St. Petersburg Times

Print storySubscribe to the Times

Like new archbishop, ceremony humble

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 31, 2003

BOSTON - Sean Patrick O'Malley begged forgiveness from the victims of clergy sexual abuse Wednesday as he was installed as the new Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and promised a new start for a community fractured by scandal.

During a ceremony marked by simplicity and humor, O'Malley asked for prayers and help as he tries to rebuild the archdiocese, heal the wounds of victims and restore the confidence of ordinary Catholics.

O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, also made it a point to thank "so many good priests struggling to make sense out of it all," a remark that drew sustained applause from the approximately 900 clergymen in the audience at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

"The whole Catholic community is ashamed and anguished because of the pain and damage inflicted on so many young people and because of our inability or unwillingness to deal with the crime of sexual abuse of minors," O'Malley said in his homily. "To those victims and to their families, we beg forgiveness and assure them that the Catholic church is working to create a safe environment for young people."

O'Malley, 59, is the sixth archbishop of Boston and has one of the best reputations among national Catholic leaders for dealing with abuse-related issues.

He succeeds Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in December as evidence mounted that church leaders shuffled abusive priests from parish to parish to keep allegations against them secret.

More than 500 lawsuits are pending from people who claim they were sexually abused by priests over the past six decades. A report by the state attorney general said it's likely more than 1,000 people were abused by hundreds of priests since 1940.

The installation ceremony at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was low-key, in keeping with O'Malley's humble demeanor as a friar and in deference to the victims of abuse.

O'Malley also asked to be called by his first name and will be known as "Archbishop Sean."

Gary Bergeron, 41, who said both he and his younger brother were sexually abused by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham in the 1970s, was one of dozens of alleged victims who were invited to attend the installation ceremony. Some declined the invitation, but Bergeron attended with his parents.

"I think that his message was on target on all aspects," Bergeron said of O'Malley's homily. "Today is the first time I've felt a compassion from a church official in a long, long time."

The ceremony had some light moments, like when O'Malley - who has had assignments in Florida and the Caribbean - talked about the "lovely vacation spots" where he has served as bishop.

"My Provincial used to say, "O'Malley, when will you get a real job?' Well, Brother Paul, does this count?" O'Malley said, prompting laughter from the crowd of 2,500.

Elsewhere in today's world and national news
  • 'Man who invented rock 'n' roll' dies at 80
  • 'Daughter's' claim a hoax
  • Like new archbishop, ceremony humble
  • One nickel jingles like a fortune
  • Bush touches on wide range of concerns
  • Study: China beefing up for Taiwan attack
  • Obituaries of note
  • African warlord dies in custody
  • Liberian strife flares on eve of intervention
  • Churches want cleanliness next to godliness
  • Dear Nessie, give us a sign you're there

  • Iraq
  • Army does whatever it takes to bring calm
  • Hussein hunt combines high-, low-tech skills
  • World Bank: Loan may have to wait

  • Nation in brief
  • ACLU, Arab groups file challenge to Patriot Act

  • World in brief
  • Truck-boat Cubans apply to enter U.S.
  • Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111