Seán Patrick O'Malley

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Seán Patrick O'Malley

Archbishop of Boston
Cardinal O'Malley in 2010
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
AppointedJuly 1, 2003
InstalledJuly 30, 2003
PredecessorBernard Francis Law
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria della Vittoria
Member of the Council of Cardinal Advisers
President of Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
OrdinationAugust 29, 1970
by John Bernard McDowell
ConsecrationAugust 2, 1984
by Edward John Harper, James Aloysius Hickey, and Eugene Antonio Marino
Created cardinalMarch 24, 2006
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Patrick O'Malley

(1944-06-29) June 29, 1944 (age 79)
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)
Alma materCatholic University of America
MottoQuodcumque dixerit facite ("Do whatever He says")
Styles of
Seán Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Eminence[1][2]
Informal styleCardinal
Ordination history of
Seán Patrick O'Malley
Priestly ordination
Ordained byJohn Bernard McDowell (Pittsburgh aux.)
DateAugust 29, 1970
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorEdward John Harper CSsR (St Thomas)
Co-consecratorsJames Aloysius Hickey (Washington)
Eugene Antonio Marino (Washington aux.)
DateAugust 2, 1984
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Seán Patrick O'Malley as principal consecrator
John Anthony DooherDecember 12, 2006
Robert Francis HennesseyDecember 12, 2006
Arthur KennedySeptember 14, 2010
Peter John UgliettoSeptember 14, 2010
Donald LippertFebruary 4, 2012
Robert DeeleyJanuary 4, 2013

Seán Patrick O'Malley OFM Cap GCIH (born June 29, 1944) is an American cardinal of the Catholic Church serving as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston in Massachusetts since 2003. He is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and was elevated by the Vatican to the rank of cardinal in 2006.

Since its creation in 2013, O'Malley has been a member of the Council of Cardinal Advisers, formed by Pope Francis to help him govern the Catholic Church and reform its central administration. Since March 22, 2014, he has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors[3][4] and as its president since December 17, 2014.[5]

O'Malley previously served as bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach in Florida (2002 to 2003), bishop of the Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts (1992 to 2002), and bishop of the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (1984 to 1992).


Early life[edit]

Seán Patrick O'Malley was born as Patrick O'Malley on June 29, 1944, 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 High School Seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania, 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, while also being active in theatre.

After graduating from St. Fidelis, he attended Capuchin College and the Catholic University of America, both in Washington, D.C. On July 14, 1965, at age 21, O'Malley professed his vows in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and took the name Seán in honor of John the Apostle. After he was ordained a deacon, O'Malley spent a brief period in Easter Island, Chile.

Early priesthood[edit]

O'Malley was ordained a priest for the Order of Friars on August 29, 1970, at age 26, by Auxiliary Bishop John McDowell. After his ordination, O'Malley graduated from CUA with a master's degree in religious education and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature. He served as a professor at Catholic University from 1969 to 1973.

In 1973, O'Malley was asked to minister to Latinos at the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, D.C. He opened a Spanish bookstore there and founded El Pregonero, the first Spanish language newspaper in the area.

In 1978, Cardinal William Baum appointed O'Malley as episcopal vicar for the Portuguese, Hispanic, and Haitian communities in the Archdiocese of Washington. He also became executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Social Ministry. He says his daily prayers in Spanish.[6]

Bishop of Saint Thomas[edit]

O'Malley was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on May 30, 1984, by Pope John Paul II.[7] He received his episcopal consecration on August 2, 1984, by Bishop Edward Harper, with Archbishop James Hickey and Bishop Eugene Marino serving as co-consecrators.

In 1985, O'Malley was also named knight commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique by the Government of Portugal for his service to the Portuguese people in Washington.[citation needed]

O'Malley served as coadjutor bishop for one year and then automatically succeeded Harper as bishop on October 16, 1985, when he resigned. While in the Virgin Islands, O'Malley worked with the homeless and opened a home for people with HIV/AIDS. He was made an honorary chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1991.

Bishop of Fall River[edit]

On June 16, 1992, John Paul II appointed O'Malley as bishop of the Diocese of Fall River.[2] He was installed on August 11, 1992. As bishop, O'Malley first attempted to settle the sexual abuse scandal in the Fall River diocese.

In 1998, John Paul II appointed O'Malley to the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops.[2]

Bishop of Palm Beach[edit]

On September 3, 2002, John Paul II appointed O'Malley as bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach.[2] He was installed on October 19, 2002. O'Malley also tried to overcome the abuse scandal there. He also worked closely with the Portuguese and Hispanic population there.

Archbishop of Boston[edit]

O'Malley speaks to students at St. Paul's Catholic Church, home to the Catholic community at Harvard University, in 2006

Known as a fixer in various Roman Catholic dioceses plagued by sexual abuse scandals, John Paul II appointed O'Malley as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston on July 1, 2003.[8] He succeeded Cardinal Bernard Law, who had resigned as a consequence of the sexual abuse scandal there.

On July 3, 2019, the archdiocese released a statement revealing that O'Malley had agreed to accept Pope Francis' request to stay on as Archbishop of Boston "for a few more years," despite the fact that O'Malley, as required, submitted his letter of resignation upon turning 75 years of age.[9][10] Archdiocese spokesperson Terry Donilon said O'Malley was "really relieved" about the Vatican's decision and that "He loves being the archbishop of Boston and so we're pleased that that was settled right out of the box."[10] The archdiocese statement also claimed that "The Cardinal is pleased to have the continued confidence of the Holy Father and looks forward to continuing to serve the people of God in Boston and in support of the Pope’s ministry in leading the universal church."[9]


Cardinal O'Malley in 2014

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, Rome. 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 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.[11] 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."[12]

O'Malley participated in the 2013 papal conclave, which elected Pope Francis, where he was among the cardinals considered papabile, that is, a contender for election to the papacy.[13] As of 2021, O'Malley is one of the four Capuchin members of the College of Cardinals.

On April 13, 2013, O'Malley was appointed to a group of eight cardinals established by Francis 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 pope was already in contact with the members of this group.[14][15] Along with then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, O'Malley accompanied Francis to Cuba on September 20, 2015.[16][17]

O'Malley praised the new tone of Francis' papacy. He stated however that those that expected change in doctrine from the pope on sexual ethics like abortion rights for women, contraception, and same-sex 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.[18]

On January 14, 2017, Pope Francis named O'Malley a member of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.[19][20] On October 15, 2020, the pope renewed O'Malley's term on the Council of Cardinal Advisers.[21]

Apostolic Visitor to Dublin[edit]

In June 2010, after the Ryan Report and Murphy Report on the abuses by the Church in Ireland, O'Malley was named along with others to oversee the apostolic visitation of certain dioceses and seminaries in Ireland. O'Malley was named as the visitor to the Archdiocese of Dublin and its suffragan dioceses of Ferns, Ossory, Kildare and Leighlin. He reported back to the Holy See on what steps had been taken since the reports were issued, and what else needs to happen.[22]


Abortion politics[edit]

In November 2007, O'Malley said that the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to anti-abortion groups and that the fact many Catholic voters support Democratic candidates "borders on scandal."[23] 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 abortion rights for women.[24] Despite criticism from conservative Catholics, including commentator Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network, of his participation in the funeral service for Senator Ted Kennedy, a long-standing supporter of abortion rights, 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 Kennedy's work for social justice, but that "there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn".[25]

Leadership Conference of Women Religious[edit]

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. O'Malley praised a traveling exhibition created by LCWR that documented the work of nuns 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".[26]

Sexual abuse policies[edit]

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.[27] 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.[28] When the commission was established on March 22, 2014, O'Malley was named one of its first eight members.[29][30] He supported the 2015 film Spotlight, which took an in-depth look at the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church in light of sexual abuse scandals.[citation needed]

Theodore McCarrick and St. John's Seminary controversies[edit]

In June 2018,[31] it was revealed that O'Malley never responded to a letter from Boniface Ramsey, a New York priest, concerning sex abuse committed by then Cardinal McCarrick.[32] Despite being required to enforce a zero-tolerance policy with regards to reporting sex abuse, O'Malley said the letter was handled by staff and was never forwarded to him.[33]

Ramsey stated that he had reported the allegations against McCarrick to other Catholic officials before he sent his letter to O'Malley.[32] During the time the letter was sent, McCarrick and O'Malley were both working with Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega to mend relations between the United States and Cuba.[34][35] McCarrick also accepted O'Malley's invitation to appear at the archdiocese "Celebration of the Priesthood" fundraising dinner in South Boston in September 2015.[36][35]

On August 10, 2018, allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced at St. John's Seminary in Boston.[37] On August 15, 2018, it was announced that O'Malley would not attend the World Meeting of Families held in Dublin, Ireland between August 21 and August 26 in order to review these allegations.[38]

Arlington Catholic High School lawsuit[edit]

On May 5, 2023, a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court by three former students at Arlington Catholic High School alleged that O'Malley and others failed to protect them from a vice principal who sexually abused them.[39] The alleged abuse took place between 2011 and 2016.[40]

Caritas Christi controversy[edit]

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, 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.[41] 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.[42]

O'Malley asked the National Catholic Bioethical Center to review the contractual relationship,[43] 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.[44] 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."[43]

In June 2009, Caritas Christi, at O'Malley's insistence, terminated its partial ownership of Celticare.[45][46] O'Malley said:[41]

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.

Anti-abortion activist 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.[47]

Catholic Charities and gay adoption[edit]

Massachusetts has included sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination statute since 1989,[48] and it legalized same-sex marriage beginning May 17, 2004.[49] 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 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."[50] 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 LGBT couples. He said "This is a difficult and sad day for Catholic Charities. We have been doing adoptions for more than 100 years."[51]



  • O'Malley, Sean Patrick (June 2010). Anel e Sandálias [Rings and Sandals] (in Portuguese). Pauline Books and Media. ISBN 9789896730994. EAN 560-3658113471

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cardinal Seán 60 Minutes. CBS News. November 16, 2014. Retrieved September 6, 2015
  2. ^ a b c d About Cardinal Seán Archived 2018-04-28 at the Wayback Machine Cardinal's Corner. Archdiocese of Boston. 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "Pope Francis names Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and seven others to new Vatican anti-abuse commission".
  4. ^ "Cardinal O'Malley named to Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors".
  5. ^ "Comunicato della Sala Stampa: Completata la composizione della Commissione per la tutela dei minori, 17.12.2014" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  6. ^ Paulson, Michael (July 8, 2007). "Vatican grants a revival for old-style Latin Mass". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  7. ^ Cheney, David M. "Sean Patrick Cardinal O'Malley [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  8. ^ Donis Tracy (August 1, 2003). "Archbishop Seán O'Malley installed as sixth Archbishop of Boston". The Pilot. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b July 3, 2019 - Statement Of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese Of Boston Archdiocese of Boston, accessed April 24, 2020
  10. ^ a b "Pope Requests Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley Remain In Post". WBUR-FM. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  11. ^ Michael Paulson (December 21, 2006). "Cardinal O'Malley to launch podcasts". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 21, 2006.
  12. ^ Sean Patrick Cardinal O'Malley (2006). "Leading up to Christmas". Retrieved December 23, 2006.
  13. ^ Smith-Spark, Laura; Greene, Richard Allen; Rivers, Dan (12 March 2013). "No winner in first vote to elect new pope". CNN.
  14. ^ Anugrah, Kumar (April 14, 2013). "Pope Francis Forms 8-Cardinal Advisory Board to Reform Catholic Church". The Christian Post. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Bishop: Lay Faithful, not Bishops, Must Investigate McCarrick and Coverup". 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Home". Archived from the original on 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  18. ^ "Pope Francis softening tone, not stance, Cardinal Sean O'Malley says - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  19. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (14 January 2017). "Pope Appoints Cardinal O'Malley as Member of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Rinunce e nomine". Holy See Press Office (Press release). Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  21. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 15.10.2020" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 15 October 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  22. ^ Cullen, Kevin, "US visitor well versed in church abuse issue" Archived 2012-10-21 at the Wayback Machine, The Irish Times, Friday, June 4, 2010
  23. ^ Paulson, Michael (November 15, 2007). "O'Malley draws line with Democrats". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  24. ^ Paulson, Michael (November 11, 2008). "O'Malley on Obama and abortion". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  25. ^ Paulson, Michael (September 3, 2009). "O'Malley defends role at Kennedy rites". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  26. ^ "Bishops' Committee Heralds Leadership Conference Of Women Religious Exhibit On Sisters, October 2, 2009". Office of Media Relations. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  27. ^ "Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church / The church's response".
  28. ^ Pope has approved a commission of experts to prevent clerical sex abuse and help victims on YouTube
  29. ^ "Francis names O'Malley to Vatican antiabuse panel". The Boston Globe.
  30. ^ "Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis for the institution of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (22 March 2014) | Francis".
  31. ^ "News and Press Current and Archives | Archdiocese of Boston". Archived from the original on 2018-08-03. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  32. ^ a b Guidos, Rhina (13 August 2018). "Abuse letter to Cardinal O'Malley was second priest sent officials". National Catholic Reporter.
  33. ^ "Cardinal O'Malley calls for 'clearer procedures' in bishop abuse cases". Catholic News Agency. 24 July 2018.
  34. ^ "Google Translate".
  35. ^ a b Smith, Peter Jesserer (21 August 2018). "Cardinal O'Malley Takes Personal Responsibility for Failing McCarrick Whistleblower". National Catholic Register.
  36. ^ "Celebrating the Priesthood – Cardinal Seán's Blog".
  37. ^ "St. John's Seminary Shakeup Amid Probe into Sexual Misconduct Claims". 2018-08-10.
  38. ^ "Cardinal to miss World Meeting of Families to tend to seminary matters". 2018-08-15. Archived from the original on 2019-06-27. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  39. ^ Hillard, John (May 23, 2023). "Lawsuit alleges Cardinal O'Malley, other church leaders failed to prevent abuse of three former Arlington Catholic students". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  40. ^ Rios, Simón; Creamer, Lisa (May 22, 2023). "3 people sue cardinal, bishops, over alleged sex abuse by Arlington Catholic High ex-principal". WBUR. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  41. ^ a b Paulson, Michael; Lazar, Kay (June 27, 2009). "Caritas ends joint venture". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  42. ^ Paulson, Michael (June 12, 2009). "Cardinal seeks changes to Caritas venture". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  43. ^ a b Paulson, Michael (March 12, 2009). "Cardinal warns Caritas approval not final". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  44. ^ Paulson, Michael (March 11, 2009). "Caritas deal gets support of leading theologians". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  45. ^ "Caritas-CeltiCare joint ownership ends". NECN. June 27, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  46. ^ "Archdiocese of Boston Supports New Caritas Arrangement, June 26, 2009". Archdiocese of Boston. Archived from the original on October 3, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  47. ^ Paulson, Michael (June 28, 2009). "Mixed reaction to Caritas abortion decision". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  48. ^ "A Gay Rights Law Is Voted in Massachusetts". New York Times. November 1, 1989. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  49. ^ Weiss, Joanna (May 17, 2004). "Cambridge plays host to a giant celebration". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  50. ^ Wen, Patricia (October 22, 2005). "Archdiocesan Agency Aids in Adoption by Gays". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on June 11, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2013., also available here Archived August 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ Boston Globe: Patricia Wen, "Catholic Charities stuns state, ends adoptions," March 3, 2006, accessed February 24, 2012, also available here Archived August 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 20 March 2019.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Roman Catholic Bishop of St Thomas
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman Catholic Bishop of Palm Beach
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston
Preceded by
Grand prior of the Northeastern Lieutenancy
of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre

Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome