O'Malley on the Ropes
A group of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children, holding blue-and-yellow balloons to match their parochial school colors, yesterday marked the end of their year and the closing of their school with a graduation ceremony in the middle of a traffic circle, as police and private security guards made sure the children and their parents did not try to enter the locked building.
How far the once-proud flagship of American Catholicism has fallen, changing school locks in the middle of the night and circling the building with guards.
The image of the archdiocese has taken yet another self-inflicted beating -- in the same week six more predator priests were laicized. The parents are beyond livid, and the story has dominated print press and talk radio in Beantown for the last two days. Lots of anger there, and sympathy for the kids, who graduated this morning in a public ceremony at Faneuil Hall at the invitation of the city of Boston.
From on-the-ground, this seems a turning point, one that could possibly doom Sean O'Malley and torpedo the goodwill for whatever else he seeks to do.
Richie Lennon (who, I'm told, made the call here) isn't immune, either.
Check this snippet from columnist Brian McGrory:
Could an encore performance of 2002 be coming? Voice of the Faithful might just have an opportunity to redeem itself.... The chancery has no one to blame but themselves -- again.
I want to like O'Malley, I really do. I want to like him because he seems like a thoughtful, serious-minded man who inherited a miserable situation. His initial actions were laudable. He reached settlements with the victims of pedophilic priests. He sold tens of millions of dollars in archdiocesan property, including his own mansion. He moved into relatively austere quarters in the South End.All across town yesterday, civic leaders seethed. ''The church is built on compassion and caring," Mayor Thomas M. Menino barked into the telephone. ''Where is the compassion? Where is the caring?"
But time and again, he pulls another lunkhead move like this. First the church hierarchy looked the other way as priests abuse children, and now they lock a group of 3-to-12-year-olds out of their school during the last week of class. Seriously, what's next?
Other community leaders with close ties to the church privately expressed sharp irritation with O'Malley, who they said was overly reliant on a group of longtime archdiocesan aides who couldn't be trusted to make thoughtful decisions.
In other words, the flock is losing faith in O'Malley -- fast.
Buckle your seatbelts.