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Is This Man the Next Pope? A Guide to the Best Stories on Cardinal Sean O'Malley

Here's what you should know about the man some say could be the next leader of the Catholic Church.

Update: Cardinals have elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to become the next pope. Check out National Catholic Reporter's profile of the new leader of the Catholic Church. 

All eyes are fixed on the Sistine Chapel chimney, waiting for the white smoke to announce a new pope has been picked. After two days and three ballots, the cardinals have yet to select the next leader of the Catholic Church.

There's lots of speculation that a leading candidate is Boston's archibishop Cardinal Sean O'Malley. If he's chosen, O'Malley would become the first American pope in history, and the first in 213 years to have a beard. While the cardinals prepare to cast their next ballot, we've rounded up the best stories on O'Malley:

Papal contender joins fight against Obama birth control mandate, The Hill, March 2013

As chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, O’Malley has been an outspoken opponent of abortion and contraception. On Friday, he penned a letter to Congress in support of a bill that exempts objecting employers from providing insurance coverage for birth control.

In 2007, O’Malley said Catholic support for any pro-choice Democratic candidate “borders on scandal.”

Cardinal Sean O'Malley: The quiet Capuchin contender, CBS, March 2013

O’Malley has become well-known for his simple friar’s lifestyle, which some say makes him “the least American” of the American cardinals.

Sex Abuse Victims’ Group Says Cardinal O’Malley Has Not Done Enough, CBS local, March 2013

Though many hold up O’Malley as a leader of the Catholic response to sex abuse scandals, victim advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) placed him on their list of 12 cardinals that shouldn’t be considered for pope. In the past, SNAP has claimed O’Malley withheld the names of priests accused of abuse, failed to provide sexual abuse prevention training for youth, and moved too slowly to reprimand offenders.

Who is Sean Cardinal O’Malley?, CBS Boston, February 2013

CBS Boston gives a rundown of the cardinal, including his active social media presence. O’Malley is the first known cardinal to have his own blog, and is also a regular tweeter.

A wary Irish welcome for O’Malley, the Visitor, Boston Globe, April 2011

Having helped several US communities through scandal, Cardinal O’Malley was asked by the pope to visit the Archdiocese of Dublin in the midst of their sexual abuse crisis. O’Malley’s presence was generally a welcome one, as he was perceived as kind, reconciliatory, and easy to speak with.

O'Malley reprimands Caritas chief, Boston Globe, May 2006

When it was discovered that the head of Catholic hospital Caritas Christi’s Health Care Systems had engaged in several acts of sexual harassment, O’Malley dealt with the matter privately, with an internal reprimand. His decision outraged many who thought the hospital president deserved to be fired for his repeat offenses.

O'Malley to reconsider policies against lay group, Boston Globe, May 2006

In 2006, O’Malley reversed a ban on Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic group founded to call for a stronger response to sexual abuse in the Church. Many US bishops viewed the group as “dissident,” and refused to accept money from the organization or allow them to meet on church premises. Voice of the Faithful’s Boston council has since endorsed O’Malley’s efforts to increase transparency of dealings with offending priests.

Mixed Blessing, Boston Magazine, July 2004

Boston Magazine profiled O’Malley a year into his role as the Archbishop of Boston. The main job in front of him was to restore the archdiocese’s spiritual and financial health after a series of sex scandal lawsuits. Early feedback on his performance was mixed. “The 60-year-old Franciscan friar has proved not quite a disappointment, but certainly not the healing savior Catholics expected.”

Archbishop O’Malley: Feminism, The Boston Pilot, April 2004

O’Malley wrote this editorial in the archdiocese’s own publication in apology for only inviting men to participate in a ceremonial foot-washing. The next year, he invited women as well. O’Malley had also come under fire for referring to feminism in a list of the immoral developments of the Baby Boomer generation, alongside divorce and drugs. 

Christie Thompson

Christie Thompson was an intern at ProPublica. She studied journalism at Northwestern University, and has written for The Nation, The Chicago Reporter and

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