “The Holy Father is assuring us by his decision that the community of faith in this part of New England, which is guided by Cardinal-designate O’Malley from the Metropolitan See of Boston, continues to be an important voice in the universal church,” he said.

Cardinal-designate O’Malley said in a statement, “While there are certain additional responsibilities that come with the privilege of serving as a cardinal, I wish to reaffirm a commitment I made during my installation homily to the priests, deacons, religious and laity, who together form this great Archdiocese of Boston. That is, I am your shepherd, your brother, and I am here to serve all the people of the archdiocese.”

The Rev. William Clark, S.J., who teaches in the religious studies department at the College of the Holy Cross, said the pope’s picks for cardinal are not surprising. Cardinal-designate O’Malley, who was new to Boston, was not chosen at the last consistory, called at the end of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

“He had not settled into Boston at that time,” Rev. Clark said. He believes his selection by the present pope sends a signal that Cardinal-designate O’Malley will remain as spiritual head of Catholics in Eastern Massachusetts and will not be moved around to another trouble spot as he had been before.

The cardinal-designate had been sent into Fall River to handle clergy abuse allegations that came up with prosecution of former priest James Porter, and he later was sent to Florida to help out with problems there.

Archbishop Levada was chosen because of his current role as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rev. Clark said.

He said it seems apparent that Cardinal-designate O’Malley intends to retain his identity as a member of the Franciscan order because he still wears the order’s robes as archbishop. Members of religious orders, including Franciscans and Jesuits, have been chosen occasionally to serve as cardinals but some have chosen to leave their orders. He doubts Cardinal-designate O’Malley will do this.

Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability, a Waltham-based organization that tracks and archives the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the church, said she believes the selection of the American archbishops is a “significant statement” by the pope. “Both men are exceptional enforcers of traditional church teachings. Both also have shown strong ability to conform to the very high standard of information control that is an essential requirement of Roman Catholic cardinals,” she said.

Ms. Doyle said she has some concern over the oath of secrecy that the new cardinals will make to Pope Benedict at the time they become cardinals.

“The culture of secrecy starts right there,” she said. “They will kneel before Benedict and promise to keep secret anything that would dishonor the church. This oath has implications for the archdiocese of Boston as well as for Levada’s handling in Rome of clergy sexual abuse allegations.”

Ms. Doyle said she believes Cardinal-designate O’Malley is the “consummate practitioner” of crisis management and public relations now used by the American bishops that he pioneered in Fall River in 1992 when the Porter case generated media attention. “Benedict’s tapping of O’Malley can be seen as a reward for his consistent success in quashing public uproar over the crisis,” she said. His assignments in Palm Beach, Fla., Fall River and Boston shows that he is the “Vatican’s Mr. Fix-It for the scandal.”

“I wish him well in his new position within the Catholic Church and can only hope that he will be able to use his new stature to influence change not just within the Archdiocese of Boston but around the world,” said Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly. Now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in 2003 Mr. Riley issued a scathing report on the way the archdiocese handled the sexual abuse scandal but fell short of indicting Cardinal Law.

Mr. Reilly said the church and the Boston archdiocese “still have much to do to ensure the protection of our children and I look forward to working with Cardinal O’Malley toward that end.”

Posted by kshaw at February 23, 2006 07:33 AM