Cardinal Sean O’Malley on 60 Minutes

CBS’ 60 Minutes provided a fascinating interview with Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston on Sunday. He is a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” cardinals who are advisors to Pope Francis. Turns out, these two men are long-time friends – allies on issues of justice and peace, concern for the poor and simplicity of life. 

So when he was asked about Francis’ performance as pope, he beamed -- “beyond expectations” -- a genuine response. 

O’Malley was asked a wide range of questions, and his answers were more straightforward than I usually expect of a member of the hierarchy with one exception.

Not unexpectedly, he condemned sex abuse and the cover-up, and was especially emphatic that Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., was under serious investigation for his cover-up. I suspect that Finn’s days in Kansas City are numbered.

When asked about the investigation of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he called it a “disaster.” Whoa! I found myself saying to the TV: “You said WHAT? Have you shared that view with Francis?” I began thinking: is this a signal to CDF to bring it to an end? One can only hope!  

But the issue on which he seemed hesitant was the ordination of women.  He defended the current official teaching, but said some silly things like “Well, women don’t HAVE to be priests to do important work …” Of course they don’t, but that’s not the point. Finally, after a continuing series of challenging questions from the woman reporter, he said, "If I were founding a church, you know, I'd love to have women priests. But Christ founded it and it -- what he has given us is -- is something different." 

So, my recommendation to Cardinal Sean (that’s what he prefers to be called): check out the Scriptures and scripture scholars -- Jesus never had a word to say on the subject. And most scholars don’t believe he ordained anyone at the Last Supper. That was “read into” the event much later. And Jesus certainly treated women and men equally. What you are extrapolating is not the sentiment of Jesus, but the words of hierarchs who did not understand either Jesus or women and thus kept women from full equality in the church. Jesus wanted to found a church like the one you say you would found.  

Oh yes, and while you’re at it, communicate that to Pope Francis.  

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here