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Spotlight Report

Changes unfold at The Pilot newspaper

Editor departing, layoffs are set, move weighed

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 5/15/2002

The Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston has laid off one of its two full-time reporters, is considering moving from its downtown headquarters, and has replaced its longtime top editor.

The changes are the result of budget woes and a transition in the paper's management that pre-date the clergy sexual abuse crisis, according to church officials.

Monsignor Peter V. Conley, the longtime editor of The Pilot who ceased handling the paper's day-to-day operations last fall, will officially leave the paper this week. Since September, Conley's sole duty has been writing the paper's editorials, and he drew nationwide attention in March with an editorial which said that questions such as the role of priestly celibacy and whether the priesthood attracts a disproportionate number of gay men ''have taken on an urgency and will not slip quietly away.''

Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the publisher of The Pilot, immediately distanced himself from the editorial, saying it ''unfortunately created confusion'' and that ''it is not the editorial position of The Pilot that clerical celibacy should be reviewed by the church with the purpose of a change in discipline.''

Although Conley's March editorial promised that the paper would address ''the questions that circulate around the issue of ordaining women'' the following week, that editorial was never published. The paper recently said that at some point it will publish opinion pieces on that subject.

A spokesman for Law said yesterday that the March editorial had nothing to do with Conley leaving The Pilot, and the cardinal issued a statement praising the departing editor.

''During his tenure The Pilot has greatly benefited from his intelligence, his wit, and his skills as a gifted writer,'' Law said.

Conley said he has known since last September that he would be leaving The Pilot after 11 years at the paper's helm. Last fall Law brought in a new editor, Antonio Enrique, and since that time, Conley has held the title of executive editor, contributing editorials to the paper with the understanding that once Enrique was comfortable in the job, Conley would leave the paper entirely.

Conley, a former director of communications for the archdiocese, is now serving as pastor of Saint Jude Church in Norfolk and as the vicar of the Norwood region, a job in which he helps oversee 20 regional parishes.

Conley said he believes that his March editorial ''could have been clearer,'' but that he stands by his basic point, saying ''those questions are still the questions. I'm not saying let's have a free-for-all, but you at least have to honor the questioners.''

The paper, which claims to be America's oldest Catholic newspaper, also is laying off a reporter, Stacie N. Galang, has laid off some advertising workers, and is expected to move from the Franklin Street offices it has occupied for the last three years, Conley said. The cuts are part of a broader retrenchment in archdiocesan spending ordered by Law last fall in response to a budget crunch. Conley said The Pilot employs about 11 people to publish the weekly newspaper and the annual Boston Catholic Directory.

Enrique did not return a call seeking comment.

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 5/15/2002.
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