Settlement in Boston

When the Capuchin Franciscan Sean O’Malley was installed as archbishop of Boston in July, he seemed to have an impossible task before him. Close to 550 lawsuits had been filed against the archdiocese claiming sexual abuse by its priests. Cardinal Bernard Law’s attempts to settle the cases ended badly when an archdiocesan financial council vetoed the proposed settlement, saying it was too costly. Even more troubling was the antagonism and bad feeling that permeated relations between church leaders and victims of abuse.

That much of this has changed in just two months is remarkable. On September 9, after three days of intense talks, including a midnight meeting between the archbishop and victims’ lawyers, the two sides agreed to an unprecedented $85-million settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, each victim will receive between $80,000 and $300,000, depending on a mediator’s ruling. By all accounts, O’Malley’s involvement was crucial to the deal’s success.

The archbishop has been widely praised for his role in the settlement. Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for the victims, applauded O’Malley for his honest and forthright handling of the negotiations. Even the New York Times seems downright smitten (not always a good sign) with the self-effacing Franciscan. The praise seems warranted. Since his installation, O’Malley has displayed a rare ability to win over would-be opponents. His obvious humility...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.