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New Bishop for Scandal-Hit Diocese

Sean Patrick O'Malley's two predecessors in Palm Beach resigned after sexual misconduct.

October 20, 2002|From Associated Press

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A church leader known for combating sexual abuse by clergy was installed Saturday as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach, where two predecessors resigned amid scandals.

Sean Patrick O'Malley was installed before more than 1,800 people, including 200 clergy members, 14 bishops and the papal nuncio, the Vatican's top representative in the United States.

"To those who are upset with the church, I say don't forget the whole picture," O'Malley said during the service. "The storm of crisis and scandal rages about us, but amidst the worst storm that engulfs us, our Lord is with us."

Outgoing Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell resigned in March after he admitted that he spent time naked in bed with one of his students at the Missouri seminary where he taught in the late 1970s. In 1998, then-Bishop J. Keith Symons resigned after admitting he molested five altar boys decades earlier.

O'Malley said his first task will be to appraise diocesan policies regarding abuse.

O'Malley took over as bishop of Fall River, Mass., in 1992, when that diocese was rocked by the sexual abuse scandal.

He implemented policies including criminal background checks and training for everyone involved with children -- priests and volunteers -- and referring sex abuse victims to independent social workers.

O'Malley is a member of the Capuchin order and wears the simple brown robes, sandals and rope belt traditional to the order.

He holds a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and served as bishop in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, before his appointment to Fall River.

Appointed by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 3, O'Malley assured the public that his background is free of scandals and accusations.

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