Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley has invited state lawmakers to meet next week at a Beacon Hill club, an unusual sit down between Catholic hierarchy and the legislative rank-and-file that one two-decade state representative called unprecedented in his tenure.
O’Malley will meet with lawmakers on Oct. 17 for an “informal continental breakfast” at the Union Club, according to an invitation sent to members who represent districts within the Boston Archdiocese. Legislators “will be provided an overview of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office and the key social service programs provided by Catholic Charities and related organizations.”
A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed that the private meeting with a large group of lawmakers was the first of its kind since O’Malley was named archbishop in 2003.
The meeting comes as Beacon Hill power brokers have signaled a willingness to pursue legislation extending the statute of limitations in civil sexual abuse cases. Catholic officials have previously opposed the legislation, which would allow alleged victims to bring cases until they turn 55 years old, regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse had occurred. A separate bill would open a one-year window for those over 55 to report allegations.
But the invitation focused on a less controversial subject matter, common ground, calling it an opportunity for legislators to discuss with O’Malley “shared priorities as we work for the good of our local communities.”
O’Malley, who took control of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston amid the clergy sex scandal that had engulfed it, enjoys a significantly more favorable position among legislators than did his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, who ruled the Archdiocese when much of the sexual abuse took place. O’Malley has won plaudits for increased transparency within the Archdiocese, and for a warmer personal mien that contrasts with Law’s often magisterial bearing.
Still, the church does not command the presence on Beacon Hill that it once did, when local Catholic leaders held tremendous sway. Some lawmakers remain angry at what they viewed as overly aggressive lobbying techniques church officials used in opposition to gay marriage.