Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mantras of O'Malleyization

So I've been combing through the full transcript of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's session with editors and reporters of the Boston Globe, which was summarized in yesterday's paper. And some interesting things -- at least, those things which perked my antennae -- were there which didn't get to fit in print.

When the question of adoptions by same-sex couples came up, O'Malley took pains to note that the eight members of the Boston Catholic Charities board who resigned in protest of the archdiocese's request of an exemption from a Massachusetts anti-discrimination statute did so of their own accord. "No one asked anyone to leave the board," the Boston prelate said.

"Obviously, we know that there are Catholics who have dissenting ideas on church doctrine, and in many ways, it's a great challenge to us to try and to educate and motivate people to understand what the church's teachings are."

The most notable comment, however, came from John Kaneb, a member of the archdiocesan financial council. After Cardinal Sean had made his reply on the adoptions, Kaneb piped in to say that "My son is chairman of the Catholic Charities board, and he disagrees with the church's teaching. And he's still a chairman of the Catholic Charities board. And I don't believe everybody who disagreed resigned, and certainly no one was asked to resign."

Make of that what you will.

At several points, the cardinal made light of the controversies which have overshadowed the Boston church in the wake of the abuse revelations. Seeming to refer to speculation that he has been in a state of depression at the size of the task, one reporter said that "Many people would have been ground to dust by now by all that you've put up with."

"You think I'm not ground to dust? Thank you!" O'Malley replied to the laughter of the group.

The cardinal's use of the word "illustrious" to describe the Globe -- the paper which broke the first Boston sex-abuse story on 6 January 2002, jump-starting the greatest crisis in the history of the church in the United States -- was, in one reporter's view, "breathtaking."

The adjective "is not a word that has come easily to the lips of many before you," the reporter said -- a pointed reference to the now-famous 1993 statement when Cardinal Bernard Law called down "the power of God" on the Globe in response to the paper's coverage of a previous case of a pedophile priest.

Even the implication of Law's highly-fraught statement was greeted with laughter.

The new cardinal seems dead-set on turning over a new leaf with the press and putting the rough waters of the past under the bridge.

"Well," he replied when asked about the session, "it wasn't as bad as I thought."

Dina Rudick/Boston Globe