Bishop Accountability
  Vatican Naming New Leader For Archdiocese of Boston

Interview of John Allen, Jr. by Carol Costello
CNN Live at Daybreak
June 30, 2003 at 5:09 am

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: This news just into CNN now. The Vatican is naming a new leader for the Archdiocese of Boston. You might recall back in December, Cardinal Bernard Law left his post there amid the church's clergy abuse scandal.
For more on this developing story, John Allen joins us live on the phone from Rome. He is the Vatican correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter" and he breaks this story for us.

Who is it going to be, John?

JOHN ALLEN, "NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER": Well, the news is -- and the "National Catholic Reporter" will be posting this story on our Web site in a couple of hours -- but the news is it will be Bishop Sean O'Malley from Palm Beach, Florida.

Bishop O'Malley is, he is a member of the Capuchin Franciscans. He was named to Palm Beach a year ago, in part because of his very strong track record on dealing with the crisis of priest sexual abuse in his previous diocese, which was Fall River, Massachusetts. You may remember that was the home of the scandals back in the early '90s related to Father James Porter, who a priest who eventually pled guilty to 41 felony counts of sex abuse that took place at five Massachusetts parishes in the '60s.

And O'Malley got very high marks for dealing with that scandal. He was put into Palm Beach, which is, it's a diocese that has had its own problems. Two bishops had resigned in the last five years related to the sex abuse crisis.

So he is, if you like, the Catholic Church's fix it man on this issue and he is now being sent in, obviously, the archdiocese with the deepest crisis of all, in Boston.

COSTELLO: Oh, you're not kidding, because many Catholics are still very hurt on that and financial contributions to the church in Boston way down. What do you think Bishop O'Malley has to do once he is officially named?

ALLEN: Well, you know, we've been saying all along that I think there are sort of five interlocking, you know, challenges here.

I mean one is the sort of restoring confidence in the pastoral leadership in that diocese.

The second is the financial question that you mentioned. I mean it's an archdiocese facing severe problems. At one stage there was talk of bankruptcy.

You know, the third is the legal problem. There are some hundred lawsuits still under way facing the archdiocese, and that has to be resolved.

You know, the fourth is the administrative challenge of just putting the thing back together after several months of sort of being adrift.

And the fifth is the sort of larger national role the archbishop of Boston is going to play, because Boston has become, if you like, the symbol of this national sex abuse crisis. And the moves that O'Malley makes in Boston obviously are going to be followed not just in that archdiocese, but all across the country. He is, like it or not, going to become the spokesperson and the poster boy for how the Catholic Church responds to this crisis.

So it's an enormous challenge awaiting the bishop.

COSTELLO: Oh, you're not kidding.

It took the Vatican a long time to replace Cardinal Bernard Law. I was just curious, do you know what's become of him?

ALLEN: Well, Cardinal Law is, his residence now is in Maryland. He is assigned as a chaplain to a community of religious women, of nuns, in Maryland. But, you know, the thing is that Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop of Boston not as a continues to play a role. In Rome, for example, he's a member of some seven congregations in the Vatican and two councils. Those are the departments that make up the Vatican. He is here fairly often to take part in Vatican business and, of course, he was just participating in the meeting of the U.S. bishops in St. Louis.

So he continues to be active in his role as a cardinal and as a member of the hierarchy, although obviously no longer in Boston.

COSTELLO: Understand.

Tell us what ceremonies Bishop O'Malley will go through to take over the archdiocese in Boston.

ALLEN: Well, he becomes the archbishop of Boston from the moment that the pope makes the appointment official. So it doesn't require a ceremony in that sense. However, you know, obviously there will be a press conference where Bishop O'Malley is sort of introduced to the Boston press, and that will obviously be much followed. Then there will be a sort of installation mass, a formal mass in the cathedral in Boston where the archbishop sort of, if you like, takes possession of the archdiocese.

And obviously his words in the homily, that's when he preaches in that mass, will certainly be closely followed as an indication of what message he's bringing to the people of Boston and what kind of reassurance he can give them that, if you like, a new day is dawning.

COSTELLO: Understand.

John Allen from the "National Catholic Reporter," sharing your exclusive with us.

And we certainly appreciate it and you talking live to DAYBREAK from Rome.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.