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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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Errors in factmandatory legal advice of the highest court in the land - Kenny runs a legally equal branch of government. The highest court cannot tell him what to legislate.Women in Ireland have died because there is no exception to the law - Expectant mothers in Ireland have one of the lowest rates of maternal death in the world. There is no evidence that abortion prevents maternal mortality. Enda Kenny, a good man who is personally opposed to abortion. He was elected on a platform which promised to retain Irelands current restrictions. And if one believes that abortion is morally objectionable, then YES, you are supposed to foster legislation which makes it illegal. The pursuit of the common good requires no less.All the blather about the Church and child sex abuse just obfuscates and leaves the commencement question begging.

Mr. Cullen obviously has not read the latest developments on the story of the Magdalene sisters, which apparently turned out to be another anti-Catholic media frenzy with little basis in reality:http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100202781/catholic-bash...

Here is how the Catholic Action League characterizes the Irish legislation that seems to be the centerpiece of this dispute:"On April 30th, Kenny's coalition government introduced legislation with the Orwellian title "The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013," which would legalize abortion in Ireland under the guise of preventing the suicide of pregnant women. As there is no gestational age limit to the measure, it would mean abortion on demand, under threat of suicide, through all nine months of pregnancy."Catholic hospitals would be forced to comply with the proposed law. Moreover, the bill contains no conscience clause protections for physicians, nurses, and other health care workers."The Catholic Church has denounced the measure and called upon the Irish people to lobby their elected representatives to oppose it. Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of Ireland, said the bill, if approved would "make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland." Brady went on to say that: "It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person.""Kenny has threatened to expel pro-life Catholic TDs (members of parliament) from his Fine Gael parliamentary party if they refuse to vote for the measure, which is expected to be acted upon in July."If this description is accurate, then I support Cardinal O'Malley's decision.

If people keep taking the attitude of Bruce ("All the blather about the Church and child sex abuse"), Boston--and Ireland--will eventually just be another Quebec, where a Cardinal had might as well fart in the wind as vocalize a protest, for all the good it would do him.

Fantasy lives againg with a post from Carlo who did not follow the links he referenced. This one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21345313, confirms what is widely known. With testimony from individuals and religious orders.

In the matter of Ireland's legislation, and for important clarifications in the case of Savita Halappanavar, Charles Camosy offers this: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/05/09/abortion-in-i...

Luke,You are wrong on so many of the facts including what Kenny is required to do, what he is in fact doing, the facts of the Savita case, which you get really wrong, and probably much else. I have forwarded your post to David Quinn, one of the preeminent Catholic commentators in Ireland and asked him to log in and explain what is going on in Ireland with abortion. You will find that O'Malley is more right than you know.

"Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation."That's all right, isn't it? Since he cannot convince people, rather than showing up and mixing with people whose views differ from his, he withdraws. He disagrees, he disagrees strongly, he disagrees strongly enough that he feels the need to withdraw. It's too bad, but it's the kind of "retaliation" we can live with.

If I were one of the Trustees of BC, I would not issue any future invites to Cardinal O'Malley. These guys come and gol there will always the next Cardinal to work with.I think O'Malley has a perfect right to say "no, thanks", but as a simple courtesy to a respected Catholic institution in the dioceses he serves, he should just have made a polite excuse rather than publicly boycott it. Are you sure O'Malley snub is going down well with the Vatican? Isn't Boston College Jesuit? They might have an "in" now.

Just to be clear, Luke is posting someone else's material. If I'm reading it correctly, everything after the jump comes from Cullen. EDIT: Blockquote added. I also cut some of the material for reasons of fair use. If you haven't used up your free monthly reads, you should be able to see the rest of that Cullen column, which, I'm afraid, is over the top and seems to play loose with facts.

Irene:"Are you sure OMalley snub is going down well with the Vatican? Isnt Boston College Jesuit? They might have an in now."No way! I would say Pope Francis is now pope first and Jesuit second.

Stepping back for a moment from the particulars of Irish politics, let's take a look at what is happening here from the point of view of the American church.Cardinal O'Malley, in his statement explaining why he's passing on the commencement ceremony this year, notes 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."It is fair to ask, Why is Boston College conferring this honor - an honorary Doctor of Laws degree - on Enda Kenny? Judging by the content of BC's public announcement (available here: http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/publications/chronicle/FeaturesNewsTopstori...), it is simply because of Kenney's long and eminent career, and to be sure because of his speech on behalf of victims of sex abuse. All of which is admirable. But ... the purpose of that request by the US bishops is that, in their view, it isn't sufficient to have a long and eminent career. The specific things that a politician does during that career, especially as it pertains to the issue identified by the bishops as being the most important of contemporary issues - abortion - matter. Cardinal O'Malley, in my opinion, is being more charitable in assuming that the Boston College administration invited Kenny without being aware of the Irish situation with regard to abortion. The college should do its due diligence about such things. And in my view, the college should abide by the bishops' wishes.

"I think OMalley has a perfect right to say no, thanks, but as a simple courtesy to a respected Catholic institution in the dioceses he serves, he should just have made a polite excuse rather than publicly boycott it."Irene, I don't think what O'Malley is doing amounts to a boycott. He is declining to do something that he's customarily done in the past, and, anticipating that people would wonder why, he's explaining why. It seems to me that his explanation is pretty good: it sticks to the facts, and he explains forthrightly why he is doing what he is doing. He expresses the hope that BC can repair the damage their decision is causing. And he assures the students that they'll be in his prayers. And it's worth noting that he doesn't condemn Boston College or Kenny. I think that, on the whole, it strikes the right notes.

As with many things, these situations don't usually make anything better, don't change anyone's minds. Nobody wins. It just leaves a bid taste in everyone's mouth. It isn't the BC administration or Enda Kenny who are hurt by this. It is the graduates, though in the end they'll likely forget the snub. Good heavens, over the years I'm sure BC's commencement speakers have included a range of good and bad. Cardinal Law was the speaker in 1984, Condi Rice was in 2006 or so when she and GW Bush were lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Neither one turned out to reflect Catholic values. I'm sure if you went back and looked at the list of speakers over the 150 odd year history of the institution, you'd find as many rascals as saints among the speakers. The other thing that this demonstrates, though, is the difference between a powerful institution like BC and less powerful Catholic colleges. Last year Anna Maria College had to go through the embarrassment of dis-inviting Ted Kennedy's widow because the bishop of Worcester objected. Marist stopped calling itself Catholic because it wouldn't buckle to an order from the Archbishop of New York to "dis-invite" the newly elected governor to its commencement. When its BC on the other hand, the Cardinal backs out. No Cardinal is going to threaten a major Jesuit university.

Mr. Dunn,Which governor are you referring to? Marist College has been officially "non-Catholic" for many years.

I second Grant's assessment:"that Cullen column, which, Im afraid, is over the top and seems to play loose with facts."I had read the column early this morning and communicated a similar assessment to Mr. Cullen himself -- who thanked me for my trouble.

Well, I ALSO wrote Mr. Cullen, and he also thanked ME for MY trouble. So there!

Here is an interesting little news item that, if true, has sort of a tangential connection to this Boston College / Enda Kenny / Cardinal O'Malley story. This news item pertains to Pope Francis. It's been remarked before that he does not distribute communion when be celebrates a public mass. This news item explains (speculates on?) the reason for this policy: he has stated that he doesn't want the reception of communion to be leveraged as a photo op by public sinners.http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=17830The policy of the US bishops toward Catholic schools and pro-abortion politicians runs somewhat along the same lines. Cardinal O'Malley declines to be on the dais with Prime Minister Kenny because he fears, reasonably, that his presence would seem to be yet another indication of church acquiescence to pro-abortion policies. Cardinal O'Malley declines to take part in that photo op.

Abe, I am always interested when you put up comments about art (not often enough), and your other comments often make me laugh, provided they're light and in good spirit. I wish they always were.

yet another indication of church acquiescence to pro-abortion policiesHow many have you counted so far? Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that the position of the Catholic church is against abortion.

Abe,somehow I suspect his thanks to you were more heartfelt.

God bless Cardinal O'Malley. Let us hope that Boston College does the right thing and withdraws its ill-timed and undeserved honor for Kenny.

Savita Halappanavar died from an undiagnosed infection that resulted in sepsis. That was the verdict of the inquest. The jury did not find any indication that Ireland's laws on abortion contributed to her death. Doctors in Ireland regard both the mother and her unborn child as patients.Enda Kenny promised before the last election that his party would not legislate for abortion; that was an important consideration for many who voted for his party. However, he is now spearheading legislation which will allow abortion on grounds of risk of maternal suicide. That will effectively mean abortion on demand.Pro-life people in Ireland are fighting against the most evil piece of legislation ever to be proposed in Ireland. We need prayers and support, not snide and ill-informed pro- abortion propaganda!

Jim PauwelsI get your argument, but I'm not sure anyone would imagine that Cardinal O'Malley sharing a stage at a graduation with Prime Minister Kenny would be taken by any reasonable or rational person as any kind of acceptance of pro-abortion policy, any more than his hosting President Obama and Governor Patrick at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross during the Boston Marathon prayer vigil would be so taken. Cardinal O'Malley has been crystal clear on his views on this matter. And nobody is asking him to do anything but what he and his predecessors have traditionally done. I have a good deal of respect for Cardinal O'Malley. Among the US hierarchy, I think he is among the few who really do understand what a horrible crimes were committed by his predecessors. But I don't think he's doing the right thing in this instance. This isn't about abortion. It is about celebrating the accomplishments of a group of men and women. My guess is that 90% of the people in attendance won't know or care what Kenny's position on abortion is. Most probably wouldn't know whether the Taoiseach of Ireland is President, Prime Minister or King. All Cardinal O'Malley did was call attention to it and to himself, and create a controversy where none was necessary.

Ah yes - The season of those who never cease to delight in tweaking the nose of the bishops by hosting pro-abortion speakers at so-called Catholic colleges . . . a sure sign of spring.

KenAre you implying that a Catholic college like BC has invited this honorary degree recipient specifically for his stance on abortion?Surely you know that is not true. Please stop trolling.

A sure sign of spring is that Catholic hypocrites will avoid that the Vatican and the bishops oppose contraception which has helped control populations from certain death and sickness. Sound out about this fact and stop hiding behind the abortion issue. Rome irresponsibly says that this is relegated to the "internal forum." Which is the way to hide its embarrassing position on the issue.

It is fair to ask, Why is Boston College conferring this honor an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Enda Kenny?It is equally fair for probably 99 percent of BC students to ask -- Enda Who?

Last year Anna Maria College had to go through the embarrassment of dis-inviting Ted Kennedys widow because the bishop of Worcester objected. McManus.http://www.google.com/search?site=&source=hp&q=mcmanus+drunk&oq=mcmanus+...

There are a lot of errors in this blog. Prime Minister Enda Kenny does not have to legislate for abortion in Ireland. There is no law that requires him to legislate. The Supreme Court judgement on which he is basing the new law is flawed and out-dated. Previous governments for the last 21 years have correctly opted not to follow this flawed judgement which is legitimate under the Constitution.

No woman in Ireland has ever died because of the lack of abortion. Doctors in Ireland can legally intervene to save the life of a mother, regardless of foetal heartbeat. This is also the official teaching of the Catholic Church. It is wrong to say that Savita Halapannavar died because of a 'Catholic' law. She died because of horrendous medical neglect- it had nothing to do with the abortion law.

I wonder if the Cardinal could have chosen to attend the graduation and in a polite but firm way explain his concerns. From one perspective, this might be a lost opportunity to talk about life issues to graduates and their families. There might be problems with such an appearance that I'm not seeing, but it might have been a chance to teach/explain, perhaps especially including the full spectrum of life issues.

It would be nice to see a moratorium on inviting "questionable" speakers and the "dis-invite" route. Both have become, as Ken notes, de rigeur, for Catholic springtime. No unborn child has yet been saved by any of these actions, which increasingly strike me as narcissistic on the part of both bishops and colleges.I can appreciate Cardinal O'Malley's frustration. It's the pro-life domino effect. If you can't make a difference with the women choosing abortions, go after the doctors. If you can't make headway with doctors, then shut down their clinics. If you can't make headway with those providers, then go after the politicians. If you can't convince politicians, then target the voters. In the end, activists are so far removed from the original cause-and-effect that they might as well be blaming God for setting up this quandry in the first place.I'm with Kevin: it's time to go off this tired, old script on the pro-life front. It's not like anything a bishop does is going to cause more abortions. We hope.

"Expectant mothers in Ireland have one of the lowest rates of maternal death in the world."That's in part because Ireland "exports: its difficult pregnancies ... http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/16/ireland-abortion-women-force... Kenny is acting to clarify for doctors a 20+ year old Supreme Court decision that makes it legal to abort non-viable fetuses if the mother's life is in danger (Doctors support abortions in some cases). Even given this, Ireland remains the only country in Europe besides Malta where abortion is illegal even in cases of rape or incest. With the Catholic bishops arguing against this legal clarification, it's obvious to many women that their lives mean very little to the church. Read more .... Irish abortion bill does not change law, says Enda KennySpeaking of Boston College and Ireland, there's been research at the college, The Belfast Project, on the subject of violence in Northern Ireland and it's led to conflicts. You can read more here - Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover.

I am unconvinced suggesting an argument against Cullen's article can be found in stating he has played loose with the facts. The links provided by several commentors here provide more than enough evidence to the ease with which one can find utterly contradictory articles about the facts on the issues being discussed. It seems to me if the Catholic hierarchy wishes to be the final artibitrator on issues of moral rightness than it must assume the truly profound responsiblity such power provides. Mere words are insufficient. It must live those words and it must do so consistently while fully accepting the fact inconsistency is one of the most predicatable and identifiable attributes of mere mortals.When we mere mortals are faced with the real world dilemma of choosing between the life of a child and the life of that child's mother we have no clear answer. God help us if we ever did. Tragically, that is only one of many such challenges a person who lives outside of a cloistered world can face. In the real world such challenges are utterly unhelped by either judicial or religious righteousness however eloquently expressed.I am hard pressed to believe the cardinal would not have liked to have had the chance to counsel the couple on the wisdom of trying again to bring a child into the world. I wonder why he could not have expressed that idea as one of his great losses in the tragic death of both mother and child.

"When we mere mortals are faced with the real world dilemma of choosing between the life of a child and the life of that childs mother we have no clear answer. God help us if we ever did."You obviously have never read the 1950 book nor seen the 1963 movie "The Cardinal." If that isn't a true representation of the Church's position in these matters, I don't know what was/is.

Ireland, under Kenny, had the temerity to close its Vatican embassy because of the sex scandal. He and the Vatican are now back on speaking terms, but he has not relented about the embassy. I don't doubt that his embassy decision also had something to do with Cdl. O'Malley's decision not to attend the graduation. Rome must be furious at him.

If anyone should have been furious, it was rightly Kenny, given the abuse at Cloyne. I thought Kenny's speech was really good.

Kenny's speech was discussed at length at http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=14508

"When we mere mortals are faced with the real world dilemma of choosing between the life of a child and the life of that childs mother we have no clear answer."As the world sees these things, the deck is stacked against the child. It seems to me that, absent the church's counter-intuitive moral teaching of a preferential option for the little ones, it is pretty much inevitable that the mother's life will be chosen at the expense of the child's, every single time.

Irene Baldwin - "Are you sure OMalley snub is going down well with the Vatican? Isnt Boston College Jesuit? They might have an 'in' now."While you might find conspiratorial websites that posit the new unified power of the Jesuits (Black and White Popes United -- oh my!!), it is pretty clear in this instance --the Jesuits of BC vs. Cardinal O'Malley -- if any side has an "in" with Rome, it is Cardinal O'Malley.http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/04/francis-friar-omalley-su...

"I wonder if the Cardinal could have chosen to attend the graduation and in a polite but firm way explain his concerns."Perhaps he could have, although I believe his invitation was simply to bless the event, not to be a featured speaker. But once he takes the mic, I suppose he could say whatever he wants. Such witness could be invaluable for the graduates and their families, and it might make for good theater. I don't know if direct confrontation is his style or his preferred approach. He has chosen a way in which he has still politely and firmly explained his concerns, in a way that is less likely to cause a guest head of state to lose face. Perhaps that would tend to leave open the possibility for dialogue between Kenny and church officials down the road.

I note that Cardinal Dolan delivered a benediction at the Democratic National Convention last year, a situation that seems roughly parallel to this one. It seems that different churchmen handle these situations differently.

It's not that the churchmen are different, it's that in the first case, Cdl O'Malley knows that Jesuits will still pay attention to him, but in the second case, Cdl Dolan knows that if he shuns politicians then they will simply forget about him.

Helen - Please climb down from the high horse; I am not implying that at all.

God's grace is withheld from no one. So, what could possibly give the Cardinal the impression that he has the right to withhold his? This stuff is shameful.

" ... it is pretty much inevitable that the mothers life will be chosen at the expense of the childs, every single time. "It is called choosing for the known versus the unknown.Most people do that most of the time.

"As the world sees these things, the deck is stacked against the child. It seems to me that, absent the churchs counter-intuitive moral teaching of a preferential option for the little ones, it is pretty much inevitable that the mothers life will be chosen at the expense of the childs, every single time."Jim P. --You're not facing the point at issue : when both the mother and the child will die without intervention there IS NO option for the little one. That's the horror of it -- the child dies either way. "Preferential option for the child" is meaningless in such a situation.

"Youre not facing the point at issue : when both the mother and the child will die without intervention there IS NO option for the little one."Hi, Ann, my statement which you quoted was written in response to this statement by MightBe:When we mere mortals are faced with the real world dilemma of choosing between the life of a child and the life of that childs mother we have no clear answer.That scenario is somewhat different than the one you wrote about. Which one pertained to the case of Savita Halapannavar is not clear to me. (Or, if what one or two commenters have written is true, perhaps her death was unrelated to the life or health of her baby).

Bruce- the fact that maternal mortality is statisitically low in Ireland does not address the fact that there are rare, tragic cases where a pregnant woman will die unless a direct abortion is performed, and where there is no hope whatsoever of saving the child. Savita Halappanavar appears to have been one of those cases- the septicemia developed because she experienced an incomplete miscarriage, antibiotics were not working, and the only practical treatment was to complete the miscarriage (i.e. remove the unborn child). The septicemia was not undiagnosed- she was diagnosed with infection of the fetal membranes several days before she died. She was suffering from high fever, extremely high pulse, shivering, foul smelling uterine discharge. She was not treated because Irish law is ambiguous about whether it's legal to perform a direct abortion when faced with imminent maternal death, and the doctors did not dare run the risk.These cases are so rare that they do not affect the overall statistics for maternal mortality, but they do occur. The proposed Irish abortion law allows abortion in the case of suicide threats, and I can see that Cardinal O'Malley would be worried that it will open the floodgates. However, I think it's utterly wrong for the civil law to force women Savita Halappanavar's situation to die for the sake of Catholic teaching about direct and indirect abortions. I think it's wrong for the Catholic church to lobby to enforce Catholic teaching on the issue through the civil law. I hope that Cardinal O'Malley is only objecting to the suicide provision of the proposed law- but if so, I wish he would clarify this.

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