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Spotlight Report

To their new leader, in their own words

By David Mehegan, Globe Staff, 7/30/2003

With today's installation of Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, a new chapter begins in the Boston Archdiocese, a chapter that many Catholics hope will be marked by healing and positive change. How do Catholics feel about the current state of the church? What changes are needed? What do they believe Archbishop O'Malley should do first? The Globe put these questions to a number of men and women of different ages, national origins, and life experiences. Their reflections are as diverse as the speakers themselves. None was indifferent, and none lacked for ideas.


(Globe Staff Photo / Lane Turner)

JOSE FONSECA, 39

Dorchester

Born in the Republic of Cape Verde, Fonseca came to Boston in 1985, speaking no English. He studied to become a priest at St. John's Seminary from 1987 until 1993 but left because his English-language limitations held his grades down. For more than 10 years he has been coleader of the Cape Verdean youth program at St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury. He works at a men's clothing store in Chestnut Hill and is also one of four co-owners of Restaurante Cesaria, a Cape Verdean restaurant in Dorchester.

I am very anxious to work with Bishop Sean O'Malley, to see where he comes from, and how he will be involved with the Cape Verdean community in this archdiocese. I hope he sees there is a lot of pain and hurt, and a lot of work that he needs to do, and I hope he has the energy for it.

You get very ashamed [at the disclosures of clergy sexual abuse], you get embarrassed, then you start to get defensive because of the love you have for the Catholic Church. You start to say, ''I hope this is not true,'' but it is true. Myself, I think it is not a bad thing that it all came out. I have confidence that the Holy Spirit is going to clean the house and the church is going to become stronger, and we will have a place to worship God without these dirty, shameful, criminal things around us.

My hope is that if there is anybody who knows something that is true, they need to come out and clear it up. I hope that if there are any priests that have something in themselves that is not clean, holy, and pure, they should be strong enough to come out themselves, find help, and get out so the house can be cleaned. ...

I would like to see a change in the seminary that Jesus be the center of formation. I didn't see Jesus as the center of teaching at the seminary; there was a lot of worry about where are you in the society and ... not about how you are going to identify yourself with the one who calls you to do His work.

Priests spend so much time by themselves. Some take to sexual things, others to alcohol, which is the biggest disaster in the priesthood. To renew the priests [Bishop O'Malley] needs to create a form where they take time to retreat and pray and discipline themselves in such a way that they themselves are not a priority, but Christ in them. The priests need time to get together, to create an environment where they help each other to pray.

I participate actively in every activity in the Catholic Church, and I know many beautiful holy priests that people never see or talk about because the things that are ugly cover the beautiful things.

WILLIAM GERMINO, 38

Norwood

Germino is married with three children and is active in religious education, the parish council, and the marriage preparation program at St. Catherine of Siena parish in Norwood. He is an independent Internet consultant who develops websites.

I am faithful to all the teachings of the Catholic Church and don't select which ones to accept.

My understanding of Bishop O'Malley is that he is a righteous man of great dignity and has good leadership skills. In light of everything that has gone on, it's critical that he show openness to the priests of the archdiocese as well as the laity, that he be willing to listen to them, and that he take some hard stances if need be to bring forth the fullness of church teachings. He is our shepherd, and his main responsibility is to teach the flock.

One thing that could be viewed as a hard stance was the position taken by the bishops defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I would hope Bishop O'Malley would follow suit. ... As the shepherd, he is supposed to explain the wisdom behind the teachings, especially the ones that are misunderstood, such as abortion and birth control. ...

The archdiocese is not run very efficiently from a business standpoint, and there are many talented lay people who could bring the necessary talent to help things run more efficiently. ...

I believe there is a lack of holiness, and the [abusive] priests have done nothing but reflect back what is in our culture. I don't point at the priests especially. The problem is one of a lack of holiness, and to me that is ultimately what truly addresses this issue, for people to turn their hearts toward God and His church.

CAROLE L. BERZINIS, 69

Bridgewater

Berzinis recently moved from Hingham to Bridgewater, where she lives with her husband. She was active in St. Paul's parish in Hingham for 40 years and remains a lector and minister of communion there. She has six children.

The church will come out of this a lot stronger. We have sort of coasted along, going to church and going to work. But now we have had a severe trial, and we have to pick up the pieces and say, ''Our faith has been tested, but where is our faith? Is it in men and women, or is it in God?''

I'm very encouraged by Bishop O'Malley. ... He should meet with as many parishes as he can, bring together several parishes, meet in a big place, and talk to them. Maybe take questions. That would show people that he really cares about them as people and what they think.

The hierarchy of bishops and cardinals - that is a nice thing, but they need to have parish representatives to know what is going on. People who care about their faith and have been active in their parishes.

We have to move on. [The sexual abuse scandal] was a terrible, god-awful thing, but now we have to ask, as loyal Catholic men and women, where do we go now? Are we going to stick together as Catholics? With the shock of it all in the beginning, there were a lot of people running helter-skelter - I didn't want to do that. ... You have to be strong and affirm what you believe in.

KERRY ANN DOBIES, 18

Newton

Dobies graduated in June from Newton North High School and will attend George Washington University in September. She has lived in Our Lady Help of Christians parish all her life. Active in the youth group, she has taught in the religious education program and is a minister of communion.

It was clear that Cardinal Law was unable to lead us forward in a productive direction after the scandal. Bishop O'Malley will be a needed change.

The church needs to be more open. ... The church needs to realize that there are issues it needs to face and things it needs to change because of the progression of society. Both the leaders and the lay Catholics need to figure out how we are going to keep the traditions of the church while also being open to change.

I would not go so far as to say that women should be priests, but they should play a more active role. The basis of the church is welcoming - catholicism means universal - and it needs to be a more welcoming church, toward people such as gays and divorced people, to let them know that they are welcome and that God loves them.


(Globe Staff Photo / Lane Turner)

JOAN CORB, 65

Gloucester

A former nun, Corb spent 19 years teaching science in an order of teaching sisters, serving in several Boston-area Catholic schools. She left the order in 1975 and taught for several years in Brookline's school system. She and her husband live part of the year in Gloucester and part in Lincoln, N.H.

I am impressed that [Bishop O'Malley] is a member of an order with a vow of poverty. That is positive. How open he is to involving the lay people, we don't know. If they want to bring back the destroyed trust and faith of the laity, they will have to involve them on a more equal basis. He should get out and walk among the people. He should be visible. There has been such a separation between leaders and people.

I am upset about the closing of parochial schools. That is losing a powerful means of instructing future Catholics, and is also taking away quality education, especially in the inner cities. I would like for him to find a way to keep the inner-city schools open.

Priests have to change their attitudes toward women. Start with more respect, and not see women as a threat. They have to change their attitudes and concept of what women are. I gave 19 years to religious life, with priests very much in control and the female religious relegated to a subservient role. We looked upon the priests with blind trust and belief, and some of my disappointment comes from that. There were many priests who were doing good work, but some of them were leading a double life, not only not committed to the same goals that we were, but some were tearing those goals down.

If they are going to win back their role, they need to be involved in spiritual development. A majority of the sermons I hear lack signs of spiritual updating. You need time to step back from the marketplace and reflect, look at yourself as a spiritual person, and incorporate that into your apostolate, rather than go on, year after year, on your own.


(Globe Staff Photo / Lane Turner)

ANH D. VU, 35

East Boston

A probation officer at East Boston District Court, Anh Vu came alone from Vietnam to Boston in 1989, speaking almost no English. He went to North Cambridge Catholic High School, graduated from Boston College, and received a master's degree in social work from the State University of New York. Married with two children, he is actively involved with the Vietnamese Catholic community based at St. William's parish in Dorchester.

The first time I saw Bishop O'Malley, he inspired me because he was wearing the Franciscan habit. My confidence relates to the prayer of St. Francis: ''Make me an instrument of your peace...'' That gives me trust that he will bring justice and peace.

It will be a big task for him. The big issue that we need to focus on is communication - communication of the archdiocese to every parish, and in the parish, from the pastor to the lay people. That is a big priority.

Listening has to be part of the task. You not only talk, you sit down and listen. Are the priests going to say, ''I'm a priest. I will tell you what to do,'' or ''I'm a theologian. I'm not listening to you. I'm ordained, and you're not''? Vatican II says lay people, not just the priests, are the leaven of the church. The key is dialogue. ...

There has to be a very careful psychological screening of candidates for the priesthood, not just take them because we want the quantity, but because we want the quality. I still believe it was a small percentage of bad apples, but the bad apples made it look universal, like every priest is bad.

We forgive [the abusive priests] because God forgives us. ... If a person is sick, heal the sick, but protect the people, too. This sickness has created a big problem for the church, and we need to act. In the spiritual sense, we forgive them, but they cannot be protected by the church anymore. They cannot say, ''I am in a haven; you cannot come in because I am protected.''

CLINTON REED, 22

Somerville

Reed is a senior in the mechanical engineering program at Boston University. His parents, who live in San Antonio, Texas, are not church-affiliated, and he joined the Catholic Church when he was 15. He is active in the Catholic student center at BU, serves on the student pastoral council, and has organized student retreats.

In order for the healing to occur, there needs to be unity within the church and the archdiocese, led by Archbishop O'Malley. However, it shouldn't be unity at the expense of who the church is. Some groups want the church to break with the reality of what the church is. O'Malley needs to lead the church in its unity, but the people need to understand where that unity comes from.

Lay involvement needs to be increased, but that doesn't mean lay control. People need to give their time, energy, and effort to the church, but the church is the one who leads, not the lay people. To Americans, that sounds repulsive. They tend to pray that the church make decisions that are in line with the people. Bishop Lennon made a statement that the church needs to undergo a period of reconciliation in tune with Lent. I remember people saying, ''We don't want reconciliation; we need action.'' Well, excuse me - reconciliation involves spiritual action, not just paying money to people. Justice needs to be done, but there needs to be spiritual understanding, more than just physical action. ...

American culture in many facets conflicts with the values of the church. I hope for a swift renewal and recovery, but I am not sure that all will want to listen to what Archbishop O'Malley puts forth. I don't see an easing of tensions anytime soon; I see an increase of tensions. ... I see [the scandal] as the springboard that American culture will use to attack the church.


(Globe Staff Photo / Lane Turner)

JOHN KERRIGAN, 62

Braintree

A former ice-cream store owner who now works as a senior clerk in the Norfolk County Land Court, Kerrigan has belonged to St. Francis of Assisi parish since 1971. He is married with two daughters and five grandchildren.

The first thing [Bishop Sean P. O'Malley] has to do is use his financial power to take care of business. They have been saying they want to settle the court claims. Take those that are justified, and take care of them. They will not go away. Let the truth burn clean. Let's get it all out in the open. After that, do what the church is supposed to do: Help [abuse victims] even further. Give them job counseling, recommendations to people who will put them to work.

I would like to see the Voice of the Faithful be given recognition and permission to meet in their own parishes. They have been quiet and professional, and they are not going to go away. If the church is afraid of them, that's bad.

The pastor is like a business manager. If that were taken out of his hands, and put in the hands of the Voice of the Faithful, he would be freed up to do ministerial work and counsel people. They have been reluctant or afraid to do that, or too downright ornery.

I can't believe how many people are just waiting to channel their donations. They just want someone they can trust. The people I have talked to are amazing. We have cut back, but they say ''I'm not giving anything.'' Nothing, zero! They won't say anything; they won't tell you they're upset. They still go to church, but they are waiting with their money, waiting for some honest leadership. When you see it, you know it. It's like when your parents say, ''When you meet the right girl for you, you'll know.''

I am hopeful. We will survive. People forget and forgive, and they want to go on.

WILLIAM GILLIGAN, 62

Somerville

Gilligan was a Maryknoll missionary priest for 23 years, serving 15 years in Africa before leaving the priesthood in the early 1990s, when the Catholic Church officially defined homosexuals as ''intrinsically disordered.'' He is a member of Dignity, an organization of gay Catholics, and oversees the adoption and foster care training program in the state Department of Social Services.

All reports about the new archbishop are positive, that he is modest, humble, not coming to Boston with the baggage of pomposity and elevation. It would be nice if he moved into the cathedral [residence in the South End]. It would be symbolic, but symbols can be a means of communicating ideas.

There is talk that he is bright, a listener, and I feel encouraged and hopeful. However, he is also theologically conservative. He was appointed by Rome, and Rome appoints conservative bishops. What is the balance between wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt and saying ''It's the same old, same old''? I want to be positive and upbeat. However, with regard to our community, he would uphold the church's official teaching that we're ''intrinsically disordered.'' With all his humility and modesty, there is still that other piece. But hopefully the good news is that he will listen to what people are saying. That is what people want, to be listened to. That is my struggle within the church: too much proclaiming and not enough listening.

I would hope there would be change. Married clergy would be a change I'd like to see. I see no problem in ordaining women to the priesthood, doing away with the ''intrinsically disordered'' teaching, supporting gay marriage.

I don't see much hope for real change. [Bishop] O'Malley may surprise us. Two weeks ago the bishops had a meeting with all these wealthy Catholics behind closed doors - Cokie Roberts, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, CEOs. Where were the poor and the infirm and the aged, the gays, blacks, and Latinos? None of them were there. The hierarchy doesn't get the message. It's still money, power, settlements. One of the things the archbishop said is, ''We have to go beyond money.'' That is hopeful.


(Globe Staff Photo / David Kamerman)

BRIAN CORRIVEAU, 37

Bellingham

C orriveau and his brother James are among 20 plaintiffs in a sexual molestation suit against the Archdiocese of Boston. The suit alleges that Rev. Paul M. Desilets molested him for seven years, when Corriveau was between the ages of 9 and 16, at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Bellingham. Desilets, now retired and living in Canada, was indicted last year in Worcester County for indecent assault of a child under 14, and extradition to the United States is pending. His Boston lawyer, Dennis J. Kelly, of Burns & Levinson, says, ''He is going to defend the case vigorously.'' Corriveau works as a systems support engineer.

We didn't know what to do. In hindsight, you think, I could have told that person or this person, but I know that when I would tell my father that I got in trouble in school, he would say, ''You probably deserved it.'' We came from that strict Catholic upbringing where the authority figures were always right.

I feel a little guilty that I didn't come forward earlier, because you see people upset at victims, that they didn't say anything sooner, that maybe there would have been fewer victims. We bottled it up until about two or three years ago, when I heard Cardinal Law say, ''We have done everything we can, we don't have any more pedophile priests,'' but I didn't see any word about Father Desilets, and I knew they were still covering it up.

I saw a clip of [Bishop O'Malley] on TV. He has a reputation for doing the right thing. I'll wait to see what his actions are. I have watched the church constantly say they are going to do one thing, and do the exact opposite. It seems most of the time they are fighting dirty. That is what I expect. They say they are concerned about the victims, that they are reaching out to the victims. But none of the victims I know have been counseled, so I don't know what victims they're talking about.

A personal apology would be a small thing. But I would want to see so much vigilance on the part of the church so there would never be more people like us, more kids molested. That is the most important thing.

A financial settlement would help, where we could afford to get some psychological counseling. We would rather have had normal lives and not be bitter and mistrustful of everybody. I haven't had any kind of counseling. I would feel a little bit vindicated. But I can't say that I would feel any better. ...

I would probably still be going to church, be married with a couple of kids, and still be heavily involved with the Catholic Church, but with all that happened to me, I started not to see the church as the good guys any more. When I was 19 or 20, I decided I didn't want to have anything to do with them. I felt pretty bitter toward the Catholic Church, and still do. I have probably been to church a dozen times since I was 20, for weddings, but I don't go to Mass anymore.

I still feel there is a greater entity - God - but as far as being able to trust the Catholic Church or any man-made organization to help me get closer to God, I don't think it can be done. I don't know if I will ever be spiritual again.


(Globe Staff Photo / Lane Turner)

SARAH ANN MAHONEY, 58

Needham

Mahoney grew up in Framingham and was educated in Catholic schools through college. A mother of five children, she is active in Needham's St. Joseph's parish. She and her husband, James, are members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jesusalem, an ancient fraternal organization dedicated to preservation of the Christian shrines in the Holy Land.

I am probably like many people who are not out there with loud voices. My belief in God is the whole basis and premise of my life, and I believe the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ.

We all know how terrible this period has been. It's unbelievable that this situation was allowed to go on for so long. The wonderful men and women who have given their whole lives in service to the church have been damaged by association with this despicable and hateful situation.

It's a horrible thing. To put it in secular terms, it's like the CEOs denying fraud in their own corporate offices, only this is worse because it is a moral institution. That is what makes it so screaming terrible.

Bishop O'Malley has wonderful talents that will bring light and new energy to the archdiocese, but it will be a long, slow process. You can't erase what has happened. You can only try to move forward and do your best with God's help.

I hope he will put together the right team, choose succinct goals, a clear-cut mission, and find the people to help him do it, men and women, lay people and religious. I'm sure he has the ability to find talented people, communicate with them, then allow them to do their jobs. It's too big a job to micromanage.

The ministry of the church needs to be studied. I would like to see more historical exploration regarding the role of women in the church. Perhaps there would be Catholic men who could be wonderful priests and could manage being husbands and priests.

There needs to be an openness to exploring faith. That doesn't mean I espouse permissiveness or a lack of morals. There has been an increase of knowledge that man has gained over the years. We are created to be intelligent, and it's a good thing for us to learn more about our world.

Though we need a master of the flock, we are not sheep. I know, as a farm girl, that if one sheep wanders into the brook and drowns, they're all likely to fall in and drown, because they follow the lead sheep. That is not intelligent. God made us higher than the animals.

The church will not be destroyed. I'm very hopeful that Bishop O'Malley will make progress. Hope is what keeps me going. If I thought the church could be destroyed by these few individuals, it wouldn't be the church.

David Mehegan can be reached at mehegan@globe.com.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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