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Sunday, June 12, 2005

The archbishop on the hot seat.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley is making political enemies in a hurry. After locking the elementary school students of Our Lady of the Presentation out of their classrooms and cancelling their graduation ceremonies, the archbishop has taken some pretty ferocious feedback from prominent Boston Catholics. In Friday's Globe, Michael Paulson reported these angry responses:

  • Mayor Thomas Menino "sent a letter to O'Malley calling the action 'reprehensible,' 'unconscionable,' and a 'heartbreaking insult.'"

  • City Councilor Jerry McDermott, who graduated from the school: "They had four pedophile priests assigned over the years to Our Lady of the Presentation, and now they want to protect the children? Isn't that refreshing? I'm not the best Catholic out there, but these are the supposed elders of the Catholic faith, and they've made a mockery of it."

  • State Rep. Michael Moran, another graduate: "Lately the only thing the church seems to know how to do is to hurt people."

  • City Council President Michael Flaherty: "The archdiocese ought to be ashamed of itself; this is unconscionable."

What were archdiocesan officials thinking? Apparently that the church could more easily survive a brief public relations disaster than the prospect of yet another vigil by laypeople upset to see their churches and parochial schools closed to pay for Cardinal Law's leadership failure. In another Globe article about the reaction to the archbishop's decision, Lisa Wangsness wrote:

[E]lected officials stood aghast, and public relations specialists could not fathom the reasoning of church officials in a city where the Catholic Church has been a dominant institution for more than a century, at a time when it is struggling to rehabilitate its image in the aftermath of the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

"We're not talking about Al Qaeda here," said George K. Regan Jr., president of the Regan Communications Group, a public relations firm. "We're talking about nursery school kids."

Terrence C. Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese, said: "We certainly discussed public relations, but Archbishop O'Malley made his decision not on the basis of PR, but for the safety of children. He understood that this was not going to be well received."

"For the safety of children," eh? Nothing threatened the kids' safety — even if they and their parents had decided to spend the night. (Everyone involved in the 24/7 vigil at St Albert the Great has been perfectly safe for months.) The only thing that would have endangered the kids if their parents had decided not to leave the school after the graduation ceremonies would have been security guards hired by O'Malley to drag them out. Maybe the archbishop was making a veiled threat that he was willing to get rough.

More heat for the archbishop:

  • Catholic State Senator Michael W. Morrissey: "All I can say is, they have a way of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory."

  • Susan Tracy, a political consultant who reminisced about her graduation from kindergarten at Our Lady of the Presentation, about the parents: "These are good people, people who don't have deep anger toward the church easily. For the church to get them to a place where I see them angry and the kids crying — that's the future of the church, that's the base. I think it deeply hurts the church on the heels of everything else, and I don't think there's anything they can do to right this wrong."

  • Mayor Menino: "We were making progress, and where's the credibility now? Where's the credibility in the decision-making process? Why don't we have a say in what's going on? It's our church."

  • Secretary of State William F. Galvin (an alumnus of the school and a major donor) on the archdiocese: "They've reinforced every stereotypical bad opinion people have about them."

Oops.

("Catholic School Lockout Angers Parents, Officials," Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 6.9.05; "Many Left Puzzled, Angry at Timing of Church Move," Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe 6.9.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 12 June 2005 at 9:04 AM

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