Crazy Cons Attack Card. O'Malley

by Michael Sean Winters

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Earlier this week, I called attention to a posting by Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, at his blog, in which he spoke about the Church’s stance towards contemporary issues regarding gays and lesbians, defended the Church’s beliefs about traditional marriage, and placed the Church’s stance on gay marriage properly alongside the Church’s stance against divorce and other threats to traditional marriage.

Most importantly, Cardinal O’Malley placed the entire issue of defending traditional marriage within the Church’s most fundamental anthropological and ethical belief, the inviolability of human dignity. The key graphs in O’Malley’s statement read:

“Some say that the Catholic Church hates people with same-sex attractions. This is not true. In fact, if there are any members of the Church who hate people because of their sexual orientation, they need to go to confession. But it is true that the Church exists to announce the Gospel and invite people to conversion, to greater discipline in their lives as they seek to follow Christ’s teachings, which apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
As Catholics, we must oppose the hatred and rejection of homosexual persons that exists in our society. We do not want them to be the object of discrimination or violence. We believe, however, that God’s law is written in our hearts and that to lead a fully human life we need to embrace His commandments. This is not always easy, we all struggle and sometimes we fail; but a loving and forgiving God is always there to lift us up and help us start over again.”

The occasion for this statement was controversy surrounding a Mass at St. Cecilia’s parish intended to coincide with Boston’s Gay Pride Week. I recall attending St. Cecilia’s as a boy when we would go up for a baseball game at nearby Fenway Park, and stay overnight at the adjacent Prudential Center. Evidently, the parish has become a spiritual home for many gay and lesbian Catholics. Every city has such a church. Cardinal O’Malley was, however, understandably concerned that the Church not be seen as endorsing “Gay Pride.” Pride, you may recall, is one of the seven deadly sins and gay pride festivals do tend to invite some pretty outrageous behavior. A dear gay friend in Washington used to call that city’s gay pride festival “Gay Shame Day” on account of the over-the-top, often exhibitionist behavior. So, it is understandable that Cardinal O’Malley asked the pastor at St. Cecilia’s to postpone the “Mass of Welcoming” for gays, lesbians and their friends and families to another suitable date. This sensible solution perfectly addressed the situation, guaranteeing that the Church was not seen as “endorsing” a social or political agenda alien to it, but nonetheless affirming the outreach efforts at St. Cecilia’s and the human and Christian dignity of those baptized Catholics who happen to be gay and lesbian.

Alas, what seems sane, thoughtful and sensible to you and me wears a different character to a group of angry bloggers in the Boston area. To them, O’Malley has long been a secret liberal, as evidenced for them by his presiding at the funeral Mass for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. These bloggers accuse O’Malley of dishonestly sneaking heretics into positions of Church authority, and have an entire website dedicated to “exposing” Father Bryan Hehir, a priest who knows more about Catholic Social Thought than any five other people combined, and whom O’Malley brought into the curia of the archdiocese. These conservative – and usually anonymous- bloggers have attacked almost any and every decision O’Malley has made during his tenure.

Now, they have turned their sights on O’Malley for his decision to postpone, rather than cancel, the welcoming Mass for gay and lesbian Catholics. Joe Sacredo, a pseudonym, begins his attack: “It’s pretty bad in Boston. The Archdiocese of Boston, where ‘relativism’ remains a household word, has flip-flopped yet again becoming the ‘John Kerry’ of firm decision-making by now firmly backing a Catholic Mass to celebrate Gay Pride.” Where to begin? The archdiocese clearly indicated that the Mass was postponed so that it would not “celebrate” gay pride. It is unclear how “relativism” entered the conversation. And, what on earth does any of this have to do with John Kerry, or is the invocation of his name the equivalent, in some circles, of a cuss word, thrown down without precision but to indicate anger, like a bull pawing the ground.

Mr. Sacredo’s criticism would have passed into the ether unnoticed outside his band of crazy culture warriors had it not been posted by retired Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, Rene H. Gracida on his website. Then, picked up the piece, at first mis-attributing it to Gracida, then issuing a correction, but unfortunately, all the while repeating the unsubstantiated and frankly ludicrous charges against Cardinal O’Malley.

It should not surprise that Bp. Gracida joined this particular pile-on. You may recall he produced a dark, threatening video opposing the election of Barack Obama shortly before the 2008 election. You may, if you have a longer memory, recall that Gracida so mishandled his leadership of a charitable foundation in the 1990s that the other bishops of Texas brought their concerns to the attention of the Attorney General of Texas for his intervention. After filing suit against Gracida, the attorney general brought the matter to closure along with a Vatican commission headed by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York and Gracida was retired. In short, it is hard to get angry with Gracida because his judgment has proved so questionable, that pity seems a more appropriate response to his rantings. Why on earth would consider citing him is a question, and a searching one, for their editorial board.

Regular readers will know of my admiration for Cardinal O’Malley. And, I hope that he and other bishops realize that so long as some bishops are stoking the fires of the culture wars, so long as some bishops warn of civilizational catastrophe every time a vote goes against them, and every time a bishop fails to call out the hatefest that dominates so much of the conservative blogosphere, these kinds of attacks will continue. They are mis-guided obviously, but they are worse than that. It is hard not to discern an evil intent here, a desire to undermine the authority of the bishop, and therefore of the Church itself, because a bishop may take a broader view than they do, because he may believe in the medicine of mercy and compassion rather than the guilt-by-association, cowardly, anonymous, hate-filled attacks preferred by these conservative bloggers. There is a whiff of sulfur in the air in Boston, and it is not coming from the chancery, nor from St. Cecilia’s.

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