FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ He speaks South Florida's many languages, and he helped an island community overcome the devastation wreaked by a violent hurricane.
But it is Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley's experience in the darkest corner of Catholic ministry _ the sex scandal gripping its priesthood _ that may serve as his biggest advantage when taking the helm of the Diocese of Palm Beach next month.
Ten years ago, long before church leaders were talking about review boards and pedophile priests and exhaustive background checks, O'Malley was tackling the largest Catholic sex abuse scandal of its time and implementing what many believe are model policies.
O'Malley's honest, gentle approach in ministering to the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., was on the minds of those trumpeting the Midwesterner's appointment Tuesday. On Oct. 19, the Ohio native will leave Fall River, where he has spent the past decade, to be installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, where three bishops have been tainted by sex scandals.
"He is known as a healer, which is something that obviously this diocese needs right now," said the Rev. Roger McDonough of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton, Fla. "With God's guidance, things are looking up. It's been kind of gloomy here for awhile."
Six months after beloved Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell stepped down from the …