Catholics who thought Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s remarks about Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn’s suitability for office were provocative have another interesting comment to ponder: If he were to start a church, he would “love to have women priests.”
In an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS that producers said took more than a year for them to persuade him to do, O’Malley seemed troubled by reporter Norah O’Donnell’s question as to whether the exclusion of women from the Church hierarchy was “immoral.”
O’Malley paused, then said, “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. It’s a matter of vocation and what God has given to us.”
“Not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the life of the Church,” he said. “Women run Catholic charities, Catholic schools …. They have other very important roles. A priest can’t be a mother. The tradition in the Church is that we ordain men.”
After O’Donnell pointed out that the Church doesn’t discriminate by race, only by gender, O’Malley smiled and said, “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”
On the matter of Kansas City Bishop Finn, O’Malley was forthright. Finn is the only US bishop to be criminally convicted of failing to report abuse by one of his priests to civil authorities in a timely manner. He was given probation, and remains as an active bishop. O’Malley said the Vatican, which is investigating Finn, must act “urgently” in the matter.
The Boston cardinal also said the Vatican’s decision to place a group of American nuns under bishop supervision for allegedly straying from Church doctrine was a “disaster.”
O’Malley also said he was “terrified” of taking over the Boston Archdiocese in 2003 as the clergy sexual abuse crisis roiled parishes and lawsuits threatened to bankrupt the local church. “The seminary was empty. People were angry,” he said. O’Malley sold the cardinal’s residence for more than $100 million to help settle lawsuits.
He acknowledged that the Vatican resisted strong, immediate action on sexual abuse because there was a feeling that the crisis was a uniquely American problem, but he insisted that Pope Francis is committed to a zero-tolerance policy — both for abuse itself and for bishops’ oversight of abusive priests.
O’Malley also repeated what he first revealed at a Boston launch event for Crux: That he and the pope communicate mainly via fax, sending letters back and forth because it is “fast and efficient.”
He also said he believes that Francis will change the face of the Church: “No doubt.”