Insider Questions: Is Cardinal O’Malley Really “Papabile”?: Part 1

All of the articles and buzz about the prospect of Cardinal Sean O’Malley becoming pope are asking the wrong questions and missing so much, it is almost impossible to know where to start. The latest, a column in the Boston Globe, says “One thing that is striking about Cardinal O’Malley and which makes him supremely “papabile,” or one who might become pope, is his sense of humor.”

Really?  Someone thinks a supremely important character trait for being Pope is a sense of humor, and it gets a column in the mainstream media?

First off, the responsibilities of the successors of the apostles are to teach, sanctify, and govern.  Before anyone continues promoting Cardinal O’Malley for pope–especially those in the media–they should ask themselves, “How would I grade him on those points?” How is he as an episcopal leader? What has his efficacy been as an episcopal leader in these areas and in making the salvation of souls a top priority for the Boston Archdiocese?  This is not about perceived humility. It is not about sense of humor. It is not about resolving sexual abuse cases. It is about efficacy as an episcopal leader and shepherd/leader of the flock to save souls.

Everyone will have their own opinion.  Here are some questions the media and other pundits should be asking, and the BCI perspective.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Teaching? Does he give good homilies and write good pastoral letters (when written and propagated)? Yes. But how does he score for walking the talk and clarifying teachings when there is confusion? (e.g. “Catholics” who support pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Ted Kennedy funeral scandal, Gay Pride Mass at St. Cecilia in Boston, abortion referrals with the Caritas/Centene fiasco, Catholic identity in Catholic schools, pro-abortion advisers to Cardinal O’Malley). BCI gives him a B-/C+ for teaching.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Sanctifying? We know that in order to sanctify, the bishop must be a holy person himself. (We are not in a position to grade that in Cardinal O’Malley and do not question his personal holiness). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we know that the bishop (with his priests) sanctifies the Church especially through the Eucharist and by their ministry of Word, their ministry of sacraments, and by their good example. Furthermore, the bishop is commissioned to be a leader or motivator of building holiness for the priests of the diocese.  How is Cardinal O’Malley at the latter? We see little evidence that Cardinal O’Malley has invested a great amount of time and energy to make care and sustenance (spiritual and/or physical) for the presbyterate a high priority. BCI gives him a B for sanctifying.

How is Cardinal O’Malley at Governing? “Leadership” as defined by an expert in the field, means attributes like integrity (alignment of words and actions with inner values, walking the talk, sticking to strong values, and building an entire organization with powerful and effective cultural values), dedication (spending whatever time and energy on a task is required to get the job done, giving your whole self to the task, dedicating yourself to success and to leading others with you), magnanimity (giving credit where it is due and accepting personal responsibility for failures), and other traits.  On just the first three attributes–integrity, dedication, and magnanimity, what is the report card for the episcopal leadership of Cardinal O’Malley? BCI would rate it not very good. Depending on the day, BCI gives somewhere between a D and an F for governing.  Why is that?

Whether Bishop of Boston, Bishop of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or Bishop of Rome, we extend the words of the late Bishop John D’Arcy to offer that the bishop’s role is as a loving, but tough-minded shepherd–a shepherd after the heart of Christ. “A bishop must teach the Catholic faith ‘in season and out of season,’ and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.”

Is that Cardinal Sean O’Malley?  Not as evidenced in recent years. Here are additional questions from BCI that we feel pundits and writers should be asking about Cardinal O’Malley based on objective evidence:

1) How does he handle  the load of his existing role?  Not well. We all know how in 2004 he wrote a letter to Boston Catholics in which he said, “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job, but I keep waking up in the morning to face another day of reconfiguration.”

2) How engaged or unengaged is he as Archbishop of Boston in governing? (which most of the mainstream media are not aware of). Anyone who has attended meetings with him in recent years can attest to the concern.  Cardinal O’Malley is often largely, if not entirely, silent during important meetings. People presenting important concerns to him face-to-face report getting no response in the meeting, or in follow-up actions.

For those who would say the above is subjective, we beg to differ. These are objective observations.  In addition, a look at the number of important official documents that were supposed to have been signed by Cardinal O’Malley himself in recent years, but that were apparently signed with his name by someone else, makes it fairly clear that he is not entirely engaged in governance of the diocese. Analysis by a local handwriting expert shows evidence that important documents–including relegations to profane use of churches and perhaps even the sale agreement for St. John’s Seminary–were likely signed by someone other than the Cardinal O’Malley who tried to make it look like the signature was that of Cardinal O’Malley. Here is the forensic_handwriting_analysis report.

Certainly there are thousands of documents that cross the desk of the Archbishop of Boston and he cannot possibly review and sign them all. But one might reasonably ask, if the Cardinal is not sufficiently engaged to take the time to review and personally sign important official documents such as a relegation to profane use for a church, what else is he not engaged in?

3) How sound has the fiscal management of the Boston Archdiocese been?  To what extent has the Boston Archdiocese been upholding their fiduciary responsibility to donors to spend their contributions most effectively and efficiently to build the Kingdom of God and save souls?

  • How much debt does the Boston Archdiocese have?  Do they run a balanced budget? The Boston Archdiocese is nearly $140M in debt, with no way of repaying the debts to St. Johns Seminary and the Clergy Funds. Central Operations ran an $11M operating deficit over the last 2 year.
  • Are employees overpaid? They paid their top 16 lay executives $3.7M in salaries and benefits in the past year. Just two late-career executives are paid a combined $700K in salary and benefits a year.  the Superintendent of Schools is paid $341K alone in salary and benefits. The number of lay executives paid more than $150K/year today (16) is more than 5X the number in 2006, when just 3 execs were paid more than $150K. The amount paid to folks making $150K+ a year ballooned by 6X from 2006 to 2012. The Archdiocese acknowledges many are overpaid, and to add insult to injury, they even gave raises to many overpaid execs last year. The diocese is in clear violation of the Motu Proprio signed on November 11, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI and officially in effect December 10, 2012, that says salaries need to be in due proportion to analogous expenses of the diocesan curia.
  • How is the financial health of Boston parishes? 40-50% of parishes are in the red and cannot pay their bills.
  • How carefully are administrative expenses managed to preserve funds for ministry? Administrative expenses have been in the range of 33-36% of all Central Operations expenditures in recent years, an increasing share of expenditures from 6 years ago.
  • How are capital reserves? They have been drained. Parish Reconfiguration funds have been tapped out by spending $12.3M in recent years to subsidize Pastoral Center departments normally funded by the Central Fund. And during the past six years, insurance reserves that were $15M in 2006 have been depleted to zero or near zero (see this 2010 BCI blog post and p. 16 of the 2012 Annual Report).  If the model of over-paying lay executives and deficit spending were to carry over to the Vatican and global Catholic Church, what would the impact be?

BCI will continue in a separate post to discuss other questions that should be asked by the media and pundits.  Those questions surround the culture of deception in the Boston Archdiocese, hiring choices for senior roles (full-time and advisory), the creation of scandal by publicly defending decisions or actions that are objectively indefensible–with a failure to acknowledge mistakes, ignoring of Vatican recommendations or directives, and the apparent lack of courage of conviction to match actions with words. These have all been chronicled by BCI previously, but we will summarize them in our next post.

Ultimately, the election of the next Pope is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  But for those writing and conjecturing about who is “papabile,” they should at least be asking the right questions.

44 Responses to Insider Questions: Is Cardinal O’Malley Really “Papabile”?: Part 1

  1. teddy ballgame says:

    Very good post BCI

    O’Malley is culpable, not Papabile!

  2. Betty Draper says:


    With regards to #2 “visually unegaged”, please consider that
    sometimes people experience “floaters” and/or other
    opthalmologic occurences that would impact social interactions.
    Also, a “plain background” (i.e. all persons in a room wearing black),
    would exacerbate these circumstances.Please be sure to separate facts from assumptions.

    I don’t think if you were over fifty years old, you would think it was very kind or amusing to do this. Please remove number #2.
    You want hime to be creative and think outside the box?
    Why don’t you think about this, and , lead by example?

  3. I would give him an C for Teaching, an F for Sanctifying, and an F for Governing. Cardinal Sean can give a great sermon once in a while, but other than that, he does not have the leadership skills to be a bishop, never mind Pope.

  4. MN-SNAP says:

    Here’s a list of 228 accused clerics, nuns and staff – [updated]
    — Added: — Bro. Stephen Baker, TOR, — Fr. Martin A. Brady, TOR (Franciscan friar);

  5. tonymangini says:

    giving reasons is only to satisfy your ego — no one of import will pay notice  — the electors do not read or pay attention to what you have to say   

    • Tonymangini, Thank you for your comment. BCI does not in any way presume this blog post will directly impact the electors. But we do hope some in the media or other pundits writing about this topic will look a bit deeper than they have been.

  6. St Catherine's Exile says:

    Cardinal Sean forced Msgr. Garrity on St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood and caused great damage to the parish and school. There has been a mass exodus from the school under his watch and several families have left the parish. Letters have been sent to the Bishop and meetings have taken place. The end result? He rebuffs the Bishop and carries on as he wills.

    Many of us have been scandalized and heartbroken over this.

    This is what Cardinal Sean did with one bad decision to an orthodox parish. Imagine his appoointment power as pope?

  7. jbq2 says:

    The forensic issue is quite disturbing. There have been similar accusations made in regard to Sister Lucy of “Three Secrets” fame.

  8. breathnach says:

    Our Cardinal is a great favorite of those who would like to see an “American Catholic Church”-a secularized, modernist clone of the Episcopal and Unitarian sects. Cardinal Sean is the perfect candidate for their purposes because he uses public relations techniques to preserve some of the outward trappings of Catholicism while gutting the substance and force of the Magisterium. There are no greater lovers of “smells and bells” than those who promote the disintegration of Christianity within the mainline and liberal Protestant sects. The same is true of the dissenting “catholycs” who would love to see a non-entity such as “Pope Sean”. he would be like putty in their hands. Luckily, The Holy Spirit will have a greater say than Jack Connors.

  9. Ray Neary says:

    Thank you BCI. You are being guided by the Holy Spirit. One could make many comments, but when I first heard this tale, I reiterated my prayerful request to the Spirit of the Living God to guide the enclave This candidacy was being promoted by one John Allen of The “Catholic” Reporter, and it had metastasized to secular and Catholic media. Others in the MSM had already been handicapping the election, heavily tilted by southpaws. It was like Roman Catholicism’s spring training. One question, however: Why is BCI downplaying, and seemingly ignoring, the 900 million dollar swindle which will be consummated sometime after this November? Twenty-five million dollars will be transferred to the Boston Cardinal (there is no right of refusal, only an option to let one Martha Coakley determine who receives it). The Catholic identity having been declared “materially burdensome”,Christ then will be driven out totally from health care once delivered under the aegis Caritas Christi. The 3-year gap Ralph de la Torre and Martha Coakley built into this transparent abdication of responsibility to bona fide donors by the Archdiocese, has thus far shamefully served its purpose.

    • Ray, Thank you for the compliment. We will get to Caritas in one of our next two posts. We have not gotten word yet that Steward definitively plans to drop the remaining Catholic identity. If you have anything confirmed on that, please let us know.

  10. M says:

    To: “JohnDempsey”

    I apologize for calling you Eeyore.

    You can have the sandbox.

    I am done.

  11. Lazarus' Table says:

    Step back and take a look. (Inter)nationally, not just in the diocese of Boston, the church has been in ‘self-survival mode’. The survival of the institutional church has been the prime concern. Locally, we have seen how this has made possible church closings, sales of church/diocesan property, payoffs of all sorts, the diminished security of elderly/retired priests, the abandonment of even falsely accused priests, the reluctance to make headlines or make waves, even for good and noble purposes. (Though the only thing ‘noble’ that has survived is the concept of the ‘noble lie’.)
    Putting Christ first would have painted a very different scenario. It might even have cost the church far fewer $$$.
    The institutional Church has lost all credibility as a witness to Christ. All that remains now is for the institutional church to lose everything it knows as life, like Jesus, to die. That day is certainly coming.
    Enter Card. O’Malley, whether in Boston or in Rome.
    But the Church, like its Master, will rise again. What will it look like? Maybe, like the Risen Jesus, not recognizable at first. But once He speaks your name, you know it is He. Once the Church speaks your name, you will know it is the Body of Christ. The Church does know your name, doesn’t it?
    Or…. maybe it really is the end of it all. Maybe the fullness of the Kingdom is about to burst upon us.

  12. jay says:

    How patronizing that the local print media, taking its cue from the MSM’s fealty to their lone go-to reporter for their Catholic source, abruptly fawns all over our shepherd’s qualities as papabile.
    Seems I recall they have been of long standing intensity in their criticism of his administration.

    Sorry, I forgot. the go-to guy rules.

  13. […] Tweeting Cardinal may be a Conclave Mole? – Mro. Pianta, La Stampa Is Cardinal O’Malley Really “Papabile”?: Part 1 – Boston Catholic Insider Abp. Gomez Supports Crd. Mahony for Conclave – Grd. […]

  14. Ray Neary says:

    An oops moment! Asking for a correction to my post. Mea maxima culpa – In these days of fiscal cliffs, sequesters and trillion dollar deficits, the “m” finger hit the “b” instead. It is ONLY an 800 million dollar swindle – not a 800 billion dollar one. .Horrors!

  15. JerryB says:

    The Holy Ghost will give us the pope we deserve. As corruption reigns everywhere in the Church today, Cdl. O’Malley would be an appropriate candidate.

    One parallel is stunning: Just as the Cardinal was building the Centene abortion cooperative here, complete with chauffeurs ready to drive women to PP, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Abp. Fisichella, along with the pope’s spokesman Fr. Lombardi, were defending therapeutic abortion against the Cardinal of Brazil. Corruption in Rome has increased lately, with the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family defending queer unions under law, and now the head of the CDF defending “liberation theologians” at a Peruvian university against their Cardinal. A Pope O’Malley.would be sure not to disturb the status quo.

    Look on the bright side. If Cdl. O’Malley gets elected, he’s out of here.

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      JerryB, To respectfully disagree: I believe the Holy Spirit will allow/permit the pope we deserve. If the hearts of the Conclave are truly open and receptive to the Spirit’s promptings, we need not be apprehensive. But we can’t assume the pope is de facto the will of the Holy Spirit. Look at history. Look at Boston.

    • JerryB says:

      Hi Lazarus’ Table. It seems clear that the good God is punishing us rather severely, according to how He warned us in the Old Testament. Hence, it can be said that He wills evil leaders on us, as that is our punishment. Do you see any sign that Catholics are repenting for following worldly ways? Catholics have been joining the Modernist rebellion for a century or so, which is why God finally sent us disastrous popes and evil bishops over the last 50 years. There’s no reason to think that we now deserve a strong and holy pope.

      • Michael says:

        But how could God do that … wouldn’t that be very un-Christlike? Flowers … smiles … and rainbows … ahhh …

    • Cardinal O’Malley might be out of Boston if elected, but as Pope he is responsible for appointing his successor in Boston. Who do you think he’s going to pick to run the Archdiocese? I can guarantee you it will not any of those tradition-friendly bishops.

      • Lazarus' Table says:

        Michael, remember that grace is a gift freely offered, which means it can be refused. Judging from the ‘fruits’ we’ve seen, seems the diocese of Boston has frequently taken a ‘pass’.

      • JerryB says:

        Hi Chris. Heh, There is a downside!

        That brings up another question. How did O’Malley ever become a cardinal? Likewise Mahoney, Wuerl, Law, McCarrick, Levada, Bernardin, etc. etc.? Happenstance, maybe.

  16. Stephen says:

    Looking forward to the universally accepted sedavacantist church on the 28th. What-a gives? El Popa can’t walk-a outa on a Mama!

  17. Objective Observer says:

    BCI has spoiled us — we have become accustomed to reading here the verifiable, substantive facts about the appalling reign of Sean Patrick O’Malley in Boston. If only the fellow could be posted to a congregation in Rome that would send him on frequent trips to South America, everyone could recover from the trauma of the past ten years.

    So why mention O’Malley as papal potential? My guess is that John Allen needed a lot of hits for his NCR post from Rome, and Michael Paulson needed content without having to pay to send someone over there just yet. Allen features O’Malley in his story, the Globe pretty much clones it, and there you go.

    No one who knows O’Malley would proclaim him a likely candidate for pope with a straight face. John Allen must have laughed all the way to the bank.

    What else will they think of to sell papers before the white smoke rises?

  18. Alan says:

    When I first heard of O’Malley the papabile, my thought was a single-word summarization of him: “underwhelming.”

    But all the “buzz” I’ve been reading about seems to be traced to this single article by John Allen. I cannot find any other source suggesting that any elector is paying O’Malley the slightest bit of attention. Nothing to see here, folks; move along.

  19. Moro says:

    Here’s the problem – there is a lot of bad stuff happening in Rome under Benedict’s nose. O’Malley would be a good candidate for those doing the dirty stuff to give the place a clean image while allowing their vile deads to continue. He could well be elected but for the entirely wrong reasons.

  20. Mack says:

    I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to enlighten the cardinal electors to choose the man God wants, and I have faith that the Spirit will not be “dialing O for O’Malley.”

  21. Mr. D says:

    The Globe would be happy if Barney Frank, Barack Hussein, or Nancy Pelosi were elected.

    Judging from what was reported yesterday, it looks like what’s really needed is someone who is willing and able to clean house. Cardinal “Sean” is hardly the man for that.

  22. tonymangini says:

    would you please identify the authors of the article or are you ashamed?

    • tonymangini, Perhaps you are new here. BCI does not publish the authors of our blog. We have explained why on multiple occasions since the beginning–because of the risks of retaliation by the Boston Archdiocese. Whenever an individual or a group of individuals is exposing corruption in an organization, they run the risk of retaliation and attacks on their reputations that threaten their livelihoods. That is why anonymous whistleblower programs exist and why BCI does not publish or identify the authors and sources. Early on, the Boston Archdiocese convened their lawyers to determine legal options for getting BCI shut down, and they would still like to see BCI gone.

      We present objectively verifiable and observable information with references wherever possible, and most readers find it is more accurate and truthful than what comes out from the Boston Archdiocese itself. (For example, last year, the Boston Archdiocese announced to considerable fanfare that they had a “balanced budget” when in fact, they ran a deficit. BCI called it as it was, and the archdiocese never admitted their own deception).

      We are not ashamed at all of what we write. Hundreds of thousands of people have read BCI since 2010, so, in fact, we are pleased that many people across the world have found BCI a valuable resource and continue to follow us regularly. If you do not wish to read the truths about what is happening in Boston here at BCI because you do not know who is writing the blog, that is your prerogative.

      • Michael says:

        You probably should also explain to mr mangini the amount of visitors to this blog (lets say compared to readership of the Pilot or of Cardinal Sean’s dog … I mean blog)

      • Michael,
        Good suggestion and thank you for your defense of BCI.

        tonymangini, please read this blog post for more details:

        In 2012, BCI was read by 234,000 unique visitors, with 313,000 pageloads. In sum total since we started BCI, the blog has been read by 536,000 unique visitors with 764,000 pageloads. With the majority of our visitors coming from Massachusetts, that means most Mass-attending Catholics in the Boston Archdiocese have read BCI at least once if not multiple times. About 1/3 of our visitors are repeat visitors.

        BCI believes the The Pilot publishes about 25K-26K copies of the print edition. We do not have stats on the online readership of The Pilot or of Cardinal Sean’s blog.

  23. Gail says:

    Love this Letter to the Editor in the Boston Globe, Sun., 2/24/13:
    “O’Malley Wrong Choice for Vatican”
    Re: “In Italy, O’Malley’s name is in the mix” (A1, Feb. 20):
    I pray the speculations that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley could be the next pope is a joke.
    Since O’Malley has been in Boston, how many churches have closed? How much has Mass attendance declined? How many have lost faith in the church?
    The damage he’s done in the Archdiocese of Boston has been bad enough. I can’t even start to imagine the damage to the church if he becomes the next pope. I fear if O’Malley ends up in Rome there’ll be no church left at all!
    To all who have any say in what happens over there: please do not let this happen.”
    -Submitted by Nancy Melanson, Melrose, MA.
    Thanks for those words of sanity, Nancy.

  24. Chris Barbour says:

    Reform is never popular. Some just cannot handle change well.


    “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job, but I keep waking up in the morning to face another day of reconfiguration.”

    Any man in Cardinal O’Malley’s position would grow weary at times. I’d much rather hear humble honesty from our leaders and empathize than hear false bravado and the assurance that they know what is best for us at all times. These men are men, after all.


    “Cardinal O’Malley is often largely, if not entirely, silent during important meetings”

    Only in Boston would a man be criticized for being a good listener.

    BCI, Cardinal O’Malley is papabili. Your desperate attempts to discredit him hurt the Church as a whole.

    And your insistence on anonymity speaks volumes.

%d bloggers like this: