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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Pope to Name New Leader of Boston Archdiocese

Aired June 30, 2003 - 06:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Just in this morning: a new leader, a big job. The Boston Archdiocese is getting a new leader, Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley. He replaces Cardinal Bernard Law, who left the diocese facing 500 sexual abuse claims against his clergy.
Live on the phone from Rome, John Allen of the "National Catholic Reporter," the man who broke the story.

Good morning. Are you there?

JOHN ALLEN, "NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER": Yes, I'm here.

COSTELLO: Oh, good morning. Tell us more about Bishop O'Malley. Who is he? Where is he from?

ALLEN: Well, as you say, my paper, the "National Catholic Reporter," is reporting today on the basis of Vatican sources that O'Malley is going to Boston. The official announcement is expected tomorrow or the next day.

O'Malley was born in Ohio, was bishop of the Fall River Diocese in Massachusetts for 10 years, from 1992 to 2002; therefore, he knows the Boston scene and the Boston people quite well.

In Boston he was -- or in Fall River, rather, he was brought in to deal with the crisis surrounding Father James Porter, who was sort of the John Geoghan of the early '90s. Porter eventually -- a priest, eventually pled guilty to 41 felony counts of sexual abuse of minors relating to incidents from five parishes in Massachusetts during the '60s. O'Malley then in 2002 was transferred to Palm Beach, where two bishops in five years had been forced to step down connected to the sex abuse crisis.

In both places, O'Malley won very high marks for two things: one, outreach to victims, meeting with victims, taking their concern seriously; the other was putting in place very aggressive policies to try to make sure that abuse doesn't happen again. So, in that sense, he would be sort of the Catholic church's fix-it man on the sex abuse issue, and therefore no surprise he was on the inside track for Boston.

COSTELLO: Oh, John, but he has such a big job in Boston, $40 million paid out to victims, 10 million of which was a settlement to -- you know, for just one priest who was accused of dozens and dozens of sexual attacks against young people in the church.

ALLEN: Yes, it's an astonishingly, mind bogglingly, complex assignment. And, of course, it's not just the sex abuse crisis either. I mean, there is a wider crisis of confidence in Boston related to, you know, the trustworthiness of the church's leadership. There is also a very serious financial problem. I mean, as you know, a few months ago they were actually talking about bankruptcy in order to deal with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

So, it's an enormously complex assignment, maybe the most difficult bishop's appointment in the history of the American Catholic church.

But I think the other way to look at that is if you're Sean O'Malley -- I mean, if you're facing -- if Pope John Paul II is facing the most difficult, the most complicated job in the American Catholic church ever and you're the man he picks, I mean, that's an enormous vote of confidence. I think O'Malley starts off knowing that the highest leadership in the church has faith in his capacity to pull this off.

COSTELLO: Yes, it might be the highest honor, but it's also -- I mean, talk about pressure.

ALLEN: Oh, well, I mean, it's a job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy obviously. I mean, you know, the -- and it's not just the situation in Boston either. I mean, the truth is that Boston and Cardinal Law became the national and international symbol of this crisis. So, certainly the whole country, and in a way the whole world, is going to be watching O'Malley's every move and putting everything he does under a microscope. And so, certainly the pressure cooker dynamic of this assignment is going to be extraordinarily intense.

On the other hand, I think there is -- you know, the good thing here is that O'Malley is not an unknown quantity to the Catholics in Massachusetts. They remember him basically fondly from those 10 years in Fall River. So, I think he starts with some goodwill in that regard.

Also on a personal level, O'Malley is not the sort of stern authority figure we associated with Cardinal Law. He's very open, very approachable. He's known almost universally as "Bishop Sean," often wears his simple brown habit. He's a member of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans. So, I think he certainly will bring a different kind of style, and I think that will be helpful.

COSTELLO: Hopefully so. John Allen of the "National Catholic Reporter" sharing his exclusive with us this morning. Many thanks to you, John.

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