New Bishop Installed As 11th Leader of Maine Diocese

By Clarke Canfield
Associated Press, carried in Providence Journal [Portland ME]
Downloaded March 31, 2004

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Bishop Richard J. Malone told parishioners at his installation ceremony Wednesday that he will meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse and ensure that the church is a safe place for children.

Malone was installed as the 11th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland during Mass at the Catholic of the Immaculate Conception. About 1,100 people, including 250 priests and 30 bishops, attended the event.

During his homily, Malone gave thanks to parishioners and church leaders who have weathered "the storm of the recent crisis" and remained loyal to the church while it has been rocked by widespread allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests.

He said the church has been devastated by "the terrible deeds of some of our brothers and the way those matters were sometimes handled." The church, he said, has a challenge ahead of it to restore trust.

"No one has suffered more than the victims of sexual abuse. We - I - must and will continue to reach out to them," Malone said.

A former auxiliary bishop from Boston, Malone, 58, succeeds Bishop Joseph Gerry as the spiritual leader of Maine's 234,000 Catholics.

Gerry headed the diocese for 15 years and announced his retirement on his 75th birthday last September in accordance with church law.

Malone's installation became official after Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Pope John Paul II's representative to the United States, read the papal proclamation affirming his appointment as bishop. Malone then took a pastoral staff and stood by an ornate bishop's chair as the crowd gave him a long ovation.

Malone's installation comes as the church continues to struggle in the wake of the national sex abuse scandal. In Maine, abuse claims were made against 41 priests between 1950 and 2002, according to a national survey released last month.

About 30 abuse victims and supporters held a service outside the church before the ceremony to honor the memories of deceased victims of clergy sexual abuse and to remind church officials of the devastation caused by the abuse.

Many held signs with photos of children who were abused. To personalize the abuse, the signs had the victims' first names below the photos: Bill, David, Jamie, Christine, Nancy, Sean.

Ann Hagen Webb of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said sexual abuse can be a "killer of both body and soul." Webb, who was abused as a child, welcomed Malone as the diocese's new leader.

"He can change the way things are done," said Webb. "He can protect children and reach out to survivors."

But Bob Sidorowicz of Quincy, Mass., came to Portland to protest Malone's installation. He said Malone must have known of the priest abuse and coverup in Massachusetts during his years with the Boston Archdiocese.

"He knows well what has gone on in the Boston Archdiocese for the past two decades," Sidorowicz said. "He's been involved in the shuffling around of pedophiles."

But inside the church, Wednesday was a day of celebration.

Processions of priests, bishops and a Knights of Columbus honor guard marched in fancy outfits while the choir sang and the rich sounds of the church organ filled the cathedral.

Following the Mass, Malone told reporters that he will spend much of the months ahead traveling the state to meet with clergy and laity and getting to know the parishes.

He said he will give high priority to sexual abuse issues, but also intends to focus on other needs within the church, such as how to stem the declining numbers of priests and whether the parish network in Maine needs to be restructured.

Malone was raised north of Boston, graduated in 1964 from St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., and later attended St. John's Seminary, Boston University and the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. He was ordained as a priest in 1972.

Malone has had a long-standing interest in Catholic education and has taught in high school and college.

Since 1995 he has overseen all educational activities for the Archdiocese of Boston. In 2000, he was ordained as auxiliary bishop of the Boston archdiocese, serving as regional bishop of the archdiocese's south region.

Malone is the fourth priest from the Boston archdiocese to be appointed bishop of the Portland diocese. But he is the first bishop since Peter Gerety, who served from 1969-1974, to have come from outside Maine.

Gerry is originally from Millinocket. The late Edward O'Leary, who was bishop of the diocese from 1974-1989, was a Bangor native.

Gerry is returning to the Saint Anselm monastery in Manchester, N.H., where he spent most of his adult life as a Benedictine monk before coming to Maine.