Sex-Abuse Scandal Focus of Fla. Job

By David Weber
Boston Herald
July 1, 2003

Those familiar with Bishop Sean O'Malley's tenure as the head of the troubled Palm Beach, Fla., Catholic diocese said he seemed determined to clean up the mess he inherited, but didn't have enough time to complete the job.

In September, O'Malley took over the Palm Beach diocese in the midst of its own pedophile priest crisis and a scandal involving misappropriation of church funds.

"When these scandals broke, I was outraged," said Edward M. Ricci, a prominent West Palm Beach lawyer who helped raise $875 million for Catholic institutions in South Florida over the past 10 years. "I set up a boycott and demanded transparency and openness with regard to the pedophile priest scandal. I was getting nowhere."

O'Malley arrived on the scene, and Ricci immediately wrote to him and detailed his concerns. "He called me personally and met with me personally on Dec. 19 for an hour and a half. He was candid and open and said he was not going to tolerate any more abuse," Ricci said.

But Ricci also said O'Malley did not make widespread changes in the diocese. "There is no evidence of major changes. He really hadn't done anything yet. He was studying everything. He's been putting out forest fires, but he hadn't cleared out any closets," Ricci said.

Ricci predicted O'Malley will impress Boston with his humble aura. "He prefers to wear his Franciscan robe and sandals. I think he'll refuse to live in the mansion (archbishop's residence) in Brighton. He won't have the trappings of medieval nobility.

"I think you're getting a man who is genuine and sincere. But he's not open to the press. His view is the church washes its laundry in its own house," Ricci said. "But it's a sad commentary that he comes out of a religious order instead of diocesan seminaries. I think Rome is sending a message to the United States. The message is Sean O'Malley is Mr. Fix-It, and we had to go outside our own guys to clean up this mess."


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