A Signal That O'Malley Is Here for the Long Haul

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
February 23, 2006

From the moment Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley arrived in Boston with a reputation as an itinerant troubleshooter, some priests and lay people thought he would settle the abuse lawsuits, close the struggling parishes, and move on.

No more. Many observers said yesterday that they view the selection of O'Malley as cardinal as a strong signal that he will be archbishop of Boston for the long haul and that Boston Catholics should now accept that the unassuming and enigmatic friar is here to stay.

"Boston and O'Malley have to make this marriage work," said James M. Weiss, an associate professor of church history at Boston College. "It's no secret that O'Malley has expressed discouragement and that lay leaders, clergy, and the local media have expressed unhappiness with him, but this is the Vatican saying to him, 'You're not moving,' and to local Catholics, 'You have to work with him.' "

Unlike many new bishops and in sharp contrast to the experience of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who arrived in Boston in 1984, O'Malley has had essentially no honeymoon period here. As a result, the public perception of him has been shaped by ongoing controversies over parish closings, same-sex marriage, abuse lawsuits, priest transfers, and multiple other controversies that have dominated O'Malley's first 2 1/2 years in office.

"He came in with such high hopes and good press, and at his sermon the day he was installed people had a sense that he struck just the right tone after the long scandal and Law's role in that," said James O'Toole, a history professor at Boston College. "But then with the parish consolidation, he lost a lot of the capital that he had built up, because there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the way it was done."


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