During his address on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, the
feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father asserted that the “greatest danger” to the Church is not external persecution, but the “negative attitudes” of the world that can pollute and “infect the Christian community” from within. This idea of internal pollution brings to mind the situation of Fr. Bryan Hehir and his actions and words here in Boston. This will be the first of several posts, culminating in our final response to Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General, regarding the prospect of meeting to discuss the blog. Read on for one of several jaw-dropping examples that could meet Pope Benedict’s definition of “internal pollution,” but you can be the judge.
First, here are some passages from Pope Benedict’s homily, given to 38 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he bestowed the pallium after delivering his homily
Speaking on Christ’s promise in the Gospel that the “powers of hell shall not prevail” on the Church, the Pontiff explained that this not only “includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul and other witnesses of the Gospel, but it goes further, wanting to protect especially against threats of a spiritual order.”
Indeed, if we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that – as the Lord Jesus had announced, Christians have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. “These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact, it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face.”
Reflecting on the Scripture readings, the Pope explained that the “Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt – speaks about the dangers of the ‘last days,’ identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc.”
Now, the Bryan Hehir connection. Back in December of 2005, Fr. Bryan Hehir and Catholic Charities of Boston under his leadership honored Boston Mayor Tom Menino (who backs gay marriage and abortion) at Catholic Charities’ holiday fundraiser dinner. This scandal may seem like ancient history, but almost no one is aware of Fr. Hehir’s almost incredulous explanation for why this scandal occurred. And his actions in 2005 are very relevant to what we have been seeing and exposing in 2010.
By 2005, Mayor Menino’s public record of advocacy for gay rights and other issues opposed to Church teachings was well known by most people in society—Catholic or non-Catholics. He led the Gay Pride parade every year, sponsored a gay prom for teenagers at Boston’s City Hall, flew the gay rainbow flag over City Hall, maintained at public expense a gay/lesbian liaison office at Boston City Hall, appointed pro-abortion members of the Boston school committee, and much more you can read here. Most importantly, he was a highly visible advocate for gay marriage in 2004-2005 in the heat of the Church’s battle against same-sex marriage. The issue made headlines on almost a daily basis in the mainstream media. (We’ll share some examples in subsequent updates to this post). At one point, Menino planned to authorize marrying couples from out-of-state in defiance of the governor, and Menino welcomed 99 gay couples to City Hall for champagne and a wedding cake reception on May 17, 2004, the first day that gays were able to get marriage certificates for these so-called “marriages.” Here are some articles that describe the whole affair. About a year later, Menino declared June 3, 2005 to be Queer Eye Day in the City of Boston. One would have had to essentially live on another planet to miss this.
Fast forward. In November 2005, Bryan Hehir’s Catholic Charities announced plans to honor Menino, in direct opposition to the USCCB’s Catholics in Political Life, which states:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those 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.
A massive outcry by Boston-area Catholics immediately followed, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley pulled out, however Catholic Charities proceeded with honoring Menino at the event. Here’s the kicker. At the December 1, 2005 meeting of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, then-Archbishop Sean O’Malley commented on why this situation occurred in the first place. Are you sitting down? Here is what the Archbishop of Boston said, as documented in the minutes of that Dec. 1 meeting (p.6):
Re: the Catholic Charities Dinner: Honoring a special public figure can be advantageous to the fund-raising event. He met with Bryan Hehir, The people at Catholic Charities were not away [sic, aware] of the statements against Church policy from the mayor. Generally, the USCCB guideline is to not honor politicians as a prudent move. The Archbishop decided to respect the office of the Mayor and not cancel the event, but he [the Archbishop] wouldn’t go.
Was Fr. Bryan Hehir really asking the Archbishop and Catholics of Boston to believe that he was not aware of the statements against Church policy from the mayor? Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir, who received a “genius” MacArthur fellowship? Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir who was called “a brilliant, brilliant student of politics–especially the geopolitical scene” by the former general secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference ? Is this the same Fr. Hehir who Cardinal Sean recently recognized as highly trusted “strategic advisor” who brings “fidelity to the work of the Church” and ”clarity to our message and mission”? Fr. Hehir’s claim that he and his staff were unaware of Menino’s history is troubling and difficult to believe. If Bryan Hehir was somehow naively unaware of Mayor Menino’s opposition to the Catholic Church on a host of issues, then Fr. Hehir bears responsibility for his own negligence and has no business being Cabinet Secretary of anything in this archdiocese. And if he was aware but lied to the archbishop and presbyterate of Boston, then he should have been fired then and should still be fired now because this strongly suggests that what he says and does simply cannot be trusted–let alone trusted to align with Church teachings.
Fr. Hehir’s action honoring a political figure who rabidly opposed the Catholic Church on one of the core teachings of the Church and biggest social/moral issues of our time—marriage between a man and woman, and the foundation of how we order family and society—is but one example of his long history of dissent and undermining the teachings of the Church.
Do you believe that Fr. Hehir is an example of an “internal pollutant”? With this as just one example in a long history of similar situations, we must ask Cardinal Sean and Vicar General Fr. Erikson a simple question: Why is Fr. Hehir still in a position of decision-making authority over any public policy, staffing, education, or social issue in this Archdiocese?
Authors and readers of this blog remain open to the possibility of a face-to-face dialogue with the Vicar General and Cardinal under appropriate conditions. However, if the archdiocese does not agree that Fr. Bryan Hehir’s behavior and actions in this situation were objectively wrong, in conflict with the USCCB’s guidelines, scandalous, and damaging to the Catholic Church, then it seems we may not have any basis for conversation with the Vicar General or anyone in the archdiocesan hierarchy.
Enjoy the holiday weekend!