By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI named 15 cardinals yesterday, including an outspoken critic of China's record on human rights and two Americans who have played pivotal roles in responding to the clergy sex abuse scandal.
One of the Americans is a former Washington resident, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston. He headed the Washington Archdiocese's outreach effort to Latinos during the 1970s and early '80s, winning the enduring affection of some of the city's poorest residents by leading them in a battle to reclaim a rat-infested building in Adams Morgan.
"There were cries of jubilation throughout the city today," said Michele Bowe, a board member of the archdiocese's Spanish Catholic Center, which O'Malley headed from 1973 to 1978.
Yesterday's appointments were Benedict's first chance to put his stamp on the College of Cardinals, the group of prelates that will someday choose his successor. Most of the choices were expected. But there were a few surprises, most notably Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, the bishop of Hong Kong.
Cardinals usually are plucked from the ranks of archbishops, and Zen's rapid elevation was widely seen as a sign of solidarity with underground Catholics in China.
The pope "didn't name a lot of cardinals this time. A lot of dioceses that typically get appointments didn't. This shows his priority for China," Zen, 74, told reporters in Hong Kong, confirming his reputation for bluntness.
The new U.S. cardinals, who with the others will be formally installed in a March 24 ceremony at the Vatican, are O'Malley, 61, and the former archbishop of San Francisco, William J. Levada.
The awarding of a cardinal's red hat to Levada, 69, had been virtually automatic since Benedict chose him last May to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which serves as the Vatican's enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy and oversees the church's handling of sex abuse allegations worldwide. Benedict held that powerful post for two decades before his election as pope last April.
The selection of O'Malley was less certain. The Boston Archdiocese traditionally has been headed by a cardinal. Yet O'Malley "is probably going to be the most controversial name on this list," said the Rev. Anthony J. Figueiredo, a professor of theology at Seton Hall University who has served as a special assistant to Benedict.
Although O'Malley is "a very fine bishop, a very holy man, some people will question whether the time is right for Boston, given the history of that diocese in recent times," Figueiredo said, referring to the sex abuse scandal that erupted four years ago.
O'Malley is one of the Roman Catholic Church's consummate fix-it men. Before Pope John Paul II appointed him to replace the disgraced Cardinal Bernard F. Law as Boston's archbishop in 2003, the Vatican sent him to clean up two other dioceses badly tarnished by sex abuse cases: Fall River, Mass., and Palm Beach, Fla.
As a Capuchin Franciscan friar, O'Malley lives under a vow of poverty. He is remembered in Washington for moving into an 83-unit apartment complex on 16th Street NW to help the tenants fight eviction, oust crack users and win the city's help to buy the building. Some of those tenants still call him "Padre Sean."
Before he slept on the floor of that building, O'Malley slept on a wooden bed without a mattress in a Capuchin monastery, said Catholic University professor Bruno Damiani, who supervised his 1970 doctoral dissertation. "What's unusual is the simplicity and humility of the person, his complete unpretentiousness," he said.
Those traits at first won plaudits for O'Malley in Boston, where he sold the archbishop's mansion to help fund an $85 million settlement with victims of sex abuse. More recently, however, he has run into criticism for closing parishes and offering smaller sums to victims.
By naming O'Malley as a cardinal, Benedict is signaling his confidence, said George Weigel, author of "God's Choice," a book about the German-born pope. "I hope that this means the new Cardinal O'Malley will have even greater authority and capacity to get on with the reform of the church in Boston," Weigel said.
Benedict's appointments bring the number of U.S. cardinals to 15, although two -- Fordham University theologian Avery Dulles and retired Philadelphia archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua -- are older than 80 and, thus, ineligible to vote for the next pope.
Altogether, 12 of the 15 men named by Benedict are younger than 80, bringing the number of voting cardinals to 120, the limit established by Pope Paul VI. The pontiff said his choices "reflect the universality of the church." They came from 11 countries and included three members of the curia, the church's Roman bureaucracy: Levada, Italian Archbishop Agostino Vallini and Slovenian Archbishop Franc Rode.
In addition, the pope named the heads of nine major archdioceses: Bologna, Italy; Bordeaux, France; Boston; Caracas, Venezuela; Hong Kong; Krakow, Poland; Manila; Seoul; and Toledo, Spain. And he rewarded three prelates older than 80 for their long service to the church: Italian Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Ghanaian Archbishop Peter Poreku Dery, and the Rev. Albert Vanhoye, a French Jesuit.