February 10

New bishop for Maine who 'understands poor, disenfranchised'

Congregants and an expert look for the new leader of the Portland diocese, the Most Rev. Robert P. Deeley, to emphasize service over cultural battles.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Most Rev. Robert P. Deeley, newly appointed bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, promised Wednesday to protect children, serve the poor and the sick, and continue efforts to strengthen Maine’s parishes and grow the priesthood.

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The Rev. Robert P. Deeley was introduced Wednesday as the new bishop of the Diocese of Portland, which includes all of Maine.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Sister Peggy Sullivan, left, talks with Deeley in October at St. Agatha’s Church in Milton, Mass.

George Martell/Pilot New Media

Additional Photos Below

FOR MORE INFO visit the new bishop's web page and view his biography.

TO VIEW the previous 11 bishops of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, click here.

Maine Catholics and people who know Deeley have great expectations for Maine’s new bishop, seeing shades of Pope Francis in the Boston-area native who has served in the Vatican.

Others are concerned that Deeley, who is now auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, is a “company man” who won’t bring the change that critics want in the way the church handles issues such as gay rights, abortion and sexual abuse by clergy members.

The Vatican announced Deeley’s appointment by Pope Francis at 6 a.m. Wednesday, ending a 17-month wait for news of a new leader for Maine’s 193,392 Catholics. Deeley will be formally installed as bishop during a special Mass on Feb. 14 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Bishop Richard Malone, the current apostolic administrator and former bishop of the Portland diocese, introduced his replacement at the Chancery in Portland. Malone, who has known Deeley since the two men entered the seminary together in 1964, became bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., in August 2012.

“God promised, ‘I will give you shepherds,’ ” Malone said, quoting the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. “Sometimes we have to be patient in the fulfillment of that promise.”

Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said Deeley’s appointment reflects the pope’s ongoing effort to remake the church in a more moderate image, emphasizing service to the sick and poor and suggesting non-judgment of homosexuality, a position that was taboo in the Vatican under Pope Benedict.

Cafardi, one of the foremost voices on church law, met Deeley when they attended seminary together in Rome in the early 1970s. He spoke highly of Deeley’s legal accomplishments and his empathetic nature.

“He has no problem identifying with people who are suffering,” Cafardi said. “(He’s) the type of person (Pope) Francis said he was looking for, someone who understands the poor and the disenfranchised.”

Cafardi said he expects Deeley to follow the example of Pope Francis, saying he won’t be a “culture warrior bishop” focusing on the church’s battles against abortion and gay marriage, but will focus more on service to those in need.


At a news conference Wednesday morning at the Chancery, Deeley said “the protection of children is a priority” for the church and will continue to be a focus of attention for the Diocese of Portland.

Deeley told reporters that he has no detailed agenda in taking a job in a state where he has frequently skied and vacationed on the coast.

“Today marks the beginning of a new relationship,” said Deeley, 67. “I am climbing on a moving train, is the way I see it. I come with no set plan or program.”

Catholics on their way to noontime Mass at the cathedral in Portland on Wednesday expressed high expectations for Deeley.

“I hope he proves to be a man of simplicity, understanding, charity and hope,” said Peter Minvielle of Portland.

Aileen Morrisey of Kennebunk said she hopes that Deeley shares the pope’s aspirations.

“I hope that he embraces humanity, that he embraces all people, that he’s not judgmental but loving,” Morrisey said. “I pray that he does God’s will and encourages love among all people.”

Peter Doyle of Portland said he hopes Deeley will respond to the needs of the flock and promote the teachings of the church.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented dozens of victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, said he has doubts about Deeley. He said Deeley’s positions in the Boston archdiocese at the height of the child abuse scandal raise questions about what he knew about priests who abused children.

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Additional Photos

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The Rev. Robert P. Deeley wears a biretta after his ordination by Cardinal Seán O’Malley as an auxiliary bishop last January at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

George Martell/Pilot New Media


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