Seán Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap (born June 29, 1944) is an American cardinal of the Catholic Church serving as the Archbishop of Boston. O'Malley is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, commonly known as the Capuchins.
O'Malley was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006. He was considered a papabile contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned on February 28, 2013, until Pope Francis was chosen on March 13, 2013.
On April 13, 2013, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal O'Malley as one of eight Cardinals of the Council of Cardinal Advisers to help the Pope govern the Catholic Church and reform its central administration.
On January 14, 2017, Pope Francis appointed O'Malley as a full board member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Early life, education and ordination
Seán Patrick O'Malley was born as Patrick O'Malley in Lakewood, Ohio, the son of Theodore and Mary Louise (née Reidy) O'Malley. Both parents were of Irish descent. O'Malley, his sister, and his older brother grew up in South Hills of Pittsburgh, and Reading, Pennsylvania. At age 12, he entered St. Fidelis Minor Seminary in Herman, a boarding school for students who were considering joining the Franciscan order. While there, in addition to studying the normal high school subjects, he also studied Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, German, and Hebrew, and he was active in theatre.
After graduating from St. Fidelis, he attended Capuchin College in Washington, D.C., and the Catholic University of America, where he is now a member of the Board of Trustees.
On July 14, 1965, at the age of 21, O'Malley professed his vows in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and took the name Seán in honor of St. John the Apostle. After he was ordained a deacon, he spent a brief period in Easter Island, Chile. He was ordained a priest on August 29, 1970, at age 26, by Bishop John Bernard McDowell, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Professor and pastor
He graduated from The Catholic University of America with a master's degree in religious education and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature. He once said of his alma mater, "I have a great affection for Catholic University. I studied there, received my doctorate there and even taught there for a couple of years. It's always a joy to go back to see the progress that they have made." O'Malley served as a professor at The Catholic University from 1969 to 1973.
In 1973, he was asked to minister to Latinos living in the Washington D.C. area at the Centro Católico Hispano (Spanish Catholic Center). The Centro was founded in 1967 by the Archdiocese of Washington, and it was originally headed by Spanish missionaries Fr. Rutílio and Sister Ana María. It is an organization which provided educational, medical and legal help to immigrants. He opened a Spanish bookstore and founded El Pregonero, the first Spanish newspaper in the D.C. area. In 1978, Cardinal William Wakefield Baum appointed him episcopal vicar for the Portuguese, Hispanic, and Haitian communities, and he became the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Social Ministry. He was also named knight commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique by Portugal in 1985 for his service to the Portuguese people. He says his daily prayers in Spanish.
Bishop of Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands
O'Malley was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Saint Thomas on May 30, 1984 by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 2 by Bishop Edward John Harper, CSsR, with Archbishop James Hickey and Bishop Eugene Marino, SSJ, serving as co-consecrators.
He served as coadjutor for one year and then succeeded Bishop Harper as Bishop of Saint Thomas on October 16, 1985, upon Harper's resignation. While in the Virgin Islands, he worked with the homeless, and opened a home for people with AIDS. He was made an honorary chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1991.
Bishop of Fall River, Massachusetts
On June 16, 1992, Bishop O'Malley was chosen to head the Diocese of Fall River. He was installed on August 11, 1992. As Bishop of Fall River, O'Malley first attempted to settle the sexual abuse scandal in the Fall River diocese.
Bishop of Palm Beach, Florida
In the Palm Beach diocese (2002-2003), Bishop O'Malley also tried to overcome the abuse scandal there. He also worked closely with the Portuguese and Hispanic population, which make up a large percentage of the Catholics in the United States.
In 1998 John Paul II appointed O'Malley to the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops.
Archbishop of Boston
Known as a fixer in various Roman Catholic dioceses plagued by sexual abuse scandals, he became the Archbishop of Boston in 2003, succeeding Cardinal Bernard Law, who had resigned as a consequence of the sexual abuse scandal there.
Pope Benedict XVI elevated O'Malley to the rank of Cardinal-Priest in the consistory of March 24, 2006. O'Malley was assigned the titular church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The following May, O'Malley was named as a member of both the Congregation for the Clergy and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Roman Curia. In late September 2009, he became a member of the Presidential Council of the Pontifical Council for the Family, on the same day as an American couple and a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, were named as consultors.
On September 19, 2006, O'Malley became the first cardinal with a personal blog. As of Christmas 2006 he began offering a regular podcast as well. He views the podcasts as "yet another tool [he] can use to reach the young people in our Church who more and more are turning to the Internet for their information."
O'Malley participated in the 2013 Papal conclave, which elected Pope Francis, and is eligible to participate in future papal conclaves that are held before his 80th birthday on June 29, 2024.
As of September 2011, O'Malley is the only Capuchin member of the College of Cardinals.
On April 13, 2013, he was appointed to a group of eight cardinals established by Pope Francis, exactly a month after his election, to advise him and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus. The group's first meeting has been scheduled for October 1–3, 2013. The Pope is already in contact with the members of this group.
Cardinal O'Malley praised the new tone of the papacy of Pope Francis. He stated however that those that expected change in doctrine from the pope on sexual ethics like abortion, contraception and gay marriage would be disappointed. He also indicated that the church would not alter the ban on communion for the divorced remarried and that he saw no theological justification for doing so.
On January 14, 2016, Pope Francis named Cardinal O'Malley to serve as a Member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the CDF; formerly, the Holy Office), which is for a five-year renewable term.
Apostolic Visitor to Dublin
In June 2010, after the Ryan Report and Murphy Report on the abuses by the Church in Ireland, Cardinal O'Malley was named along with others to oversee the apostolic visitation of certain dioceses and seminaries in Ireland. Cardinal O'Malley was named as the Visitor to the Archdiocese of Dublin and its suffragan sees, Ferns and Ossory and Kildare and Leighlin. He will report back to the Holy See on what steps have been taken since the reports were issued, and what else needs to happen.
In November 2007, Cardinal O'Malley said that the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to pro-life groups and that the fact many Catholic voters support Democratic candidates "borders on scandal." In a November 2008 interview he said that, unless the Church formally excommunicated them, he would not deny Communion to Catholic politicians in his diocese who support legal abortion. Despite criticism from conservative Catholics, including Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network, of his participation in the funeral service for Senator Ted Kennedy, a long-standing supporter of legal abortion, O'Malley assisted at the funeral Mass and led a prayer. He called for less contentious political dialog: "We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss." He said he appreciated the Senator's work for social justice, but that "there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn".
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
On October 1, 2009, O'Malley wrote a letter on behalf of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), then under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, praising a traveling exhibition that documented the work of women religious in the United States. He wrote that "the Church is grateful for all that your communities have done and continue to do to advance the mission of the Church, especially in the areas of health care, education, social services and pastoral ministry, as are highlighted in the exhibit".
Sexual abuse policies
O'Malley has settled 101 abuse claims and has initiated a zero tolerance policy against sexual abuse. He also instituted one of the first comprehensive sexual abuse policies in the Roman Catholic Church. On December 5, 2013 O'Malley announced a pontifically approved commission, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors whose purpose is to prevent clerical sexual abuse and to help victims. In 2015, he supported the film Spotlight, which took an in-depth look at the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church in light of sexual abuse scandals.
Caritas Christi controversy
In 2009, Caritas Christi Health Care, which the Archdiocese of Boston owned, proposed contracting with Centene Corporation, a Missouri-based health insurer, to provide certain healthcare services, including abortion and pregnancy termination services, through a jointly-owned venture named Celticare. The new director of Caritas, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, announced the project as part of an effort to relieve the hospital system's financial problems while extending services to low income and underserved populations. In order for Caritas to participate in the Massachusetts state program CommonwealthCare, Caritas needed to provide access to mandated services, including some forbidden by Catholic teaching. Torre explained: "When a patient seeks such a procedure, Caritas healthcare professionals will be clear that (a) the hospital does not perform them and (b) the patient must turn to his or her insurer for further guidance. This, in fact, is the practice currently in place in the Caritas system as we work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to procedures not provided within the Caritas system."
O'Malley asked the National Catholic Bioethical Center to review the contractual relationship, which theologians in a survey conducted by the Boston Globe in March had unanimously supported on the grounds that Catholic hospitals would not participate directly in providing abortion and the arrangement would allow Caritas to deliver much-needed services to the poor. The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts criticized the arrangement: "With Caritas Christi now thoroughly embedded in the culture of death, we are now facing the end, in Massachusetts at least, of Catholic medical resistance to abortion and contraception. This tragic state of affairs is the personal responsibility of the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley".
In June 2009, Caritas Christi, at O'Malley's insistence, terminated its partial ownership of Celticare. O'Malley said:
Throughout this process, our singular goal has been to provide for the needs of the poor and under-served in a manner that is fully and completely in accord with Catholic moral teaching. By withdrawing from the joint venture and serving the poor as a provider ... upholding Catholic moral teaching at all times, they are able to carry forward the critical mission of Catholic health care.
Pro-life activists groups varied in their responses. Some praised O'Malley's decision, but others continued to object that Caritas, as a participant in CommonwealthCare, is still required, even as it refuses to provide abortions, to engage in abortion referrals.
Catholic Charities and gay adoption
Massachusetts has included sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination statute since 1989, and it legalized same-sex marriage beginning May 17, 2004. Between about 1985 and 1995, Catholic Charities of Boston, which accepted state funds in support of its adoption services program, placed 13 children with gay couples out of 720 adoptions. Catholic Charities President Rev. J. Bryan Hehir explained the practice: "If we could design the system ourselves, we would not participate in adoptions to gay couples, but we can't. We have to balance various goods." In December 2005, the lay-dominated board of Catholic Charities of Boston voted unanimously to continue gay adoptions. On March 10, 2006, after unsuccessfully seeking help from Governor Mitt Romney in obtaining an exemption from the state's anti-discrimination statute, O'Malley and leaders of Catholic Charities announced that the agency would terminate its adoption work effective June 30, rather than continue to place children under the guardianship of homosexual couples. Hehir said "This is a difficult and sad day for Catholic Charities. We have been doing adoptions for more than 100 years."
|Catholic Church titles|
|Preceded by |
Edward John Harper
|Roman Catholic Bishop of St Thomas |
October 16, 1985 – June 16, 1992
|Succeeded by |
Elliot Griffin Thomas
|Preceded by |
Daniel Anthony Cronin
|Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River |
June 16, 1992 – September 3, 2002
|Succeeded by |
George William Coleman
|Preceded by |
|Roman Catholic Bishop of Palm Beach |
September 3, 2002 – July 1, 2003
|Succeeded by |
|Preceded by |
Bernard Francis Law
|Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston |
July 1, 2003 – present
|Preceded by |
|Grand prior of the Northeastern Lieutenancy |
of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
2003 – present
|Preceded by |
|Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Vittoria |
March 24, 2006 – present