BOSTON — When Catholic Charities honored the mayor of Boston, the Church didn't join in.
Archbishop Sean O'Malley skipped the event when Boston Catholic Charities honored Mayor Thomas Menino, an abortion supporter, at its Dec. 9 Christmas fund-raising dinner. The group praised his “consistent support of Catholic Charities.”
But the mayor has a public record stretching back to at least 1992 of supporting abortion and homosexual activism.
Citing a “crisis of infidelity to Church teachings,” more than 100 Boston-area Catholics Dec. 1 petitioned Archbishop Sean O'Malley to insist the honor be withdrawn — or to rein the agency in and change its leadership.
“The people of Boston have lost confidence in the spiritual leadership of Catholic Charities,” stated the petition, with 133 signatures. While pledging to support the archbishop, the petition that was organized in just three days urged him to “put authentic Catholic beliefs and teachings back into Catholic Charities of Boston.”
The agency's move has undermined efforts of Catholics working to defend life and to get a pro-family marriage protection issue on the state ballot, petition co-author William Hobbib of Newton said in a telephone interview. And the decision came weeks after an October revelation that Catholic Charities has placed children for adoption with homosexual couples.
The Boston Herald reported Dec. 7 that a letter from the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., urged Archbishop O'Malley to stop Catholic Charities from facilitating adoptions unless homosexual couples are excluded. The newspaper cited an anonymous source.
Asked about the letter, the archdiocese issued a statement saying it does not comment on “private communications it might receive from the Holy See.”
Catholic Charities has said it is bound by the state's non-discrimination laws. An interdiocesan commission in Massachusetts is studying the situation.
But Archbishop O'Malley announced Nov. 22 that he would not attend the Dec. 9 dinner. He noted that the U.S. Catholic Bishops, in a 2004 policy statement, affirmed that Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of fundamental Catholic moral principles.
The executive board of the state's Knights of Columbus also bowed out of the dinner because of Menino's being honored, State Deputy Richard Guerriero said in a telephone interview.
Petition co-author Carol McKinley of Duxbury said in an interview that petition organizers intensified their efforts Dec. 5-7 by contacting every director on the Catholic Charities Board and all big donors, urging them to refrain from attending. The archdiocese is still out of compliance with the bishops’ directive, she said.
Catholic Action League of Massachusetts Executive Director C.J. Doyle said that he was pleased with archbishop's decision to boycott the dinner, and he has been urging people to thank him. The organization also called on Catholic Charities’ leadership to withdraw the invitation to Menino and to “apologize to the archbishop and the Catholic community for its complicity in this grave scandal.”
Catholic Charities President Father Bryan Hehir could not be reached by the Register for comment, but his spokesman stood by the agency's initial statement: “Catholic Charities firmly supports Catholic teaching concerning these matters (abortion and same-sex “marriage’). We differ with the mayor on both of these issues, even as we recognize his contributions to those we seek to serve each day in our city.”
Cape Cod Pro-Life Alliance President Patricia Stebbins wrote to Father Hehir: “You do our efforts to uphold Church pro-life, pro-family teachings a tremendous disservice by such callous disregard.”
Columnist Frank Mazzaglia wrote Nov. 27 in the MetroWest Daily News: “The time is long overdue for a serious re-organization of Catholic Charities, which continues to exhibit a rebellious spirit and a lack of leadership.”
While noting that the largest social service agency in Massachusetts does tremendous good every day for residents regardless of their faith, Mazzaglia concluded, “However, it is now clear that the majority of the governing body of Catholic Charities does not care one whit about the doctrines of the Church to which it is connected.”
McKinley, who founded the grassroots Catholic group “Faithful Voice” (in response to “Voice of the Faithful”), said of the agency's stand on Menino: “It's disingenuous. This makes it look as if as long as we do good works, we have no need to be concerned about the salvation of our souls.”
Menino's office did not respond to the Register's request for comment, but he defended his public record in a Boston Globe article Nov. 30: ““When the pope speaks on doctrine, that is absolute. I don't think choice and gay marriage are doctrine.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, however, the Church's teaching role does extend to matters of faith and morals (890-891).
Menino deflected the issue by criticizing those who called for his invitation to be withdrawn. He said they were “uncharitable” and “angry” because of church closings and the sexual abuse scandal.
Not so, McKinley countered. “This is about an internal schism in our religion; Menino's comments clearly show that,” she said in the same article.
Her petition states, “While we are grateful for the mayor's contributions to the poor, his published statements portraying our resolve to defend the culture of life as being “not charitable’ are in error.”
The petition asks the archbishop to “avoid further scandal and confusion to the faithful by correcting public misstatements regarding Catholic doctrine by Mayor Menino.”
Mazzaglia concluded in his column, “The archdiocese is reluctant to take on Catholic Charities directly. It's not because of the money, but rather because of the good that money can do for the desperately poor. Sooner or later, Catholic Charities is a problem that cries out for resolution.”
Gail Besse is based in Hull, Massachusetts.