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Many hope O'Malley will grant demands

Closings, scandal remain concerns

WELLESLEY -- Catholic groups struggling to keep open parishes that are slated to close and advocates of further investigation of the clergy sexual abuse scandal joined yesterday in congratulating Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley on his elevation today to cardinal, but they said that O'Malley should mark his elevation by granting their demands.

These include sending priests to the disputed parishes for Holy Week, agreeing to keep all the parishes open permanently, and supporting proposed legislation that would remove the statute of limitations and the cap on monetary damages in cases of child sexual abuse.

Many speakers at a press conference at St. James the Great Church in Wellesley praised O'Malley, but said that the closings and consolidations of Boston-area churches that he oversaw following the sexual abuse scandal were botched by administrators appointed by his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

''With Archbishop Sean's elevation to cardinal, he has been given a second chance" to redress errors made in parish reconfiguration, said Jon Rogers of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Scituate, which has been occupied by parishioners keeping a 24-hour vigil against closure since October 2004. ''His first steps in rebuilding must be to reopen the vigiling churches," of which there are now six, ''and restore them to the level of fully functioning parishes."

Finally, Rogers said, O'Malley should ''purge his organization of the management level left behind by Bernard Law," who resigned his post as head of the Archdiocese of Boston as a result of the sexual-abuse scandal.

Steve A. Krueger, an activist in the Coalition to Reform Sexual Abuse Laws in Massachusetts, congratulated O'Malley and praised the grace with which he has accepted his elevation. But he said that if O'Malley wants to ensure children's safety and justice for victims of abuse, he will support bills to end the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and remove the cap on monetary damages that may be assessed to punish such abuse.

Terrence C. Donilon, chief spokesman for the archdiocese, said: ''The archbishop continues to pray for a peaceful resolution to those parishes still in vigil. In light of the fact that the archbishop is in Rome . . . the archdiocese will reserve further comment at this time."

O'Malley, in an interview last week, acknowledged ''mistakes in methodology" in the closings.

Peter Borre, cochairman of the Council of Parishes, which arranged the press conference, said those present hope that in the aftermath of his elevation O'Malley will put an end to the occupations of churches and vigils by deciding to keep the protesting parishes open. But Borre added that if O'Malley does not, the group would bring civil suit in Massachusetts courts this spring.

The archdiocese has closed 62 of 357 parishes since 2004. In January, a Vatican agency announced that it had rejected the appeals of the closed parishes.

Charles A. Radin can be reached at radin@globe.com.

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