The editor-emeritus of a secular daily newspaper in Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s former diocese of Fall River, Mass., says he doesn’t recognize O’Malley in the Boston media coverage of him.
As I see it, there’s been a bit of identity theft under way almost from the moment Sean O’Malley became Boston archbishop. I’m not sure exactly how that happened. But I think you’ll agree with me that the Archbishop O’Malley portrayed in the news media out of Boston is a different breed of cat from the man we knew as Bishop Sean, who used to list his private telephone number in the Fall River telephone book under his real name and address.
Bishop Sean of blessed memory bears no resemblance to the Boston archbishop I’ve been reading and hearing about. That fellow comes across time and again as ham-handed and tone deaf. And his mind seems so made up in advance I wouldn’t expect his phone to ring at all. Unless it’s a wrong number. Or the pope is calling.
Maybe the problems of Boston are a little different from the problems of Fall River. Maybe it’s a bigger stage with bigger problems. The archbishop himself has said that he didn’t know how to use his auxiliary bishops effectively. In a small diocese, the bishop can be more hands on, but in a big archdiocese he needs to rely on others much more even as everything demands his attention.
Who you rely on becomes critical. I have sense that O’Malley’s tenure is so inconsistent because in some areas he’s relying on very good people, while in others he’s not. And those areas where he is able to be more hands-on, like reforming the seminary and mentoring young priests, is where he’s most effective.
It does the man no injustice to say that perhaps the job may be too big for him. After all, I have a recollection of him saying something like that himself.