For insularity and arrogance, it would seem impossible to surpass the US Catholic Bishops, but the Boston Globe editorial page is one institution that can and often does, as is well illustrated today. Today’s lead editorial entitled “Catholic Charity?” criticizes Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley for his decision not to attend the annual Christmas banquet of Boston Catholic Charities, which this year will honor the mayor of Boston, a solid advocate of abortion rights.
The arrogance of the Globe editors is simply astounding. They presume that the matter of disagreement is merely “sectarian” and therefore should not tarnish an event sponsored by Catholic Charities. Excuse me! Who charged the editors of the Boston Globe with the mission of judging which items within Catholic faith are central and which are peripheral? Would they dare to extend this arrogant treatment to Protestant, Jewish, or (heaven forbid!) Islamic religious leaders in Boston? I doubt it. Yet the Globe editors have the gall to say this regarding the archbishop:
By snubbing the annual Christmas dinner for Catholic Charities, Archbishop Sean O’Malley seems to be saying that believers like himself must sometimes turn their backs on the common good if there is conflict with the church’s strict religious tenets.
“Turning his back on the common good?” Not at all. Rather, O’Malley is exactly following the counsel of his fellow bishops who said in 2004:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those [in public service] who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
The archbishop, by declining this invitation, is making clear the point that supporting permissive abortion law is not merely a conflict with the “strictest religious tenets,” but instead violates the fundamental Christian understanding of the meaning and value of human life and the divine gift of human life. His absence from this event will make the point eloquently that it is impossible to reconcile an informed Christian conscience with the stand (and the votes) that certain well-known Catholic politicians have taken. This behavior is entirely consistent with the archbishop’s role as a teacher in the Church, a teacher to those both in public and private vocations, as the bishops’ statement also said:
Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly. It is with pastoral solicitude for everyone involved in the political process that we will also counsel Catholic public officials that their acting consistently to support abortion-on-demand risks making them cooperators in evil in a public manner.
Of course the Globe goes right on digging:
But if Catholic Charities can honor only people who have never strayed from church doctrine, their banquets will be few. Even saints have flaws.
This is a perfect straw man. The archbishop and his fellow bishops are acting to avoid confusing politicians and the faithful into the perception that it is OK as far as the Church is concerned for people in power to support abortion rights with their votes while at the same timing claiming to follow a Catholic conscience. This is not possible, and O’Malley’s action is helping to clarify that point.
The Globe (and politicians of all faiths) would be wise to invest five minutes and read the bishop’s 2004 statement in its entirety. It contains this little gem as well [emphasis mine]:
Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism, but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.
Would that the Globe editors could state their point this clearly.
As for Massachusetts politicians, far too often their behavior is only aimed to appease and to take all sides of an issue rather than risk alienating some fraction of their constituency by taking a principled and consistent stand. This obfuscation has served well the career goals of many legislators, but not their constituents, I would say. In the case of John Kerry, it may have cost him his ultimate career goal. Actions such as O’Malley’s are not a “retreat behind a hardened position” as the clueless Globe editors claim, but instead are a needed clarification of the high importance of the sacredness of human life to the teaching of the Church.