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Joe is off on a much deserved break, so I’m helping out along with our web/video crew to continue documenting things Fr. Bryan Hehir has said that we here at the blog see as objectively problematic.  No one in an official capacity from the archdiocese has responded to us about the last post and video of Fr. Hehir saying the doctrinal questions around women priests need to be worked through by the Church—a contradiction of the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church.  So today we move to the topic of Catholic conscience protections and abortion.

We considered reporting on this back in April after Fr. Hehir spoke at Boston College on “A Matter of Conscience,” though Diogenes, the long-term anonymous blogger at CatholicCulture, and Throwthe BumsOutin2010 covered it very nicely at the time. But since abortion is a key issue of our time—especially in light of the healthcare debate and pending sale of Caritas Christi—we are revisiting it.  And since this blog has come under criticism by the Archdiocese of Boston for saying things they feel are untrue, degrading, and defamatory about Fr. Hehir which we feel are in fact accurate, we hope that the video footage documenting exactly what was said will make it easy to find common ground with our critics with the objective truth.

If you feel you know everything you need to know about conscience clauses, skip down to the video.  For anyone who wants a refresher on the Catholic teaching regarding conscience clauses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.

Here’s the USCCB’s resource page on conscience protection.  Here’s an excerpt from a 2009 letter from the USCCB that lays out the case very nicely:

The first recorded claim of conscience rights for medical personnel is the 4th Century B.C. Hippocratic Oath: “I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients. … I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.”

The right of conscience is recognized in the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the World Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, and in 47 states, laws protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers.

Here are statements by various U.S. bishops on the same issue.

So Fr. Hehir participated in a panel discussion at BC on April 10, 2010 called “A Matter of Conscience: Religious Exemptions and the Healthcare Debate.”  You can watch the whole event here.   (Fr. Hehir’s comments are between about 6:45 and 25:00)

Below is about 5 minutes of video footage, including opening comments excerpted from the moderator (Eric) where he defines a conscience excemption, excerpts from what Fr. Hehir said, and brief commentary from a representative of the “Catholic militants of Boston.”  (Video credit to BHE team member LastCatholicinBoston).  The most controversial part of Fr. Hehir’s comments starts at around 2:40 and runs to around 4:30. 

Before we review Fr. Hehir’s comments, we should note that next to him on the panel was Mass General Hospital Director of Obstetrics, Dr. Michael Greene, who is on the record as working around the legal ban on partial-birth abortions by “injecting fetuses with lethal drugs before procedures” to avoid any chance of partially delivering a live fetus. The Boston Globe quoted Dr. Greene in “Shots Assist in Aborting Fetuses: Lethal Injections Offer Legal Shield” saying “No physician even wants to be accused of stumbling into accidentally doing one of these procedures…in the experienced hands of hospital staff, the injections add no risk and are “trivially simple.” To avoid partially delivering a live fetus, then intentionally causing its death and violating the law, now for abortions done after 18-20 weeks gestation, a lethal injection of digoxin or potassium chloride (a potentially poisonous salt also used in state executions) is done beforehand and is carefully documented so as to preclude an accusation and prosecution. Patients “all are appreciative of what we do for them and understand the circumstances under which we work,” Greene said in the Globe.  But I digress–this was never mentioned during the panel and Fr. Hehir did not mention “abortion” by name, so allow me to get back on topic. 

As Joe said in the last post, what Fr. Hehir did not say is almost as important as what he did say. To be fair, Fr. Hehir started out by paraphrasing what the moderator, Eric, said in defining what a Catholic conscience exemption is—namely a “standard of civil law which protects the right of a professional or institution from performing a legal act because of either personal, moral , or religious conviction.”   He said it was fair to argue there are deep cultural moral fragmentations in American society. 

At about 2:40, Fr. Hehir says,

“There are tensions when you try to provide public service but don’t always live under laws you necessarily agree with.  In terms of choosing our future, we need to ask the question what could be lost if we can’t find a fair adjudication of this issue?  The issue by definition is shot through with tension.  If you think of the conscience clause protecting the professional, then you have to think about access to service on the part of clients of various kinds, patients, or clients of social service agencies.

 Just to be clear, this “access to service” described by Fr. Hehir means abortion, but for some reason, he never states that.  The Catechism, Pope, and teaching authority of the Catholic Church are clear that the Catholic Church opposes killing the unborn. So, it’s troubling to this writer and others faithful Catholic who watched the video to hear from a senior Archdiocesan official that Catholics should “have to think” about how the woman will get access to abortion services.

Fr. Hehir continued saying,

My sense is what could be lost is on one hand is damage to profession involved, what also could be lost is this characteristic of social system where it is pervaded by non-profits, using a pluralism of actors in the system. Unless we choose well on this, we could harm the profession, the social system. And clearly, if we don’t choose well, we could harm the individual who needs precisely the service.

Not to be redundant, but once again, “service “means abortions.  Was Fr. Hehir concerned about harming the woman who needs the abortion service to have her unborn baby killed?  Or was he concerned about harming the baby who needs the service to be aborted?  He emphasizes the possible harm to the profession, the pluralism of actors in the social system and the individual who needs the abortion service, but says nothing about the risk to the individual conscience of the medical professional.

Near the conclusion we get Fr. Hehir’s own redefinition of the conscience clause, which is objectively nothing like what Eric the moderator or Fr. Hehir said earlier.  A conclusion of a talk is usually what the speaker wants to drive home, to have the audience remember most.  The takeaway.  The “whole Enchliada” as it were, summed up in the bottom line:

My basic position is, conscience clauses provide an essential political legal component to adjudicate deeply held convictions and positions in this pluralistic society.  I think the resolution requires defining the issues broadly.  You’ve got to pay attention to all the actors, their beliefs, their interests, and the duties involved and recognize that conscience clauses will limit the rights of others to some degree.

After hearing Fr. Hehir’s comments, a listener does not come away with the conclusion that Catholics should focus our attention and efforts in public policy on lobbying to limit the availability of abortion, to limit government funding of abortion or to ensure Catholic healthcare professionals can be exempt from taking part in the moral evil of abortion.  Instead, the average listener will likely come away hearing that we should pay attention to ALL the actors and our duties to provide these services,  lest we compromise the social service system.

In Fr. Hehir’s final conclusion, he asked: 

How do you deal with that tension. Conscience clauses should be claimed only for essential issues – not capaciously.  If conscience clauses were eroded, the effect could be that you use the power of the law to drive a wedge between professionals deepest convictions  and their ability to provide effective public service on the other.

 After listening several times, our team found it difficult to understand what Fr. Hehir believes, what he wanted the audience to conclude, or what he wanted the Church, citizens and the government to do.  Carol McKinley at ThrowtheBumsOutin2010 raised a similar question.  “You have the State take away the rights of the individual person to make a judgment about a moral evil and assert their  constitutional rights themselves–and replace it with public policies that make decisions for the individual about what moral evils are protected with conscience clauses and which ones are not.  But then you can’t have it both ways, can you?   Either every person whose conscience is formed has the right to make a judgment on their own and assert their rights to make decisions about their salvation, or they have a society that takes those judgments away. What form of governance takes away individual rights to make decisions about your salvation?  It isn’t democracy.”

As fraternal correction, I would offer that Fr. Hehir should have mentioned the word “abortion” and said clearly that it was considered a gravely moral evil by the Church.   Fr. Hehir said nothing about how an erosion in conscience clauses would result in many medical professionals abandoning their profession, thus limiting the quality of medical care for everyone.   As the Cardinal’s Cabinet Secretary responsible for pro-life programs, he should have offered a strong pro-life voice.  The USCCB has posted on their website, comments from bishops including Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans who said, “It is imperative that the rights of doctors, nurses and all medical professionals be protected and free from discrimination based upon their religious beliefs, morals and ethics.” Or, he could have cited Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore who said healthcare professionals must exercise their consciences regularly in matters of life and death. “They are called to be guardians and servants of human life. This noble vocation invites moral, cultural, and legal pressures into its everyday practice. Freedom of conscience is essential to facing these pressures and responding to them “with an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life,” as Pope John Paul II called for in The Gospel of Life.”

Diogenes at CatholicCulture sounded similar criticism of Fr. Hehir when he commented on a Boston College Magazine article about the event, saying: “…we put at risk the health-care profession, the patient requesting the services, and the role of non-profits in the social welfare system,… What’s missing from that list of endangered values? The individual conscience: which was, you may recall, the subject of the evening’s panel discussion. Father Hehir’s concern about health-care institutions and non-profit agencies was expressed clearly enough to make an impression on the Boston College Magazine reporter. His concern for individual Catholics who might be compelled by law to perform immoral actions wasn’t so memorable.”

We know we sound like a broken record on this but we have to keep coming back to the comment by Cardinal O’Malley on his blog back on April 30.  Fr. Hehir “has brought a vast understanding of the important place our Church has in society and inspires us with his compassion, vision and fidelity to the work of the Church. His voice brings clarity to our message and mission in serving the Catholic community here in Boston.”

Does someone else objectively see  and hear in this Boston College video (or in Fr. Hehir’s other public comments or actions) what Cardinal said he sees?

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Most of our blog readers by now should be familiar
with the interchange between our bloggers and Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson.  You’ll find a record-setting 70 comments on our last post, Response from Boston Archdiocese’s Vicar General. where we shared how the Archdiocese feels much about our posts has been “untrue,” “inappropriate,” and “harmful to the Body of Christ.”  Though we disagree in the strongest of terms with that assessment and still are waiting for the Archdiocese to tell us about any inaccuracies, we are going to try in the next few posts to communicate in a different way regarding some of the things Fr. Hehir has said and done, and we’ll see how that goes.

Today we pick up on a topic that has been in the news recently, namely the Vatican’s new rules that make attempts at ordaining women among the “most serious crimes.”  Women attempting to be priests, and those who try to ordain them, already faced automatic excommunication but the new decree goes further and enshrines the action as “a crime against sacraments.”  In view of this new decree, and the fact that Catholic Church’s position on women priests has been crystal clear for a very long time, we thought we would feature for you a short video clip with Fr. Bryan Hehir’s comments on the subject of women priests.  The issue of women priests may not be one of the biggest ones facing this archdiocese or society today, so why highlight it on ths blog?  Because a) the Vatican thought it important enough to further clarify and b) we see it as yet another unambigous example of what we have been saying since March.

Just as background, in his 1994 apostolic letter on ordination, “On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone “, Pope John Paul II said the church’s ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.  “The all-male priesthood does not represent discrimination against women, but fidelity to Christ’s actions and his plan for the church. The pope’s document reaffirmed the basis for ordaining only men: “Christ chose only men to be his Apostles, it has been the constant practice of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the Magisterium’s teaching on the matter has been consistent.”

On November 18, 1995, the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith reinforced this by releasing a letter signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, saying the  Church’s traditional ban on women priests “requires definitive assent…(and) has been  set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  The teaching that the Church possesses no authority to ordain women, is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.” (It’s a short letter–you can read it in just one minute)

The letter from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was accompanied by a cover letter insisting that bishops “will do everything possible  to ensure its distribution and favourable reception, taking particular care that, above  all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls, and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed.”

Invoking the word “infallible” in the letter, explained Father Augustine DeNoia,  a theological advisor to the US Bishops, means that “to teach the contrary is  equivalent to leading consciences into error.”

Against that backdrop, here is a video clip of a September 18, 2003 Boston College forum, held as part of BC’s “Catholic Church in the 21st Century” series, where Fr. Hehir was a panelist.  In one segment, after several consecutive panelists spoke in favor of women priests (including one who favored ordaining women deacons, and another who supported homosexual or women priests), Fr Hehir shared his opinion.  (Listen from 3:15 to 3:45 for Tim Russert’s question and Fr. Hehir’s response about women priests at 3:35-3:45).  Fr. Hehir said, “The ordination of women raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through in a Church that takes doctrine seriously.”

You can read written excerpts from the event including Fr. Hehir’s comments here. In case you don’t have time to play the whole clip, allow me to restate what was said before Fr. Hehir speaks. Panelist and theology major, Liz Paulhus, said “as a young woman, as a theology major, I certainly would like to see women ordained. There’s not a lot that can be said against women’s ordination. The problem is that this is an area where conversation is basically closed with the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter on the ordination of women was unequivocal: We’re not discussing it.”

Then Peter Steinsfels said, “There should be an effort to open the question of ordaining women to the diaconate. The roles that women in the diaconate played in the early centuries were not exactly parallel to the roles played by men deacons, but historical studies show that the ordination rituals were quite similar.”

Then Catalina Mones ’98 said, “I feel that women can make tremendous contributions to the Catholic church, and women are often overlooked and treated like a different class of citizen.”

Then student, Patrick Downes, said if a “woman, homosexual, or male felt the presence of God is within them, who is the church to limit their potential to grow in the church?

Then Fr. Hehir spoke.  In our humble opinion as anonymous bloggers, what he did not say to set the record straight for the faithful, is as important as what he did say.  He did not affirm that Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter was indeed unequivocal. He did not correct Peter Steinsfels’ erroneous statement about women having a role in the “diaconate” in early centuries or explain how the role of “deaconess” in the early centuries was one of a servant, not at all a woman “deacon.”  (Women who assisted other women in full emersion of Baptism were referred to as “deaconesses”).  He did not say that the Roman Catholic Church cannot ordain women because Jesus specifically chose men for apostolic succession. He did not say this teaching was infallible as set forth by the Magisterium.  He did not say he agreed with this infallible teaching.  He did not avoid say anything ambiguous or avoid taking a contrary position.  What Fr. Bryan Hehir said is,

The ordination of women raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through in a Church that takes doctrine seriously.”

Nine days later, on September 27, 2003, then-Archbishop O’Malley announced the appointment of Fr. Hehir as Cabinet Secretary for Social Services.

Before we ask some questions about what Fr. Hehir said and the implications of this, let’s just revisit what people said at the time of Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1996 letter:

For, as those on both sides of the battle agree, the essence of this recent statement is that those who will not accept Church teaching on ordination are not Catholic.” (Paul Likoudis, Challenge Magazine, Jan 1996)

The Pope is not only “aiming to shut the door on debate about women’s ordination” but he has made it clear that dissenters on the issue are out of the Church.” Catholic New Service reporter John Thavis

Father Richard McBrien at Notre Dame told the New York  Times: “If the pope wants us to believe that the prohibition against the ordination of  women is a matter of divine law and divine faith such that the denial of this teaching  is a heresy, then that puts everyone who disagrees outside the Church.  Is that what is being said?”  Precisely, said Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver.

We are well aware that Fr. Hehir was not working for the Boston Archdiocese on the exact day he made this statement, but we are focusing on what he said.  So, we have a few questions for Vicar General Erikson, Fr. Hehir, Cardinal O’Malley and anyone from the Archdiocese or Holy See who is reading this post, and welcome their response:

1) Do we objectively agree that women priests are forbidden, and this teaching is infallible and non-negotiable?

2) Is there something unclear or ambigious about the CDF’s statement that “the Church’s position is set forth infallibly by the…Magisterium, and “the teaching that the Church possesses no authority to ordain women is to be held always, everywhere, and by all”?

3) Did we hear Fr. Hehir correct any of the previous speakers for the benefit of the audience at the event and clearly state that the Pope and CDF had declared that women priests in the Catholic Church are never allowed?

4) Do we agree that Fr. Hehir’s failure to correct the previous speakers and most importantly, his assertion “womens ordination raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through”  suggests this issue remains open for reconsideration and contradicts the Vatican’s unambigious teaching on this matter?

5) What should the consequences be for such action, namely publicly contradicting infallible Vatican teachings?

6) Did Fr. Hehir potentially lead “consciences into error” with his comment?

7) Is it reasonable for people to conclude that Fr. Hehir’s comments are an objective example of undermining Church teachings?

8) If someone undermines Church teachings or leads consciences into error, does that harm the Body of Christ?

9) Would it be beneficial for the Church to not have priests publicly undermining Church teachings, especially those considered infallible and ones where the CDF specifically called for priests and theologians to avoid taking ambiguous, contrary positions?

10) Hypothetically speaking, if a priest or church official were to make statements or act in such a way as to undermine Church teachings repeatedly over a period of time, what should the remedy and consequences be to prevent a repeat of those actions?

11) If people complain to their archbishop about such public comments (or similar actions) and see nothing done over a period of months or years that addresses the problem, is it reasonable for them to utilize new media to make these complaints more public?  Is it reasonable for them to escalate those complaints to the Holy See so as to ensure that further undermining of Church teachings by that person and harm to the Body of Christ is prevented?

12) If Fr. Hehir makes comments like this about women priests in a public forum, is it reasonable for people to question Fr. Hehir ‘s judgement and beliefs?  Is it reasonable for people to question what he is saying and doing in less public settings?

13) If then-Archbishop O’Malley picked someone with this judgment for a key cabinet role after what that person said in public, is it reasonable to question the judgment of both the Archbishop as well as Fr. Hehir?

14) Is there anything about this specific post objectively calling attention to Fr. Hehir’s public comments on women priests that is considered to be “untrue,” “cruel,” “inappropriate,” “disparaging,” or would be ” harmful to the Body of Christ”?

We welcome comments from anyone, especially the Archdiocese, Fr. Erikson, Fr. Hehir, blog reader “Bill,” or others below to the questions we have raised.

Ps. You can watch the entire session here, , but it’s 110 minutes long.

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A quick read of this weekend’s edition of The Pilot
and a look at recent news from the Boston Archdiocese confirms the sad state of affairs for Boston Catholics.  The Cardinal Archbishop of Boston seems to have even less backbone than the traces of it we glimpsed earlier in his Boston tenure.  He is continuing to make questionable personnel decisions and let dissident cabinet members and advisors run amuck, and it’s becoming evident that he is failing in his episcopal responsibility to teach, sanctify, and govern.  (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?)  Here are a handful of examples:

Fr. Bryan Hehir at the Catholic Health Association. Fr. Bryan Hehir spoke at the Catholic Health Association conference on June 13, where he heaped praise on Sr. Carol Keehan for her leadership of the organization, and separately said that “there was foundation for the different judgments made on the bill in the Catholic moral tradition.”  That is yet another Bryan Hehir fabrication. Shortly before Hehir’s talk, a video by President Obama also praised Sr. Keehan for her role in getting the bill passed.  The Pilot reported on Hehir’s talk and the Obama comments, but never covered that about the same time, the President of the U.S.C.C.B, Cardinal George was slamming Sr. Keehan for defying repeated attempts by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to get her to not endorse the abortion-funding Obama healthcare legislation.  We’ll have an in-depth blog post on this in another day or so.  It’s a mystery why The Pilot did not report the full story–do they want to avoid criticizing Fr. Hehir perhaps?  That Cardinal O’Malley keeps Fr. Hehir around has become an embarrassment and scandal to the Church.  The kindest explanation would be that it’s a reflection of Cardinal Sean’s ongoing poor judgment.  Is anyone in the Holy See paying attention to this?

Letters to the Editor of The Pilot. I’ve been reading The Pilot for a lot of years, and never would have imagined that the newspaper had such a strong gay and lesbian readership as the letters of the past 2-3 weeks suggest.  This week all 6 of the letters to the editor published were about Michael Pakaluk’s recent column that talked about the consequences of a Catholic schools admitting children of gay parents. 4 of the 6 were critical of The Pilot or of Pakaluk—one from a Catholic lesbian woman who expressed “hurt and betrayal” by the Pilot’s decision to publish Pakaluk’s column, one was from a gay man who also has a gay sister raising twins, one is from a “devout Roman Catholic” who was “appalled,” and another from someone who felt if children of gay couples were not admitted to Catholic schools, then why not also reject children of soldiers (thou shalt not kill) or a parent who had pre-marital sex.  The absence of good catechesis on the part of these writers is very clear.   Cardinal O’Malley merely issued a short statement in mid-May to placate everyone, and his trusted advisor, Bryan Hehir, forcefully delivered the message  a day later that they are moving forward with creating policies to admit children of gay parents. More than a month has passed, and the Cardinal has done zero teaching on this issue about the reasons why the Church sees homosexual relationships as immoral and disordered.  That lack of any public teaching by him on this issue since 2005 has led to this free-for-all of poorly-informed opinion-spouting.  His own cabinet team and many priests are following a very different direction than the Cardinal’s own 2005 letter.  It’s yet is another clear indication he is failing in his responsibility to teach, sanctify, and govern. He has the time every week to dictate or write the blog of his global travels and his networking with priests, religious, and laity, but apparently no time to teach or govern here in Boston.  Thankfully, two letters were published from lay people who helped set the record straight–one who said that Michael Pakaluk was “absolutely correct about the insidious nature of the gay agenda being implemented in schools with impressionable children,” and another who said, “the truth is, Mr. Pakaluk is just stating what the Bible states…he’s being vilified for accurately representing his religion.”  We are going to ask the Pilot to re-run the Cardinal’s 2005 letter on homosexuality next week.  Let’s see if they do it.

Cardinal O’Malley names Jack Connors, Jr.
to head Cabinet Secretary search.
While we are in the poor judgment department, here’s another example.  After power-broker, Jack Connors, played a key role in the ouster of Secretary of Institutional Advancement, Scot Landry, and after it was reported that Connors has also given a quarter of a million dollars to pro-abortion political candidates in recent years, who does the Cardinal put in charge of the search for his replacement?  Naturally, Jack Connors. Seems to me  that “like attracts like”  in this world.  So, if you want to build a leadership team that will help you evangelize the truths of the Catholic faith and preach the Gospel in-season and out of season, you’d probably start by having search committees for key roles headed by people who are comfortable with those same truths.  Not around Boston, where our Cardinal continues the pattern of acting in a way like he is unable to understand this–or worse still, he understands it and rejects that as important.  How much do you want to bet that whomever is picked for the position has also supported pro-abortion politicians or has dissented from Church teachings in some way?

Cardinal O’Malley praises Dean Garvey appointment as President of Catholic University. Much has been written about how the outgoing president of CUA helped solidify the Catholic identity of the university during his tenure.  On his blog, Cardinal writes, “Dean Garvey has been an important figure at Boston College and has done so much to strengthen the Catholic identity of Boston College.”  Your Eminence, could you give some examples? Um, as reported previously, how did Dean Garvey’s honoring pro-abortion politician Edward Markey in violation of the USCCB’s guidelines help solidify the Catholic identity of Boston College?  How did Dean Garvey giving $1,750 of his personal money over two years to the pro-abortion Sen. John Kerry help solidify the Catholic identity at BC?  How did his signing a statement touting BC Law School’s being “one of the first law schools in the country to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination pledge…and reaffirming their commitment to being a welcome place…for LGBT students” help solidify the Catholic identity of BC?

Based on what he writes on his blog, the Cardinal seems to relish traveling all over the country and around the world schmoozing with people and networking, while we hear next to nothing about him teaching or governing in Boston. Even when the Cardinal blogs something important, it’s often overshadowed by his failure to lead according to what he writes.  For example, he writes about attending the Mass for the anniversary of married couples, and he wrote:

It’s always a wonderful event and an opportunity for us to showcase the centrality of the Sacrament of Marriage in the life of the Church in today’s world, a world where more people are postponing marriage or foregoing marriage, where marriage is under attack because of the divorce mentality, the prevalence of cohabitation and even attempts to redefine what marriage is. The Church must be a very clear voice in defending traditional marriage and holding this up as an ideal for our people, which for us is a sacrament, a sign of the love and the unity that unites Christ and His Church, His bride.

Sounds great, but HELLO!?!  How can the Church have a clear voice defending traditional marriage and hold that up as an ideal for our people in the face of attempts to redefine marriage, while you, Mary Grassa O’Neill, Jack Connors, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and the rest of your administration are holding-up “gay marriages” or gay partnerships as an ideal for Catholic school children making them look equivalent to traditional marriage?

Folks, stay tuned for our detailed post about Bryan Hehir’s CHA talk.  Also, keep reading for additional news from the archdiocese this coming week, including sad news word due any day now about significant Pastoral Center staff layoffs and the naming of new auxiliary bishops.

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Many of you have probably seen the news that Catholic
University of America has appointed Boston College Law School Dean, John Garvey, to be the new president.  Fortunately, sources like Catholic Culture and Pewsitter came out quickly letting everyone know about Dean Garvey’s troubling record on failing to defend Catholic teachings. But every report we have seen still is missing a few things, so we’d like to fill in the rest of the story.  Even though this is slightly off-topic, when someone from Boston has a history of failure to uphold Church teachings, you can predict that Fr. Bryan Hehir and probably Cardinal Sean O’Malley are also involved, and this story is no exception.

Catholic Culture’s piece “Catholic U’s new president: Law school dean who awarded honorary degree to abortion proponent” describes how Dean Garvey defied USCCB recommendations and honored the pro-abortion Rep. Edward Markey with an honorary degree in 2007, incurring the public criticism of the Cardinal Newman Society.  It also cites his $1,750 in personal contributions to pro-abortion Sen. John Kerry:

According to federal election records, Mr. Garvey made three donations to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, whose support for abortion led 14 bishops to state during the 2004 presidential campaign that they would deny him Holy Communion. In June 2002, Mr. Garvey donated $250 to the Kerry Committee; in March 2003, he donated $1,000 to John Kerry for President, Inc.; and in April 2004, he donated $500 to John Kerry for President, Inc

Maybe Dean Garvey’s history filled all of the available space in the article, but there are several things they missed.

First, Dean Garvey muddled the Church’s teachings on marriage to the Law School in September of 2009 by his lackluster defense of law school professor, Scott Fitzgibbon, who appeared in an ad promoting traditional marriage in Maine.  Initially Garvey said the prof had the right to represent himself personally but then, as reported in LifeSite News, after faculty complained he welcomed faculty opposition to Church teachings, resulting in “Boston College Law School in Disarray Over Prof’s Defense of Marriage“:

Rather than praising Fitzgibbon’s public defense of a Catholic teaching, Dean Garvey wrote that Fitzgibbon’s “public statements represent his own opinions … and do not state any official position of Boston College Law School.”

We also have faculty members who hold a contrary view, which they too are free to express publicly,” he wrote. “Many have done so while referring to themselves as BC Law professors. One of them has publicly led the fight to oppose the Solomon Amendment on the grounds that it is an affront to gay and lesbian students and prospective members of the U.S. military. Others have taken controversial positions on such subjects as abortion, euthanasia, and the treatment of detainees.”

Three days after Fitzgibbon’s pro-traditional marriage ad aired, a group of 76 “Individual Faculty and Administrators at Boston College Law School,” including Dean Garvey, issued the following statement : “The undersigned members of the faculty and administration at Boston College Law School feel that it is important to reaffirm our belief in the equality of all of our students. We are proud of the fact that Boston College Law School was one of the first law schools in the country to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination pledge, and we reaffirm our commitment to making our institution a welcome and safe place for all students, including LGBT students.”

This blogger asked, “Are They Going To Rename the Law School After Judas Iscariot? “He is basically saying that a law school at what presents itself as a Catholic College does not uphold Church teachings as it is supposed to according to Ex Corde Ecclesia and has denied them. In other words, it has betrayed its mission to be an authentically Catholic college.”

Here’s at least one connection to Fr. Bryan Hehir.   In 2005, Fr. Hehir chaired the search committee that selected the new Executive Director of the Mass Catholic Conference, Ed Saunders, despite the fact that Saunders had given personal contributions to politicians that opposed the Church on abortion and gay marriage.  The Catholic Conference is the legislative lobbying arm representing the 4 bishops in Massachusetts, and it has reported functionally under Fr. Hehir  since late 2004.  Dean Garvey was also on the search committee.  Here’s what was reported initially when the Saunders appointment was first announced:

Over the last several years, the bishops have faced increasing difficulty influencing public policy, with their credibility tarnished by the clergy sexual abuse scandal and their legislative agenda dominated by high-profile failures: the church’s unsuccessful efforts to stop passage of the same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research bills.

In the process of hiring Saunders, the bishops have made it clear that they expect the church’s legislative agenda to be broader, reflecting the church’s longstanding interest in social policy.

Whenever we hear “broadening the interest to include social policy” and Fr. Bryan Hehir, we can predict what that means.  Shortly thereafter, the proverbial doo-doo hit the fan after it became known (“Conservative Catholics question past donations by bishops’ lobbyist“) that Saunders had given the maximum contribution allowed by law to a number of politicians who supported abortion and gay marriage–including voting against the Church on the then-active constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Those darned “conservative Catholics” always have to muck things up for the Archdiocese of Boston by airing their dirty laundry in public.  Yes, folks, Dean John Garvey was one of the members of the search committee who approved Saunders’ appointment, along with Bryan Hehir who led the search.  Several conservative Catholics reported at the time that they applied for the position but were not granted an interview.

Speaking of committees that approve appointments of people for key leadership roles, we should not overlook the role of Boston’s own Cardinal Sean O’Malley in the naming of Dean Garvey to head Catholic University.  As the Cardinal reported in his most recent blog (filled with pictures and stories of his travels, networking and activities everywhere else but Boston), he is on the board of directors at Catholic University and voted on selection of the new president:

As I mentioned earlier, following the celebration at the cathedral my hope had been to be able to travel to Rome to be with the Holy Father for the closing of the Year for Priests. However, I was needed in Washington because the board of directors at Catholic University had to come together to select a new president. We are very pleased with the wonderful caliber of the candidates who applied for the position and we look forward to the announcement of the new president in the near future.

Today, Cardinal O’Malley came out with his own statement about Dean Garvey’s appointment:

His commitment to the mission of Catholic education and dedication to exceptional academic achievement will be of great benefit to the University and its students and faculty.”

So Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley continues his own well-established track record of hiring or supporting the hiring of heterodox Catholics to key roles in the Church.

We’ll end with a post on this same topic from the wonderfully outspoken Bishop Emeritus Rene Gracida of Corpus Christi, who wrote yesterday, the “Boston virus continues to spread.”

Beginning with the scandal of the funeral liturgy for Sen. Edward Kennedy, I have posted quite a few posts pointing out the sad state of affairs in Massachusetts, especially in Boston.

For years now, it has been apparent that the state of the Catholic Faith as it is lived and manifested in the public activity of prominent Catholics in Boston is truly deplorable.

Ordinarily I would not be commenting on the Catholicism of Bostonians any more than I would comment on the Catholicism of any other diocese or archdiocese in the United States, except that a significant number of national leaders hail from Boston and when they bring their heterodox religious to the Nation’s Capitol their influence is magnified far out of proportion to what it should normally be. The most recent case in point is the appointment of Dean John H. Garvey of Boston College Law School as the new President of the Catholic University of America in Washington.

His appointment was only announced today and already it has begun to produce negative reactions from Catholics, clergy and lay, who love and value the role the University has played in the history of the Church in the United States.

It is beyond my understanding to know how the appointment could have been decided upon  by the bishops and cardinals who constitute the Board of Trustees of the University.

Surely the writings, speeches and actions of Dean Garvey were researched by the Selection Committee and eventually by the full Board.

How is it possible that the Board could have chosen a man whose views on the nature of the relationship between a Catholic university and the Church were so questionable.

His views seem to be opposed to the spirit of all that Pope Benedict XVI has said and written about secularism and relativism.

So many of his views seem to be opposed to so many of the public declarations of the NCCB and the USCC.

It would almost seem that the approval was given by the Secretary of State or by the Congregation for Christian Education without the knowledge of the Holy Father.

What is particularly baffling is how the assent to the appointment by the Holy See could have been obtained in view of the fact that the University if a Pontifical University under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

I can only hope and pray that before Dean Garvey is actually installed as President of The Catholic University of America pressure from loyal, faithful and concerned Catholics, especially alumni of the University, will have persuaded either Dean Garvey to decline to be installed, the Board to withdraw appointment, or the Holy See to withdraw its approval.

Yes folks, the Boston virus continues to spread. Apologies for the side-trip off our main topic, but no one else seems to be sharing the “big picture” and we thought our faithful readers should know it.

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A new addition to the site is our exclusive “Bryan Hehir Chronology.” It  is still under construction and we will be adding to it in the next 1-2 weeks.

Also, for Boston-area readers, Fr. Hehir is on a panel at Boston College talking about “Religious Exemptions and the Healthcare Debate” on Tuesday,  April 13 at 5:15pm. Attendance is free.  Click here for more info.

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I read Cardinal Sean’s excellent short blog post critical of the current healthcare legislation this morning and if you scroll 2/3 of the page down, you can  see a painting of St. Patrick and listen to his homily of St. Patrick’s Day that gave the inspiration for today’s post.  I was struck by the Cardinal’s comment in the blog and homily about the painting of St. Patrick–depicted with the symbols of the bishop and the symbol of snakes. The symbolism of the snakes is especially the reason for me writing this post, which I have also sent via email to the Cardinal, Fr. Hehir,  and Papal Nuncio, in the interest of full transparency and openness.

I see where Fr. Hehir, one of the key advisors for important decisions in the Archdiocese of Boston, is on the Board of some organizations who sponsor speakers that dissent from Catholic Church teachings.  I remain confused.  Why would the Archdiocese of Boston, which should maintain adherence to the faith, trust decision-making advice and input by someone who is has a long history of dissent in the Church and who is still today sponsoring and supporting speakers who dissent from Church teachings?  This priest may be viewed by some people as a bright person in other matters, but this does not make sense to me and my wife.

Here are just two examples:

Fr. Hehir is on the Advisory Board of the Boisi Center at Boston College:

From their website, they say, “The Boisi Center does not seek to advance any ideological agenda…While based in a Jesuit university, it will not take sides in competing groups of Catholic theologians, nor will it defend a specifically Catholic viewpoint against non-Catholic ones.”

Hmm.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Why would the Archdiocese want one of it’s most senior and apparently influential cabinet members using the credibility of his Archdiocesan official status to advance an agenda that specifically does not defend Catholic viewpoints?

This April 8, they are sponsoring a talk by Fr. James Keenan on “What Has HIV/AIDS Led Us To Understand about Global Ethical Challenges?This is the same notorious Fr. Keenan who testified to the Massachusetts Legislature in 2002 against a measure to ban gay marriage  “because it is contrary to Catholic teaching on social justice”.  His testimony is posted on the website of gay rights organization, Mass Equality.

The Mass Catholic Conference promptly rebuked him for his erroneous testimony.

They said he and others hadmischaracterized the teaching of the Catholic Church” and neglected to share the following statement from the U.S. Bishops:

we [the Bishops] wish to make it clear that the institution of marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, must be preserved, protected, and promoted in both private and public realms [our emphasis]. . . .Thus, we oppose attempts to grant the legal status of marriage to a relationship between persons of the same sex. No same-sex union can realize the unique and full potential which the marital relationship expresses.   For this reason, our opposition to “same-sex marriage” is not an instance of unjust discrimination or animosity toward homosexual persons.

In April of 2004, in the midst of the heated “gay marriage” debate in Massachusetts, Fr. Hehir was on the Boisi Center Boarrd that approved Fr. Keenan talking on the subject of “Virtuous Sexual Ethics.”  A report on the event says “He critiqued the current discourse on sexual ethics as focusing too narrowly on specific issues such as abortion, gene therapy, or abuse” and said it was a problem that “chastity is often raised in this discussion as a chief virtue.”

It feels scandalous (isn’t it?) that an Archdiocesan official is today on the Board of any  institution currently backing and putting forward this speaker.  Why do we feel it is OK having Fr. Hehir on the senior leadership team of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese giving advice and making recommendations on public policy decisions, matters of archdiocesan leadership, education/schools, parish closings, fund-raising, hiring and staffing, and communications when at the same time, he sits on the Board of a think-tank and supports presentations by people who have  viewpoints totally against Church teachings–on something as fundamental as the definition of marriage, as just one example?

Fr. Hehir also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Catholic Studies at the Univ. of Southern California

They sponsored a talk by Peter Steinfels last October 21, 2009 titled, “A Catholic Approach to American Public Life.”  Steinfels is known for a long time for his criticism of Church teachings as well, so the talk must have been interesting.  Let’s see, where do I start? Here are just two examples:

He has argued on a PBS program in favor of the ordination of women as priests and deacons, and has suggested that this could eventually lead to the creation of female Cardinals

Steinfels has questioned basic teachings and beliefs about abortion in “Abortion, Religion, and the Constitution”:

Both positions reflect a sad fact about our culture–the belief among too many that our deepest values cannot be challenged and reformed and affirmed by reasonable discussion.

He acknowledged “scientific fact about conception marking the beginning of a genetically distinct individual” but then said this position reflects “a sad fact about the state of our culture” and he criticized pro-lifers (or anti-abortionists) for refusing “to perceive that the question of fetal life is simply not so clear, particularly in its earlier stages.”

Maybe I’m totally wrong with my thinking.  But, that Fr. Hehir sits on the boards of these organizations and endorses them having such speakers present strongly indicates that he shares and supports their viewpoints, and/or that hes’ supportive of having people who publicly dissent from Church teachings present their dissident and critical viewspoints at  Catholic institutions to Catholic students.  Is this OK?  Isn’t that kind of a scandal for the Boston Archdiocese, to have that situation?

I forgot something. My wife just reminded me that Fr. Hehir himself said at a 2003 BC forum with Mr. Steinfels that we have to work through doctrinal issues and consider women priests in the future.

“The ordination of women embraces doctrinal questions that have to be worked through in a Church that takes doctrine seriously.”

So, given Fr. Hehir’s history and these facts above (and in my last post), does anyone feel I am wrong in thinking that his opinions should not be accepted and valued in important decisions in this Archdiocese?  I know he is viewed by some people in the archdiocese to be a very smart man from Harvard and all, but why would we listen to what he has to say about people, organization of the leadership of the archdiocese, education, public policy, and other important areas and push aside orthodox Catholics doing good work in the Archdiocese in favor of Fr. Hehir’s agendia and recommendations?

This situation of an influential person having one foot in an Archdiocesan Cabinet role and another foot as Board member and sponsor of dissident Catholics as speakers  reminds me of Luke 16:12-14.  “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

I thank you, Cardinal Sean, for your comments on the terrible healthcare legislation and also for the example of St. Patrick with the snakes.  It is powerful symbolism–the bishop and snakes. By the way, what did St. Patrick end up doing with the snakes?

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