The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


  A Boston Globe Editorial  

O'Malley's new direction


THE INSTALLATION today of Archbishop-designate Sean P. O'Malley as the ninth leader of the Archdiocese of Boston offers hope for transformation in a church hobbled by the calamitous clergy sexual abuse scandal. O'Malley, 59, is known as someone who listens to and respects his followers, the surest way to restore trust after so many years of deception and coverups.

O'Malley has acknowledged that he faces monumental tasks. It could hardly be otherwise following revelations that at least 237 priests and 13 other church employees have been accused of molesting at least 789 minors over six decades. He admits even to feeling intimidated by his new post. This is refreshing humility for area Catholics who were not served well for almost 19 years under a predecessor who stubbornly resisted admissions of responsibility, undermining effective measures to end the abuse.

O'Malley is a member of the order of Capuchin friars, a Gospel brotherhood that seeks to preach and do pastoral work in service to the poor and needy. But he is also an able administrator who led the Fall River Diocese from 1992 to 2002, undertaking successful efforts to reach fair settlements with dozens of victims who had been abused by the Rev. James R. Porter during his assignment to several area churches in the 1960s.

In O'Malley, Catholics should find a spiritual leader who can work with them toward common goals. And there is none of more immediate importance than reaching a financial settlement with the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Only when the victims are made whole and policies put firmly in place to prevent future abuse will O'Malley be able to concentrate freely on the important housing, health, immigration, job training, and educational missions of the archdiocese.

The archbishop-designate appears open both to persuasion and to the suffering of others - signs of true leadership. As bishop, he helped restore the moral ideals of the church in Fall River and again in the Palm Beach Diocese in South Florida. Greater Boston still awaits such restoration.

Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic lay monk and prolific author, described in a ''A Parliament of Souls'' how ''suffering is an education in compassion. Everyone we meet who needs us, in some way, they're teaching us. They're leading us.'' Expectations are great that O'Malley will not only provide leadership but will accept direction from the laity, including the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

There is a longing in the Boston archdiocese for sound judgment and virtue. Young people want guidance from priests on how to make a difference. Adults seek guidance on better relationships. And many who have avoided the church of late are eager to reconnect. In concert with O'Malley, parishioners are poised to help the church grow beyond the scandal and take on new life.

This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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