Friday, April 21, 2006

O'Malleyization Continues... in the Belly of the Beast

Bringing with him an entourage of no fewer than nine, Cardinal Sean O'Malley's Red Hat Goodwill Tour continued yesterday with a session at the offices of the Boston Globe.

The combined effect of the Beantown prelate's recent elevation to the College of Cardinals and the transfer of Bishop Richard Lennon from O'Malley's right hand to the diocese of Cleveland have seemingly reinvigorated the new Porporato, who has been more public and proactive in recent weeks than at almost any other point since the first days of his three-year tenure in the embattled local church.
Alluding to the collision between the liberal values of Massachusetts and the church's conservative positions on sexuality, O'Malley said wistfully that ''in a little town in the Midwest, where none of these things are even an issue, it's much easier to be a country pastor." But, in a wide-ranging conversation with Globe journalists, he also said: ''Where our people are bumping up against these kinds of questions and are looking for answers and strengthening their faith and their commitment, I think that's an exciting aspect of being in the church in Massachusetts." ....

The conversation, which was initiated by the archdiocese in an effort to improve communications with the general public through the news media, marked the first time a Catholic archbishop has visited the Globe since 1997. O'Malley said he saw such outreach as part of his job as archbishop of Boston, a post he has held since the summer of 2003.

''I think that a newspaper has a very special responsibility and an opportunity to help build community and to bring people together, to inform them, mostly to encourage positive initiatives," O'Malley said. ''And so, we do want to be in communication with the Globe and the rest of the Boston media."

Cardinal Sean put an interesting spin on the difficulties he has faced:
He said the many controversies in Boston have helped him to keep his mind on what he views as the basics of his faith.

''I think it makes me focus more on what is essential, and that is my vocation, to try and follow the Lord, to try and be faithful, and to realize that a lot of other things that you thought were important really, really aren't that important," he said. ''I think in general, for many Catholics, the [abuse] crisis has caused us to focus more on what is essential, why we are a church, why we are Catholics, who our God is, and the vision he's given to us."
Earlier this week, the Goodwill Tour made a triumphant stop in Fall River, where O'Malley served as bishop from 1992 until his 2002-3 stint in another abuse-ravaged Florida diocese. At his installation in Boston, he joked that "Now I'm like the lace-curtain Irish -- I can say I wintered in Palm Beach."

The air in Fall River, however, was one of great love for the man they knew as Bishop Sean. O'Malley was known for holding court at Pizza Hut during his time there, but he shed his Capuchin habit for the evening to don the cardinal's red choir cassock.

And a portion of his homily was devoted to the unique message voiced the world over this Easter: "Christ is Risen -- and The Code is bunk." Because, you know, just to say "it's fiction" and laugh it off isn't giving it more attention than the latter already deserves.
O’Malley said he was reading in Tuesday’s newspaper about how President Bush "is looking for a new team" of advisers, and the cardinal wondered "what the resumes on the Lord’s team would look like."

The cardinal said Mary Magdalene liked to be called "Mimi" and might have been "involved in the sex industry," while Peter was "bombastic," a lousy fisherman who spoke with a heavy accent.

"Actually, I’m very comforted by these resumes," O’Malley said. "Jesus calls on ordinary people to be his friends, followers. ... Today they are our saints."

In another light moment, O’Malley told the audience that Mary Magdalene is "about to be given a Hollywood makeover" in the soon to be released movie "The Da Vinci Code."

"They want to make her Mrs. Jesus," O’Malley said.

After the Mass, O’Malley told reporters that he read "The Da Vinci Code," the controversial novel upon which the movie is based, and said it had a "terrible ending."

When asked what he misses most about Fall River, O’Malley responded, "Besides the Portuguese food?"

"In some ways, it’s like you never left," O’Malley said about returning to the Spindle City. "I hear familiar voices, see familiar faces."
Sounds like a welcome respite. At least he's getting one somewhere in Massachusetts.

AP/Steven Senne