Cardinal O’Malley Expands on ‘Provocative’ '60 Minutes' Interview
He said questions on women’s ordination and Vatican investigations of Bishop Robert Finn and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious needed more discussion and nuance.
BOSTON — Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has clarified his recent 60 Minutes interview, saying its “difficult questions” on women’s ordination and Vatican investigations of a Missouri bishop and a women’s religious conference needed more discussion and nuance.
“The program’s interviews include difficult questions that are often on many people’s minds. For some people, being featured on 60 Minutes would be exhilarating, but television interviews are not at the top of my list of favorite things to do,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his Nov. 19 column for the Boston Pilot archdiocesan newspaper.
While he praised 60 Minutes reporters and the news show’s “trying to go deeper into the topics they address,” he said the “provocative” matters that he discussed “call for more time and consideration than can be given in a 20-minute broadcast segment.”
“I hope that one takeaway from my 60 Minutes interview will be that cardinals, bishops and priests are human and that we love the Church,” said the cardinal, who is part of a special advisory board for Pope Francis.
The CBS news show broadcast its interview with the cardinal on Nov. 16. Topics included the ordination of women as priests and Vatican investigations of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, as well as a Missouri bishop.
The cardinal made headlines over comments from his 60 Minutes appearance touching on Catholic teaching on the priesthood. He had said: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests.” However, he also added that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, “and what he has given us is something different.”
His television interview also rejected claims that Catholic teaching on priestly ordination was immoral, saying, “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral.” He said that “not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the Church.”
The cardinal discussed these remarks in his column, saying, “The Church is called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular. Understanding the Church’s teaching is always a process that begins with faith.”
Cardinal O’Malley acknowledged that Catholic teaching on women’s ordination is “particularly painful to many Catholic women who feel that the teaching on women’s ordination is a rejection and unfair.” He said “many wonderful Catholic women have wished to be priests, among them St. Therese, the Little Flower.” However, he also pointed at the need for fidelity to Christ’s teaching.
He said his comments had been “trying to communicate that women are often holier, smarter and more hardworking than men, and that the most important member of the Church is a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The cardinal in his 60 Minutes interview also said that the Vatican should “urgently” address the situation of Missouri Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children, which the bishop never saw, had been found on a laptop belonging a priest of his diocese.
The cardinal appeared to agree with 60 Minutes’ interviewer Norah O’Donnell that Bishop Finn would not be allowed to teach Sunday school in Boston under its zero-tolerance policy.
In his column, Cardinal O’Malley said advance reporting on his interview “did not reflect the nuances of my answer to the question.”
He said there is a need both for “justice for all” and a need to “avoid crowd-based condemnations.”
“I said that the Vatican must attend to this situation. The Holy Father is aware of this need, and recently an episcopal visitator was sent to Bishop Finn’s diocese,” he said.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, has visited the diocese on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops.
Cardinal O’Malley stressed the need for bishops to be accountable for the safety of children and for “clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters.” He also said bishops deserve “due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing.”
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
The 60 Minutes interview also referred to the Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
A multiyear, Vatican-initiated doctrinal assessment of the women’s conference raised concerns about dissent from Church teaching on topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ. The assessment found major theological and doctrinal errors in the presentations at the conference’s annual meetings.
O’Donnell said the investigation “looked like a crackdown from men in the Vatican.”
Cardinal O’Malley said in the interview that it appeared to be “a disaster.”
In his column, Cardinal O’Malley expanded on his comments and noted that there was also an apostolic visitation of communities of religious women.
“I trust that there were serious concerns that gave rise to the visitations, but it would seem that better planning and a wider participation of American religious and U.S. bishops would have been helpful,” he said in his newspaper column.
“The Church personnel who carried out these assignments have done an admirable job under very difficult circumstances,” he said. “Unfortunately, many religious women have been alienated by the process, and the bishops in this country have been blamed for shortfalls in communications and the process.”
Cardinal O’Malley said he hoped that the final report on the visitations will present “a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life.”
He said the Catholic Church’s upcoming Year of Consecrated Life is “an opportunity to celebrate the great achievements of our religious.”
- 60 minutes
- bishop robert finn
- boston pilot
- cardinal o'malley
- leadership conference of women religious
- women's ordination