Archbishop O’Malley’s new legal team made a settlement offer last week of $55 million, just nine days after his installation, following months of stalled negotiations. Lawyers are now putting forth a counterproposal seeking more money, but they’re voicing optimism that a settlement can be reached soon.
O’Malley, whose ancestral roots are in Westport, Co. Mayo, has spent his first few weeks greeting parishioners and well-wishers throughout the archdiocese. On Aug. 3, he celebrated Mass in Spanish at St. Patrick’s Church in Lawrence. This past Sunday, he said Mass at St. Brendan’s Church in Dorchester, where many were taken by surprise when the new archbishop showed up with little fanfare or advance publicity.
In keeping with the traditions of his Franciscan order, which call for simple and humble lifestyles, the 59-year-old O’Malley announced in last week’s archdiocesan newspaper, the Pilot, that he will be moving out of his ample residence in Brighton, on the outskirts of Boston, which has been home to the previous archbishops. He will move into upstairs quarters in the rectory of Holy Cross Cathedral in the city’s South End.
“I regret that this move comes under the glare of media attention,” he wrote. “I would have preferred to sneak out with my suitcase in the middle of the night but that was not feasible.”
He wrote that he was embarrassed by any unfair comparisons between his style and that of his predecessors, including Cardinal Law, who resigned under pressure in December. “They lived in this house to follow a tradition, begun by Cardinal O’Connell, that in the past was cherished by many Catholics of the archdiocese…” he said. “They were not worldly men who sought fancy pads.”
O’Malley, who often wears his customary hooded brown robe and sandals, is widely regarded for his work in the diocese of Fall River, Mass., where he served from 1992 to 2002. During his early years as bishop there, he dealt with the sexual abuse crisis involving Fr. James Porter, who pled guilty to molesting 28 children, including many altar boys.
The new archbishop, who prefers to be called “Bishop Sean,” was born in Lakewood, Ohio, in 1944. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Fidelis Seminary in Butler, Pa., and at the Capuchin College in Washington, D.C. He was professed in 1965 in the Capuchin Order, a religious order dedicated to following the traditions of St. Francis of Assisi. He has a master’s degree in religious education and a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese Literature, both from Catholic University. He became bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 1984, where he remained until his transfer to Fall River.
Despite a tremendous outpouring of good wishes from clergy and parishioners around the state, the relationship between the archdiocese and the secular media remains strained. The Boston Globe wasted little time in criticizing O’Malley’s views on homosexuality and abortion, and the Pilot has been firing back in a section of the diocesan newspaper entitled “For the Record” and subtitled “Responses to Various Media Misrepresentations or Misconceptions,” which takes aim at what the Pilot believes is a pattern of “Catholic bashing.”
On the same day that O’Malley was installed, Eileen McNamara wrote in a lead column in the Globe that “an intolerant friar today will be elevated to archbishop, a commentary on the homophobia that still pervades the Roman Catholic Church.”
And in an article by Globe writer Jack Thomas, O’Malley was portrayed in an unfavorable light because he supported, as bishop of Fall River 11 years ago, a pastor who removed a political candidate from her Eucharistic ministry because of her pro-abortion views.
Despite that tension, the welcome mat is out for the new archbishop throughout the archdiocese, with parishioners sensing that their new spiritual leader is about to bring healing and hope to their community.