The Catechetical Congress

As election day approaches, I am often asked about the right to life issue and the role of Catholics in political life, so I have issued the following statement that I want to share with you:

In defending the cause of life, we are not only fulfilling our vocation as Catholics, but we are also defending the vision of democracy that is embodied in the Declaration of Independence that states “We hold these truths to be self evident,” namely, that we are all created equal and are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life.

Today, this most fundamental human right is threatened. As the Bishops of the United States have said in our document Living the Gospel of Life: “As we tinker with the beginning, the end, and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person.”

If we ask ourselves what is the leading cause of death in the United States, we usually think of heart disease, cancer and other serious illnesses. Actually the leading cause of death in the United States is abortion. The architects of the pro-abortion movement in the United States thought that within a year or so the opposition would go away or die off. More than thirty years later the issue is still alive because people care about life, and an ever increasing number of young people are making it known that they too are committed to upholding respect for life.

The American people are not in favor of abortion on demand, partial birth abortion, or allowing babies who have survived an abortion to die. If we had the opportunity to vote as a nation there would certainly be limitations imposed on the abortion industry that destroys not just the lives of the babies but also the lives of all involved. A dictatorial court has imposed an unethical decision on our country and divided the American people.

We pray for the opportunity to allow the American people to have a voice in such a crucial issue. As people of compassion we must defend the rights of the most vulnerable. The Church’s social teaching is very coherent and extends to all aspects of economic justice, racial equality, war and peace, immigration, education and health care issues. But the centerpiece of our teaching will always be the right to life.

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Saturday, we held our annual Catechetical Congress at The Lantana in Randolph. We had about 600 catechists and religious education directors attend.  The group was almost evenly divided between the English and Spanish-speaking programs.

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It was my privilege to deliver the keynote address this year, which I first gave in English and then separately in Spanish.



The name of the speech was “Passing on the Faith: An Imperative. Not an Option.” For those of you who weren’t in attendance, here is the audio of the my address in english


In Spanish:


I was very happy to present the Sister Marion O’Connor Award for Excellence in Catechetical Leadership to Carmen Guerrios from Holy Family Parish in Dorchester for the Spanish program and to Marge Donaher from St. Francis Parish in Braintree for the English program.


Pilar Latorre with Carmen Guerrios


Susan Kay with Marge Donaher

It was also wonderful to see Sister Clare Bertero receive an award in recognition of her tremendous work over the years in religious education. Sister Clare is now my personal assistant staffing two important committees: one is looking into faith formation for adults and the other is looking at catechetical texts and programs to identify best practices in religious education.


With Msgr. John McDonough, Susan Kay, Susan Abbott and Sister Clare Bertero

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Saturday Evening, I celebrated the Closing Mass of the four-day 32nd annual conference of the American Maritain Association at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

Maritain was a Catholic philosopher. Born in 1882, he was raised Protestant and converted to Catholicism, devoting his life to the study of St. Thomas Aquinas. He contended that natural law is at the foundation of human ethics and human rights. In fact, he was involved in the drafting of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The association is based at Notre Dame University, where Maritain once taught and where many of his writings are kept, and is dedicated to discussing and preserving his ideas. This year’s conference focused on the theme of “Love and Friendship,” based principally on the chapter of the same name in his collection of essays “Notebooks.”

It was an absolutely beautiful Mass. The seminary choir sang some magnificent polyphonic music for us in Latin.

After the Mass there was a reception at St. John’s, and then an awards banquet at the Marriott Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel.

There were three awards presented during the evening. Father Joseph Koterski of Fordham University received the Maritain Medal for Scholarly Excellence and Stephen Chamberlain of Providence College received the Eve Simon Institute Graduate Student Award. I was very honored to be presented the association’s Humanitarian Award.





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Sunday, we visited St. Joseph Church in Medford as they celebrated their 125th anniversary.


Both Bishop Walter Edyvean and Bishop Francis Irwin are from that parish, so they were both there concelebrating the Mass with me.


With Bishop Irwin, Deacon Bob Breen, Father McLaughlin, Father Diem and Bishop Edyvean




Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn

It was a beautiful Mass and the church is simply stunning. The renovations that have been done to the building over the years have been done beautifully. The altars are beautiful carved wood from Oberammergau, Germany and the stained glass windows are stunning.



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Wednesday, I met with members of the visitation team of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) as well as members of the board of trustees at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.

Every ten years religious schools must develop and submit a detailed self-study report as part of the process to reaffirm their accreditation from the ATS. The association is a membership organization of roughly 250 Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant theological schools in the United States that reports directly to the U.S. Department of Education.

It was a very positive exchange and the visitation team seemed to be very impressed by the seminary. I know we are very impressed with the work that Father Peter Uglietto and his staff is doing there. We are so blessed as an archdiocese to have two seminaries that are both strong and vibrant as they prepare future priests for ministry.

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Finally I leave you this week with a photo of the view from my office window.  Our Pastoral Center overlooks Blue Hill Cemetery. This time of year the foliage is stunning, particularly at dusk. It is such a beautiful resting place.

Photo by Gregory L. Tracy

And of course, in the coming days, as we will be celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, it is important that we pray for all those who have gone before us into the Kingdom. 

I think the following traditional prayer says it best: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

12 thoughts on “The Catechetical Congress”

  1. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    The USCCB’s statement regarding Voting with a Catholic Conscience did not clarify what a Catholic Conscience is. Many Catholics due to poor catechesis, either from their Bishops or local clergy fell prey to believing their subjective conscience could be used instead of objective truth in the Presidential election we had this past Tues.

    Because of this, because of obfiscation in the above statement as to what INTRINSIC evil is, we will now have in the oval office, the most pro abortin candicate we have ever had throughout the history of the this republic.

    I hope at the up coming conference in Baltimore, you and the Bishops such as Chaput, Finn, Martino, Hermann, Malooly, Curtiss, Vasa, Rigali, Blake, George, Farrell, Torraco, Murphy, Vann,, O’Brien, Naumann , Gilmore , Coakley , Jackels and the many other upstanding leaders of our Church will make it explicite to the congregations of Holy Mother Church here in the United States, the horrible evil of abortion, euthanasai, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and homosexual marriage and that any Catholic supporting any of these INTRINSIC EVILS will be denied communion, especially our public politicians who declare themselves to be Catholic, but have no Catholic conscience.

    Even the loss of cafeteria priests would be welcome by me if it meant the purity of our church and it’s beliefs are taught and returned to the faithful. I would rather have fewer TRUE Catholic Churches , dioceses and parishes than many false ones.

    Whatever happened to our priests, Bishops and other clergy coming right out and saying, “THIS IS A MORTAL SIN.” No wonder 50% of ill formed Catholic Consciences voted for the most evil candidate in American History and placed him in office.

  2. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I am pleased that the President-elect Barak Obama has opposed the war in Iraq that has caused the loss of innocent lives taken needlessly and “pre-emptively”. Though the GOP supports the pro-life movement, the paradoxical position on risking and taking human life in battle has only been a darkness in our recent history.

    At last, our appointed leader,who stated his position in the final presidential debate that “no one” wants an abortion and that it should be RARE – will bring peace and life to our nation – this surely is the greatest blessing we could receive from Our Lord and Savior!


  3. Dear Cardinal,

    I intend all due respect to you and your office with this posting.

    I came to visit your blog to see if you had sent some offical teaching to guide Catholics during this election period. I had not received any guidance from the sermons at Mass leading up to the election. I saw the election in a cut and dry manner. One candidate supported life one did not. Voting records and public statements were very clear on the matter.

    After reading your offical stand in your blog, I came away with the feeling that Catholics were not given any firm guidance on voting. It was not direct enough.

    After thirty years of legal abortion, it makes me wonder when ( and who) in the American Catholic church will lead the faithful to act against the culture on this vital issue.

    It was embarassing to see the northeast and mid-atlantic vote go so overwhelmingly to the anti-life candidate. I think the blame goes to various places, but I can’t understand why Catholic leaders are not taking a stronger stand and a more direct approach to leading.

    The whole issue reminds me of the gospel that was part of Mass recently, in which the Lord invites His faithful to the wedding feast. The faithful were lukewarm and taken in by the world. These he spit out of His mouth. Spit reminds me of waste. I see this Nov election as just that waste.

    I pray for you and the office you hold, as well as our church. That the Sacrad Heart of Jesus has mercy on us all.

    God Bless, Shawn

  4. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I am heartsick this morning. America has overwhelmingly chosen economics over the sanctity of life. I can’t help but wonder if

    our Church had been more vocal in the months preceding the elections, if the results might have been different.

    I wholeheartedly echo the words of Mr. Andrew Heaton above,

    The Church must present itself as a no compromise church, and stand firmly behind it’s teaching.

    May God bless,

  5. Querido Padre Sean:

    We thank you for using your Blog to guide us in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Catholic Church. On the eve of the Presidential election in the United States, a country that we dearly love, we want to give our Lord a chance to act in each one of us in despite of our sinfulness and our own limitations. Christ certainly transformed Paul the Tarsus in His faithful and ardent Apostle of His teachings and Christ could do the same in each one of us because He told us in the Parable of the two sons that what it pleases Him is what we confess with our own lives not only with our words. This is say that we want to do His will because we are not living the ideals of Christ as many believe, but the Life of Christ and with that life of Christ in each of one of us and in His Church, we treat people with His love and kindness even when we have to disagree in despite of the fact that many times, unknowingly perhaps, we kill our brothers and sisters with the way we look at them with our own attitudes of superiority not realizing that He, who dwells in us, wants us to behave in love and true humility allowing Him to assist us and guide us. Christ is our best defense to make us defend Him because we defend Him not with swords of this world or with the swords of our own words, but with the sword is His love and the sword of His Word. His love and His Words are giving us true Life, we are His followers, His people, His Church and that life of Christ has penetrated for ages the hearts and souls of many sinners, like in us, allowing them and allowing us to change completely for the Lord, to live the Life of the Lord and making them and making us to became His holy Saints, His Holy people and this is because Christ never suppress His love for any of us in despite of our sinfulness and our own unfaithfulness.

    In many Catholic parishes we are praying “the Novena for Faithful Citizen” The last part of the Novena is very appropriate for our own individual and collective expectations. “Accept, o Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies. Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the “the sin of the world”, sin in all its manifestations. Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful love. May it put a stop to evil. May it transform consciences. May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope. Amen”

  6. Eminence,

    Thank you sir for defending the helpless. Last night, my room mate, here at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, preached on Micah 3, wherein the immoral leaders and prophets were chastised because, in neglecting the people, God declares: they “eat my peoples flesh…and break their bones in pieces” (verse 3 NIV).

    I pray your flock and all Christians who dwell within the bounds of the diocese will have one voice in this matter.

    Thank you for your pastoral ministry to all Christians and all the unborn.

    Douglas Dobbins

  7. Dear Cardinal Seán,

    Thank you for your important words concerning the right to life.
    This election has caused us so much anxiety, what is the future of our country? – if we do not protect the lives of the unborn, what will become of us…

    Last week, my “Trinity” professor tried to put us ease, as he quoted Isaiah 6:1-3

    “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
    “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

    Whatever the outcome of this election, God is in command.

    God bless!

  8. Dear Cardinal,
    During this entire campaign period, I have had the opportunity to attend Mass at many different parishes in Massachusetts and New York. I have heard only one priest remind us that abortion was wrong from the pulpit. Even then he was reluctant to reference his comment as related to the election. This Sunday the priest at the parish we attended reminded us to vote our conscience but didn’t elaborate. Are we afraid of offending someone?

    Our founding documents had a political purpose though rooted in faith. The state can not take away a right that God has given us. In our modern society, that faith that was our root is eroding, and so may our rights.

    Can’t the Church be strong? If it taught the right and wrong of modern beliefs, would it not grow in God’s grace? The Church must Teach, Sanctify and Rule in matters of faith and morals. How can it let such wrongful thinking be promoted? Political action is not required. Teaching is required.

    The world wants to look to someone to ease their fears. More and more they seem to be listening to teachers and politicians who are without a moral compass. People are only looking for someone to tell them what to do. Teaching what is right and reminding all that God’s love through his Son heals us should be our goal. Please let me know how I might help. “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” Andrew

  9. Dear Cardinal,

    Your position is eloquently stated. But with all do respect talk, or in this case writing, is cheap. When are Pro-abortion politicians going to be excommunicated? My brother in Christ, the secular media is always going to be against us but many have endured suffering much greater for the sake of the Gospel

  10. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration November 1, 2008

    The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-

    You stated: We hold these truths to be self evident,” namely, that we are all created equal and are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life.

    Unfortunately in the first part of the Declaration of Independence; Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness should have read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the right to Life.”

    Then there is no lee way for Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.- which gives free will, full reign and not God’s will. Which has led to legalization of abortion.

    Free will has led us into trouble from the beginning with Adam and Eve. The lower cast of animals get along better than we humans do. Joel Osteen stated in one of his sermons: “A bitter root bears a bitter fruit.” How do you stop producing bitter fruit? Stop feeding it!

    If we all followed God’s plan; To Love, honor and serve Him. The bitter fruit “Abortion” would no longer be the number one cause of death in the United States.

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October 2008