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Spotlight Report

O'Malley lifts meeting ban imposed on Newton parish

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 9/18/2003

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, continuing his effort to heal wounds caused by the clergy sex abuse crisis, has lifted a ban against meetings of church agencies at a Newton parish headed by an outspoken pastor who has questioned some church teachings.

The archdiocese will now allow church agencies to hold meetings on the campus of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, reversing a ban imposed last December by Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Law imposed the ban after the church's pastor, the Rev. Walter H. Cuenin, took on a leadership role in organizing local priests and was quoted in The New Yorker questioning church teachings on gays and women. Prior to the ban, the Our Lady's campus had frequently been used for large archdiocesan events because of its size, convenient location, proximity to the chancery, and ample parking.

O'Malley's spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said O'Malley was not questioning Law's action, but just wanted to move on. He said his decision came in response to a request from a regional vicar, who said the ban was hurtful to the Our Lady's parish, one of the archdiocese's most vibrant and the spiritual home of numerous victims of sexual abuse.

''It's time to move forward,'' Coyne said.

The archdiocese's vicar general, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, notified Cuenin of the change by phone and fax on Monday. The action was first reported yesterday by the Boston Herald.

''It is the hope of Archbishop Sean, and my hope also, that this action will be reassuring and helpful to you, the staff and the parishioners of Our Lady Help of Christians parish, and to the archdiocese,'' wrote Lennon, who served as administrator of the archdiocese between the time of Law's resignation last December and O'Malley's installation in July.

Cuenin said he was delighted by the action. He said he had written to O'Malley, inviting him to visit and alerting him that the ban was of concern to the parish. ''This is part of Sean's attempt to make peace and reconcile things as best we can,'' Cuenin said. ''I was glad to have it happen and see the whole thing put behind us.''

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.


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