The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Pope leaves O'Malley off his list of 31 new cardinals

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 9/29/2003

Pope John Paul II yesterday named 31 new cardinals, but passed over Boston's new archbishop, Sean P. O'Malley, as the ailing pontiff continued to shape the group that will elect his successor.

The pope will add only one American to the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Justin F. Rigali of St. Louis, who is to be installed as archbishop of Philadelphia on Oct. 7. Rigali is extraordinarily well-connected in Rome, where he worked at the Vatican for three decades.

The pope offered no explanation for how he selected the new cardinals, who will receive their red hats at a ceremony, called a consistory, on Oct. 21, just a few days after the Oct. 16 celebration of John Paul II's 25th anniversary as pope and the Oct. 19 beatification of Mother Teresa.

Some scholars had expected O'Malley to be included among this group of appointees, both because Boston's archbishops have traditionally been cardinals and because naming O'Malley a cardinal could signal the Vatican's support for him and for the Archdiocese of Boston as the new archbishop endeavors to heal the wounds caused by the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

``This is an indication that, from the Vatican's point of view, the American sexual abuse crisis is over, because if they felt it was a burning issue, O'Malley, rather than Rigali, would have gotten the red hat,'' said John L. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. ``The crisis response that drove O'Malley's appointment in the first place has been set aside, and ordinary logic has been allowed to resurface. Rigali had been in the queue a lot longer, and he has very important friends in Rome.''

In the eyes of the Vatican, Boston already has a cardinal, Bernard F. Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston last December and who now resides at a convent in Maryland. Law, 71, resigned amid controversy over his failure to remove sexually abusive priests from ministry, but he remains an active member of the College of Cardinals, serving as a member of numerous Vatican congregations that oversee the church bureaucracy, and entitled to vote in papal elections until he turns 80.

O'Malley said yesterday that he was not disappointed to be left off the list.

``It's an important occasion in the life of our church. Among those men are many good friends of mine, and I'm very happy for all of them,'' O'Malley said before celebrating Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

In a statement, O'Malley praised Rigali's selection. ``He is a very gifted man of vast experience,'' O'Malley said. ``I express my congratulations to him and the other newly named cardinals from around the world.''

O'Malley said he would be in Rome for the consistory for new cardinals as part of a previously planned trip for Mother Teresa's beatification. O'Malley, a Franciscan Capuchin friar, was installed in July as the sixth archbishop of Boston.

Former mayor Raymond L. Flynn, the US ambassador to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997, said O'Malley's exclusion shows that the Vatican understands that the last thing the Boston Archdiocese needs as it emerges from the clergy abuse scandal are the pomp and circumstance of a cardinal appointment.

``This is not a time of celebration and pageantry, this is a time of bringing about stability and healing in the church in Boston,'' said Flynn, who was Boston's mayor from 1984 to 1993. ``The Holy Father, John Paul II, understood this very clearly.''

``This is certainly no commentary on the Vatican's confidence in Archbishop O'Malley,'' said the pope's American biographer, George Weigel, who is the director of the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. ``Perhaps Boston is being gently reminded that no see, however venerable, is `owed' a cardinal - a lesson St. Louis and Baltimore have had to learn in the past.''

The pope announced the names of 30 of the new cardinals during his greeting to visitors at St. Peter's yesterday. He did not release one of the names, a practice that usually suggests that the prelate to be promoted lives in a country where Catholics are oppressed.

Rigali, 68, who will be the leader of 1.5 million Catholics in Philadelphia, enjoys a personal relationship with the pope and key Vatican officials. He is considered a close friend of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who plays an important role in choosing which bishops are to be promoted. Rigali, a Los Angeles native, spent much of his career at the Vatican, attending the Second Vatican Council, working as a translator for Pope Paul VI, and accompanying Pope John Paul II on several journeys. He has held the rank of archbishop for 18 years, nine as a member of the Roman curia and nine as archbishop of St. Louis. In 1999 he hosted John Paul II on a visit to St. Louis - the only time the pope has ever visited the United States and stopped in just one diocese.

``Justin Rigali has two advantages over Sean O'Malley: He has been an archbishop for years and has a powerful patron in Cardinal Re, who heads the Congregation for Bishops, where Rigali worked before going to St. Louis,'' said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame. ``Obviously, the key decision-makers, including Re, who act in the ailing pope's name, think that it's too soon to promote O'Malley. There may also have been a concern about slighting Cardinal Law so soon after his forced resignation.''

Rigali has been criticized by some advocates for clergy sex abuse victims. David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has said that Rigali has been among the least compassionate American bishops in dealing with clergy sex abuse.

``To see someone with Rigali's track record rise even higher in the hierarchy feels like rubbing salt into the wounds of people who are already deeply wounded,'' Clohessy told the Associated Press yesterday. ``He has been pretty consistently hostile to victims.''

Rigali has said that some abuse victims have been ``tremendously shaken up,'' and he said church officials have to help those who have suffered.

It is rare for one non-Italian diocese to be represented by two cardinals of voting age, but it has happened at least once before: In February 1998, the pope made Archbishop Christoph SchConborn of Vienna a cardinal, even though his predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann GroCer, was still under age 80. But GroCer, who had resigned as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after being accused of having sexually abused minors, turned 80 in 1999, so Vienna had two cardinal-electors for a relatively short period of time.

O'Malley visited the North Shore parish yesterday to honor its pastor, the Rev. James J. Harrington, who was celebrating 50 years as a priest. After the Mass, parishioner John Gilmore stood outside and said he was disappointed that O'Malley was passed over.

Gilmore, 76, said Boston, the nation's fourth largest archdiocese and home to 2 million Catholics, should be recognized with its own cardinal, particularly as it recovers from the clergy abuse scandal. ``The Archdiocese of Boston deserves it,'' he said. ``It would send a message that we're on the mend.''

But fellow parishioner Bill Otterbein said O'Malley has enough to do rebuilding the Boston Archdiocese, rather than concentrating on the concerns of a cardinal, such as who should be the next pope.

``He's got plenty to do here in Boston to rectify the sins of the flock,'' said Otterbein, 46. ``I can't say I'm disappointed.''

The makeup of the College of Cardinals has been in increasing focus as John Paul II's health has flagged. He had not been expected to name new cardinals until February, but moved up the announcement as his ailments worsened.

The 83-year-old pontiff suffers from Parkinson's disease and arthritis that have made it difficult for him to stand or walk, and sometimes even to speak. He appeared particularly weak during a trip earlier this month to Slovakia, and last week he had to cancel a public appearance because of intestinal trouble.

As a result of yesterday's announcement, there will now be 135 cardinals under age 80, of whom all but five were appointed by John Paul II.

``In appointing cardinals, John Paul II has done what anyone would do if they were pope - he has appointed men who agree with him on the major issues that face the church,'' said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of America magazine, a Jesuit weekly.

``The next conclave, as a result, will not elect someone who will reject the legacy of John Paul. With the next pope, we will see more continuity than change.''

Over the course of his papacy, John Paul II has tried to boost the geographic diversity of the college of cardinals, gradually reducing the number of Italians and increasing the number of cardinals from the Third World. But yesterday's appointments mark a slight retrenchment, Reese said: Latin America lost ground, while Europe gained ground slightly as a percentage of the College of Cardinals. Cardinals from the developing world now make up 38 percent of the college, while Europeans make up 49 percent, and US cardinals make up 8 percent.

Michael Paulson can be reached at Globe correspondent John McElhenny contributed from Manchester-by-the-Sea. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

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