Who knows if the cardinals will actually send up a puff of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel today but if they do here’s hoping that they pick our own Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Nobody in the College of Cardinals is more capable or qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church than Boston’s humble Franciscan Capuchin. He took the reins at one of the biggest institutions in town during a time when it was in the worst possible sexual abuse crisis and has slowly but surely turned it around. Is there any doubt he couldn’t do the same at the Vatican?
O’Malley’s arrival in Boston after the departure of the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law was a breath of fresh air in the Hub. Law was flashy and glitzy, known to show up to events in black cars while O’Malley is more prone to make quiet entrances in his brown robes and sandals. O’Malley even to sell Law’s lavish living quarters, opting to live in a simple apartment near the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
In addition to his humble and unassuming presence on the Boston scene he has managed to restore the churches finances to a sound condition in a transparent way, quite an impressive feat given the damage caused by the sex abuse crisis and Law’s mismanagement. O'Malley has tackled the tragedy of sex abuse in Boston, Ireland, and other deeply Catholic areas by meeting with victims, releasing names, and cracking down in a way that his awful predecessor couldn't have imagined.
O’Malley and his team have taken advantage of technology, too, by building up a sizeable social media presence and daily blog that give us a more personal view into O’Malley’s daily life. His time as cardinal here has been more open and transparent than his predecessor
O’Malley’s work as the CEO of the archdiocese is just one part of his many qualifications for Holy Father. Like pretty much all of the Catholic hierarchy, O’Malley is a social conservative but he has not made it the central focus of his existence like other Catholic leader as Christopher Dickey at the Daily Beast explained in a post yesterday. O’Malley has spent time as a community organizer for the downtrodden and is a champion of the poor and immigrants that have struggled to get by:
The people who came to him for help often had no papers and were living on the edge of personal disaster, far from their families and homes in Nicaragua and El Salvador, Peru and Bolivia. But this bearded Franciscan friar in the long brown robes, the pointed hood and the sandals of the Capuchin order, who looked so strange on the streets of the nation’s capital at the height of the disco era, seemed wonderfully familiar and reassuring for the immigrants. He was an unabashed icon of the church they knew, the human embodiment of the charity they hoped for, the worldly and wise friend who could help them straighten out their lives. “Padre Sean,” they called him.
When we first met, it was in the center’s offices, if that’s what they could be called. Big maps of Central and South America were pinned to the wall with letters cut out of colored paper like in elementary school. They read PAZ (peace), JUSTICIA (justice), and AMOR (love). He seemed so at ease with the people there, and they with him, that I asked uncertainly where he came from.
O’Malley may not bring about change on some of the typical social issues that the contemporary media focus heavily on but he would bring about a major change in the way the Vatican is run. I wouldn’t doubt that O’Malley, if he becomes pope, would jokingly try to sell St. Peter’s Basilica to raise money to help the poor and hungry. With his solid blend of social justice work, advocacy for immigrants, and defense of the unborn, O'Malley does a pretty good job of bridging the divide between the various factions in the Church
O’Malley is pastoral and would be a pope of the people in the way Pope John Paul II was but with more administrative chops. O’Malley can manage large bureaucracies that are in shambles like the Vatican is now but he can give one heck of a homily, too. O’Malley may not have the deep theological scholarship background like Benedict XVI but that isn’t one the Church needs right now and it isn’t what the Church need for the last decade either.
My fellow practicing Catholics, the Church is in disarray and right now it needs somebody to go to Rome, bang some heads and clean house.
O’Malley is just the guy to do that.
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