2003: Five years into the journey

Thomas H. Hannigan, attorney for the Archdiocese of Boston, shakes hands with plaintiffs’ attorneys William Gordon, right, and Roderick MacLeish after an $85-million settlement was approved by Judge Constance Sweeney Sept. 9, 2003, at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. The settlement, covering 552 lawsuits from alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, came at the end of several days of intense negotiations between lawyers. CNS photo from Reuters

2003

Named to Boston See

June 30: Pope John Paul II names Bishop Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. of Palm Beach, Fla., the sixth archbishop of Boston, to succeed Cardinal Bernard Law, who had resigned. The news came just after the Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly released a 76-page report, “The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.” The report said since 1940, 237 priests and 13 church employees allegedly abused 789 children. Bishop O’Malley had served in Palm Beach for only six months, having just left the diocese of Fall River, Mass., where he was the bishop from 1992 to 2002. Boston was his fourth posting, having first become a bishop in 1984 upon his assignment to the Diocese of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, first as a bishop coadjutor and then as bishop in 1985.

Meets with Media

July 1: Flying in from Palm Beach, Fla., Archbishop-designate Seán P. O’Malley arrived in Boston close to 48 hours after learning that Pope John II had named him the next archbishop of Boston. The bishop met with victims of sexual abuse by clergy, as well as regional bishops, patients at Caritas St. Elizabeth Medical Center and employees of the archdiocese. At a press conference packed with journalists from radio, television and print, the bishop said he was shell-shocked with the news because he had thought he would spend the rest of his life in Palm Beach, never expecting to return to Massachusetts. Speaking of the grave errors made by the Church, he said he would work quickly to resolve legal actions in order to move the process of healing forward. “We must step up to the plate. People’s lives are more important than money.”

Installed

July 30: At an installation Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Metropolitan Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley assumed the throne of the Boston See.

First Mass

Aug. 2: Surprising the parishioners of Brockton’s St. Colman of Cloyne Church, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley celebrated his first public Mass at the Saturday vigil with close to 300 parishioners and their pastor Father David P. O’Donnell. All of the media attention, including The Pilot’s, was focused on the archbishop’s Aug. 3 Mass at St. Patrick Church, in Lawrence, which was billed as the first, but was not. Father O’Donnell said he was asked not to alert the media, so he only sent a few e-mails. “I was flattered, excited on behalf of the parish, and honored,” he said.

Geoghan murdered

Aug. 23: Former priest John Geoghan, 68, serving a nine to 10-year sentence for assault and battery on a boy, was murdered by John Druce, a fellow inmate at Shirley’s Souza-Baranowski Correction Center.

Archbishop holds question and answer session with diocesan priests

Sept. 2: Meeting with almost 300 priests at St. Elizabeth Church in Milton, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley led a midday prayer service that was followed by an opportunity for priests to ask their new prelate questions and voice concerns to him. The priests queried the archbishop in the private meeting about his intention to close more parishes, the status of the group “Voice of the Faithful” and changes in the policies governing priests on leave pending investigations. One priest said the archbishop learned about the priests from their questions. Another said that by holding the meeting the archbishop had made an important gesture to reach out to his priests.

Settlement

Sept. 9: Fewer than six weeks after his installation Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley reached a $90-million settlement with the victims’ representatives seeking compensation for the Church’s role in the sexual abuse of children. Participants from both sides of the negotiations credited the personal involvement of the archbishop in the talks as the key reason agreement was reached. At his installation addressing the victims and their families, the archbishop had said, “Despite the understandable anger, protests and litigation, we see you as our brothers and sisters who have been wronged.” The settlement will be funded from the sale of surplus property, not from standing funds or programs.

Mass at Old Colony Correctional Center

Nov. 26: Visiting with volunteers in prison ministry and inmates housed at the state’s maximum security prison in Bridgewater’s Old Colony Correctional Center, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley celebrated Mass and reached out to marginalized members of his flock.

Calls on priests to defend marriage, minister to each other, to support the

process forward

Dec. 16: Speaking to more than 600 Boston-area priests in an auditorium at Boston College, at the largest gathering in recent memory, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, laid out the challenges facing the archdiocese that he took over July 31, which included a very high debt, declining vocations and a parish and school structure no longer synched to where Catholics live or prefer to worship. He asked priests to be strong leaders in their parishes and to work with him to help build a stronger archdiocese.

“I have closed enough parishes in my years as a bishop,” he said. “Where pastors explain the reasons for this and give parishioners a sense of hope and excitement over the possibility of forming stronger communities, closures have been very successful,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have all seen what can happen when a pastor resists and engages in passive-aggressive behavior that immediately infects the whole parish community with a spirit of despair.”

In his address the archbishop focused on the need to defend traditional marriage. “It is crucial that we encourage our people to call on our elected officials to defend the institution of marriage,” he stated. “In no way should this be seen as promoting homophobia or cruel prejudices against members of our community, but we must call on all Catholics to be Catholic and to do the right thing--to safeguard the institution of marriage.”

Checks Disbursed

Dec. 22: All 542 of the 552 victims of sexual abuse by clergy who accepted arbitration received checks ranging from $80,000 to $300,000.

Compiled by Neil W. McCabe

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