Many See Selection As a Reward for Tackling a Tough Job

By Mac Daniel and Brian MacQuarrie
Boston Globe
February 23, 2006

"He said that he was going to reach out, he was going to be there for us, help us heal," Alexa MacPherson, with lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, said of Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley during a press conference yesterday. "In fact, after he wrote that check, he's been nowhere to be found."
(John Tluymacki/ Globe Staff)

Despite scattered grumbling about the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and parish closings, many Boston-area Catholics greeted Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's selection as cardinal yesterday as a reward for his work during turbulent times and a point of pride for the archdiocese.

"I'm very pleased about it," said Mary Hayes of Boston, as she arrived for noon Mass at St. Francis Chapel at the Prudential Center.

"He came in here to solve the problem, and I think he's done a very good job," she said, referring to the clergy sexual-abuse scandal that rocked the archdiocese under Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who resigned in December 2002 and was succeeded by O'Malley.

"I'm delighted," said Rich Salvaggio of Natick, who also attended the Mass, citing what he called O'Malley's "hidden strength" and "fortitude in the midst of turmoil inside and outside the church."

The Rev. John Wykes, director of St. Francis Chapel, praised O'Malley's humility while speculating that a tough job might become harder with a cardinal's added responsibilities as papal adviser.

"He's a very good man in a very difficult position," Wykes said. "It's not easy being archbishop in Boston. Everyone will agree to that, whether you're liberal or conservative."

Raymond L. Flynn, the former Boston mayor who served as US ambassador to the Vatican, said that making O'Malley a cardinal is a sign that his work is not over. "I don't think the chapter completely closes," Flynn said. "But I think there's an opportunity now for the healing to begin."

But Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represented some of the 550 victims in the $85 million settlement reached in 2003 over clergy sexual abuse, said that many of his clients called yesterday to express their displeasure.

"They feel as though he's being promoted for a job not very well done, just like Cardinal Law was promoted for a job not very well done," Garabedian said.

"They feel as though Archbishop O'Malley's job was to come in here and sweep the clergy sexual-abuse crisis under the rug, and he's done so."

Garabedian said neither healing Masses nor promised workshops to help victims have been held, and victims have had problems getting reimbursed for counseling.

"It's as though the clergy sexual abuse crisis never existed," he said. "It's quiet, it's silent, and it's secret, and that adds up to pain for victims."

Alexa MacPherson, 31, of Holbrook, who said she was abused between the ages of 3 and 9 by a Dorchester priest and was part of the $85 million settlement, said the money is not enough.

"He said that he was going to reach out, he was going to be there for us, help us heal," she said during a press conference organized by Garabedian.

"In fact, after he wrote that check, he's been nowhere to be found," she said.

In response, Terrence C. Donilon, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a statement: "As the archbishop stated earlier today, he has met with survivors and their families. He continues to meet with them. Considerable work has been done, but more needs to be done."

Lingering anger over church closings engineered by O'Malley also resurfaced yesterday.

"I felt like I got stabbed in the back," said Ann DiFeo, 63, who now prays in her East Boston living room and attends services at another parish because her church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was ordered shut.

"I think he's afraid to face the people," DiFeo said of O'Malley. "I think he should be a man and tell us what's going on. The way they went about closing the churches, I think it's barbaric."

Mary Akoury, 69, a parishioner at St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, which was given a reprieve from closure, said that although O'Malley's elevation is a tribute to Boston Catholics, "it does not solve the issues of the archdiocese."

"Hopefully, this is not a sign from the Vatican to say that the issues . . . have been solved . . . but rather a form of support to address the issues within the archdiocese," she said.

Mac Daniel can be reached at Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.