Boston Reaction Is Mixed To Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI concludes the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, on Jan. 16. He announced Monday he's resigning at the end of February. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Pope Benedict XVI concludes the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, on Jan. 16. He announced Monday he’s resigning at the end of February. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

BOSTON — Following Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement that he’s resigning at the end of the month, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who was traveling on Monday, released a statement saying that it is time to reflect on the pope’s legacy and achievements.

Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston reacted positively to Benedict’s decision, but there was some skepticism among victims of clergy sexual abuse about why a pope — for the first time in nearly six centuries — is resigning.


Most Boston-area Catholics stopped Monday to ask their reaction to Benedict resignation had similar reactions to these from some Boston College sophomores heading to the gym:

“I was first surprised because I hadn’t heard anything about him thinking about resigning,” Joe Davidson said.

“I was a little surprised,” Riley Colman said. “I heard it’s the first time in, like, 600 years that it’s ever happened.”

“I didn’t really know you could do it [resign],” Amani Teshome said.


Many see the resignation in a positive light, including Mike Rose, of Medfield, who was attending noon Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Newton.

“It’s kind of exciting at the same time, thinking that there will be a new pontiff in our lifetime,” Rose said. “We’ll get to see someone new and see the whole process take place, you know? I have five young kids, so they’re going to experience that.”

But another parishioner of Sacred Heart, Dory Swanberg, said she feels like he’s abandoning the church.

“We need a leader. We’re losing everything,” Swanberg said. “If the pope thinks he needs somebody with more vigor, then about 90 percent of the world should resign from living. We all have a job to do right up until the end.”

Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome disagrees. He thinks it shows courage.

“I think it’s a very positive sign,” he said. “Many of us had wondered if John Paul II might have resigned. He decided to stay on, so in a sense it gave a signal that popes just simply don’t resign. I’m delighted that Benedict, in a sense, has moved us into the 21st century.”

Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims React

Boston is the epicenter of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, which took up so much of Benedict’s time during his papacy. And before he was pope he was director of the Vatican agency that oversaw complaints of clergy abuse. Many victims say Benedict did little to stop the practice of bishops moving accused priests to parishes where they might abuse again.

But O’Malley, in his statement, praised the pope for meeting with victims during this visit to the United States in 2008.

A leading member of the victims community, Bernie McDaid, of Salem, was the first to speak with the pope. McDaid said Benedict’s departure is a relief to him.

“I hate to say it this way, but I will — one down and many more to go,” McDaid said. “Anybody culpable for this problem with children needs to step down.”

McDaid said he’s spoken to many other abuse victims who feel the same way. BishopAccountability.org, the website that tracks priest abuse and the coverup all the way to the Vatican, thinks there’s more to the story.  

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more revelations to come,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-founder of BishopAccountability.org. “I think it’s very possible that he knows of something on the horizon that finally was the tipping point and just caused him to resign.”

But most Catholics we spoke to take the pope’s departure at face value. Benedict is 85 years old and in his statement he said he’s lost the strength he needs to run the church.

On Tuesday O’Malley, who is one of the 120 cardinals who will elect the next pope, will talk about the next steps in papal succession.


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  • gorilla monsoon

    The years of sexual abuse among Catholic priests, especially here in Boston, was a disgrace. When reported to Cardinal Law, he simply moved the offender to another church. Even to an adjacent town where the abuse was repeated. And Cardinal Bernard Law was transferred to a nice office at the Vatican. Don’t you think the Pope knew what was going on. It is time for the Catholic Church to stop the foolishness about celibacy. Let the priests marry and also welcome female priests. It is no longer the Dark Ages. Plus jail those old offenders for rape.

  • Cabanator

    The answer to making the Catholic Church change is simple: STOP giving them your money. The Catholic Church survives on donations by its followers, and as long as the money stream continues flowing, the church has little incentive to change its ways. If you want the sexual abuse to stop, or the celibacy requirement lifted, or women allowed into the priesthood, the strongest message you can send is with your dollar. Once the money dries up, the church will have no choice but to look more carefully at its philosophies, and its future.

    • gorilla monsoon

      I agree 1,000%

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.schwiderski Bob Schwiderski

    Some would argue Benedict is suitable for a millstone

    Here is a list of 174 accused Minnesota clerics – [updated]


    — Added: — Fr. Martin A. Brady, TOR (Franciscan friar); Little Falls, MN

  • Skeptic

    Clearly the reporter didn’t talk to the same Catholics (and ex-Catholics) I did yesterday! The assumption was universal that Benedict has something to hide, and is taking this almost unheard-of step to protect the Church. Not that his responsibility for decades of clerical sex abuse isn’t enough to make him step down, but he toughed that out–and even won Cardinal Law’s respect by deigning to be in the same room with a few victims when he visited Boston! The assumption was that he’s stepping down ahead of revelations about him personally which would embarrass the Church less if he weren’t a sitting pope. I think his cruelly sexist theology, his behavior to non-European Catholics and especially to the Jews as a people, and his responsibility for decades of sex abuse should have embarrassed the Church plenty. But those old guys are as hard to embarrass as Cardinal Law is easy to impress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-F-Moran/517083476 James F Moran

    So, the pope is taking an “early retirement!” Good for him. So did I – but for a different reason. As a priest I had to make a moral decision to follow my own conscience. I could no longer “represent” or be an apostle to the bishops becasue of their horrendous actions. You see, in my Deacon year (9 months prior to ordination) I was raped. I experienced a flashback in the fall of 2001. I struggled to remain in ministry until 2006. I then had to go out of a “medical disability” until I reached retirement age.

    The pope’s retirement seems almost IMMEDIATE. What I cannot fathom is why so urgent a departure. Holy Thursday is such a “big day” for priests, celebrating the establishment of priesthood, why would he not celebrate that as pope. And what about the remainder of Holy Week and Easter? Wouldn’t it be more symbolic for him to remain until then?

    It appears that he is almost “running” from something! Is there another scandal brewing? Is he going to act on the horrendous actions of Mahony, George, Finn et al? Would be nice to see that happen – but I am not holding my breath!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Judy-Block-Jones/1065937918 Judy Block-Jones

    Pope Benedict has taken no decisive actions to punish any high ranking church official for enabling, empowering, and covering up sex crimes against innocent kids.

    Many should have been fired. Just to name a few..

    –Cardinal Law, who was given a plush job in the Vatican, is still in that high ranking position

    –Bishop Finn, who is a convicted criminal is still the bishop of the KC-St Joe diocese

    –Cardinal Mahony, horrific cover up of sex crimes per thousands of recently released LA archdiocese secret documents, he is still a cardinal and can now vote for a new pope.

    We hope there is someone within the college of cardinals who could be a pope with integrity, who will start to take immediate actions to stop these crimes against humanity.

    Children are safest when child predators and those who enable and conceal their crimes are held responsible.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,

    “SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

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