O'Malley Hits the Ground Running

By Tom Mashberg and Eric Convey
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
August 1, 2003

Archbishop Sean O'Malley exploded out of the gate during his first full day on the job yesterday - assigning two bishops, meeting with key archdiocesan councils and putting a new lawyer in charge of clergy sexual-abuse cases.

Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who ran the archdiocese during the gap between Bernard Cardinal Law's Dec. 13 resignation and O'Malley's installation Wednesday, is now vicar general and will become moderator of the curia Aug. 11.

The move makes Lennon O'Malley's No. 2 man and gives him significant influence over day-to-day operations. More significantly in the long run, it puts him on a traditional track to lead his own diocese someday. The unassuming former seminary rector earned kudos from many church insiders for bringing a steady hand to an archdiocese undergoing wrenching upheaval.

Numerous church watchers think Lennon will wind up leading the Diocese of Worcester, which needs a replacement for retiring Bishop Daniel P. Reilly.

O'Malley also transferred Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, the current vicar general, to be regional bishop for the West Region of the archdiocese as of Sept. 1.

The personnel shifts are essentially lateral but mark a significant change for Edyvean after years in Rome and then the Boston chancery on Lake Street.

O'Malley also met yesterday with two archdiocesan bodies: the College of Consultors and the Finance Council.

The latter would have to approve any settlement with victims, a growing possibility in the aftermath of O'Malley's installation.

"High on Archbishop Sean's agenda is settling these abuse cases," said his spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne. "That is why he is using outside counsel to move these matters forward."

The lawyer O'Malley appointed to handle abuse matters, Thomas H. Hannigan Jr. of Ropes & Gray, represented O'Malley in settling claims in Fall River involving former priest James R. Porter when O'Malley ran the Southeastern Massachusetts diocese.

"It is my hope that attorney Hannigan's expertise in facilitating settlements in matters such as this will move the process towards a just and timely resolution," O'Malley said in a statement.

"It is obvious Archbishop Sean has put a person in place who he can work more closely with to be more involved in the settlement," said plaintiffs' lawyer Mitchell Garabedian yesterday. "We heard the words (Wednesday), and we're seeing some action (yesterday)."

Joe Gallagher of the victims' rights group Survivors First, who has been skeptical of O'Malley, said of the move, "That's a good first day for this guy."

Attorney Carmen L. Durso was not convinced by the move.

"It doesn't mean much," he said. "The course of events in other dioceses is that the general counsel did not litigate these cases."

Calls to the Rogers Law Firm, which will continue to handle other legal work for the archdiocese, were not returned yesterday.

Hannigan issued a statement yesterday saying he would not make any public comments.

O'Malley does not have any public events scheduled in the next few days. He spent yesterday meeting with relatives who traveled to Boston for his installation.

Among them was his father, Theodore, who told the Herald his son "made me mighty proud."


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