Catholic Commencement Controversy Season Commences

It's graduation season at the nation's colleges and universities, so it must be time for another round of Catholic Commencement Controversy. Here in New England this year, the most prominent entry thus far features the region's most prominent Catholic school and bishop: Boston College and Cardinal Sean O'Malley.Cardinal O'Malley released a statement over the weekend explaining he would not deliver his traditional benediction at BC's commencement because the university is conferring an honorary degree on Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny. Boston College is honoring Kenny in recognition of his commitment to social justice, most notably his "emotional apology in the Dil on behalf of the state to the Magdalene Laundry survivors". O'Malley's decision follows a campaign by the Catholic Action League (kind of a local version of William Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights) against BC's decision to grant Kenny an honorary degree.O'Malley's reasons for boycotting Kenny are, in the cardinal's words, that "the Catholic Bishops of the United States have asked that Catholic institutions not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and policies", and that the prime minister "is aggressively promoting abortion legislation".(Side note: Kenny is from County Mayo, from whence comes the word "boycott", arising from an Irish Land League protest in 1880.)Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen speaks, I suspect, for a sizable faction of Boston-area Catholics in a long, scathing, as-much-in-sorrow-as-in-anger essay today. Since it's behind the Globe's paywall, I'll quote it at length after the jump, because it's a good summary of the exasperation many Catholics feel in these situations.

OMalley accused Kenny of aggressively promoting abortion legislation, which is an odd way to describe a democratically elected leader of a republic following the mandatory legal advice of the highest court in the land.I would be the first guy to defend the cardinals right to skip the BC graduation. But his reasoning is embarrassingly flawed and his selectivity in whom he deems worthy of his presence is breathtaking in its hypocrisy.Enda Kenny, as the duly elected prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, has a duty to respond to court decisions ordering his government to find an exception to Irelands strict prohibition against abortion so that doctors and other health care workers can take steps to save the life of a woman in a troubled pregnancy.Women in Ireland have died because there is no exception to the law. Most recently, it was a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar, a native of India who was working as a dentist in Ireland while her husband worked in Galway for the Natick-based firm Boston Scientific. When her husband learned the 17-week-old fetus his wife was carrying was nonviable, he begged the doctors to terminate the pregnancy to save his wife. The doctors pointed at the law, threw up their hands, and said there was nothing they could do.When Praveen Halappanavar expressed exasperation that no one was lifting a finger to save his dying wife, someone tried to explain it by saying, This is a Catholic country.An inquest last year found that Savita Halappanavar would most likely still be alive if the law in Ireland allowed for an abortion in that circumstance.I am sure Cardinal OMalley is sincere in his point of view that abortion is wrong, but Id like to see him try to convince Praveen Halappanavar that non-Catholics like the Halappanavars have to abide by the Catholic Churchs edicts even if it means the death of a mother carrying a fetus that had no chance at life.OK, enough of the Kafkaesque stuff. Lets get back to the hypocrisy stuff.

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Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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