Church Takes Action on New Leaders

TCPalm [Florida]
July 3, 2003

Catholics on the Treasure Coast were just getting to know Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley, but what they knew they universally seemed to like.

The talents that brought O'Malley last October to the position of bishop of the troubled Diocese of Palm Beach, however, also made him a candidate for the even more beleaguered Archdiocese of Boston which has been at the center of the firestorm over sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy in the United States.

On Tuesday, Pope John Paul II named the 59-year-old Franciscan friar to assume leadership of the Church in Boston and its 2.1 million members. O'Malley succeeds Cardinal Bernard Law who resigned as archbishop last December amid intense criticism of his handling of sex abuse cases by clergy within the archdiocese.

O'Malley came to the Diocese of Palm Beach, which covers a five-county area that includes St. Lucie, in an effort to bring healing to the diocese which had seen its two previous bishops resign after admitting to sexual misconduct earlier in their careers at other dioceses. Bishop J. Keith Symons left in 1998 and Bishop Anthony O'Connell left last year.

O'Malley arrived in Palm Beach after serving as bishop in Fall River, Mass., near Boston, where he had earned praise for his handling of abuse cases in that area. In Palm Beach, he brought that same kind of understanding and instituted new sex abuse policies including the strict screening of priests, employees and volunteers who work with children.

In Boston, O'Malley will be facing about 500 sexual abuse claims against the Church, the threat of bankruptcy and a membership that has become distrustful of Church leadership. It is a daunting task and one for which we sincerely hope O'Malley will be successful.

Moving rapidly, the Church also named The Most Reverend Gerald Barbarito, bishop in Ogdensburg in rural upstate New York, to become the next bishop in Palm Beach.

In introducing himself Tuesday to priests, nuns and lay people at the diocese headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Barbarito said, "I plan to stick around a long time."

We hope that he takes up where O'Malley left off and that members of the diocese want him to stick around and he is able to do so. The diocese needs some stability that it has not had. Barbarito will be the fifth bishop in the past 19 years.

We welcome Barbarito and offer our prayers to him, to all Catholics in the diocese and to the community of religious believers who desire good works rather than turmoil and disgrace.


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