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JULY 30, 2003

For many Catholics, a positive impression

By Peter Demarco, Globe Correspondent, 7/2/2003

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Excerpts from O'Malley's remarks
Cardinal Law's statement

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Bishop O'Malley led the Fall River diocese during the James Porter sex abuse scandal in the early 1990s.  
Coverage from the archives

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Coverage of Law's resignation

rchbishop-elect Sean Patrick O'Malley didn't have to utter a word yesterday to convince Sister Linda Greenwood of Lowell that he is the right man for the job. His clothing said it all.

''Just look at his dress ... it's so simple,'' she said of the traditional floor-length, hooded brown robe and sandals of O'Malley's order, the Capuchin friars. ''God knew how wounded we were. He knew we needed a humble man.''

Whether they caught a snippet of O'Malley on television, heard him address the Boston Archdiocese on the radio or merely glanced at his biography in the newspaper, most Boston-area Catholics interviewed yesterday had a positive first impression of their new spiritual leader, chosen by the pope yesterday to succeed Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

O'Malley's task in righting an archdiocese rocked by the sexual abuse crisis will not be easy, many said. At the same time, they expressed confidence in his abilities, citing his work resolving sexual abuse issues in the Fall River and Palm Beach, Fla., dioceses.

Elizabeth Snook, 45, a software saleswoman from Melrose, was pleasantly surprised by how direct and to the point O'Malley was in his address yesterday.

''He used some really excellent words when talking about the settlement. He said that this is something we have to do ... that this is not a hush fund - we're going to pay the victims. That's a different approach,'' she said.

The Rev. Richard Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Paul's Church in Wellesley, praised Bishop Richard G. Lennon's work as the archdiocese's temporary administrator. To move ahead, however, he said someone with O'Malley's credentials was needed as Law's permanent successor.

''It's obvious that a man of experience in these matters can only help,'' he said. ''The reaction to him in Fall River was positive. I'm hopeful he can do the same thing in Boston.''

Larry Bloom, business manager at St. Julia Parish in Weston, who as a lawyer has represented churches in sex abuse cases, said O'Malley's quiet ways, his humility, and his honesty are badly needed.

Still, he said, the new archbishop will probably have a rough time at first.

''He's not going to walk on water. It's going to be very painful to get ourselves out of this quagmire,'' Bloom said.

Victor Resmini, a parishioner at St. Paul's, said that O'Malley can't be humble when eradicating abusive priests.

''It doesn't matter whether he's a Jesuit, a Franciscan, or whatever,'' he said. ''The most important thing is that when he finds out about priests causing trouble, get rid of them, period.''

Emerging from morning Mass at St. Margaret Mary Church in Westwood, Joe Weider of Westwood said that O'Malley must reach out to the laity more than his predecessors.

''Give the laity more real duties in the parish, and make it more of a real team,'' he said.

Other Catholics were impressed with O'Malley's Spanish - one of several foreign languages he speaks - to answer questions yesterday.

''Communication is not going to be a problem,'' said Sharon Acevedo, manager of Restaurante San Vicente on Broadway in Everett, which features Salvadoran cuisine.

Carol Luddecke, a parishioner at St. Agnes in Arlington, said she hoped O'Malley would learn from mistakes made by past church leaders - and not repeat them.

''The last thing I want is for the victims to all get paid off and made to shut up ... and have everyone go back to thinking everything is OK,'' she said.

Globe correspondents Jan Brogan and Carlene Hempel contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A25 of the Boston Globe on 7/2/2003.
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