Gathering with my brother bishops

I have just returned from the fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore and the most important topic discussed there was the Church’s pro-life stance, particularly in light of the recent election.


There were several discussions in our regional meetings and when we gathered as bishops in our executive sessions.

Many ideas were proposed. Out of those, Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago and the president of the conference, distilled a very good statement that reflects a strong and unified sentiment of the Catholic bishops of the United States.


Therefore, I have asked that the statement be read or distributed at all the parishes at Sunday Masses.

Of course, we are eager to work with the incoming president and cooperate with the government on the good works that the Church has been involved in historically, such as serving the poor, in social services, education and working for peace and reconciliation.

But, we want to make it very clear that as Catholics we are committed to work to establish just laws that will protect human life, which is the most basic of all rights.

We realize there are many threats on the horizon, particularly the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act.” The intent of FOCA is to make abortion much more common and to have these abortions funded by the people’s tax dollars.  It would also remove any possibility of parental oversight. FOCA would be a radical and disastrous legislation that we need to make people aware of.

We also want to point out that the outcome of the presidential election was in great part a result of the economic crisis and our global involvement in the war on terrorism, particularly in Iraq. It was not a mandate for a liberalization of laws concerning abortion or marriage. In fact, some of the states that voted for President-elect Obama also passed referendums defending traditional marriage.

The pro-life cause will always be at the center of the Catholic social teaching.

There is not some “new way” of being pro-life by saying, “I am going to work for economic justice” and that, somehow, is going to substitute for trying to put guarantees in the laws that will protect human life from the first moment of conception.

Traditionally, the Church has worked for a more just social order and to provide services and help to women in difficult straits. But, we must not lose sight of the serious obligation that we have to work for just legislation.

Cardinal George expresses those themes very eloquently in his statement drafted on behalf of the bishops conference that I am sharing with you today:

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
"If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil." (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.


The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any "interference" in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.


Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.

On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.


This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected "watchman." (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.

– – –

The assembly with the bishops in Baltimore was very productive. Our plenary session began Monday morning, but we have always added committee meetings before and after our general session. This saves time and money on travel because we are already together.

USCCB_IMG_0631 The view from the hotel


USCCB_IMG_0674 I arrived Friday night because Saturday morning I had the administrative board meeting, and then in the afternoon, I chaired the committee meeting on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

USCCB-1_IMG_0608Meeting with the Committee  on Immigration

Also on Saturday and Sunday, I participated with the committees on Latin America, Africa, Immigration and pro-life activities. Sunday, I also attended the board meeting for the National Shrine.

USCCB-1_IMG_0611 The pro-life committee


It was a busy weekend, and so much of the business of the bishops conference is done in the committee meetings, where we have participation from bishops, priests, religious and the laity.

One of the highlights of the trip was the dinner hosted by the Military Archdiocese on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.  Three of our priests who are working with the military attended with me, Coast Guard Chief of Chaplains Father Bill Cuddy, Father Paul Hurley and Father John McLaughlin. Father McLaughlin is on loan to the Military Archdiocese to support and increase vocations to the military chaplain corps.


At the dinner, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the ordinary of the Military Archdiocese, gave a talk about the heroic work of military chaplains and how important they are. He expressed his gratitude to the dioceses that are sending chaplains.

Archbishop of the Military Services Timothy Paul Broglio meets with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley in offices May 2, 2008.<br />
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. TracyIn my office with Archbishop Broglio earlier this year

There is a terrible shortage of chaplains. It is my hope that more bishops will see their way to share their clergy with the Military Archdiocese. It is an important way to reach young people at a time in their lives when the most need the Church to be present.


I took some photos of the gathering with my cell-phone camera


The entertainment for the dinner was provided by the Army Chorus, which gave us a great performance


At the dinner, there was a chaplain recruiting poster whose message struck me: “Taking God to Soldiers and Taking Soldiers to God.” I hope you can make it out

We were very happy to have Catholic TV at the fall assembly with us and they interviewed a number of the bishops. Many of the bishops thanked me for the wonderful mission and services of our Catholic Television.




USCCB_IMG_0672Kevin Nelson, Bonnie Rodgers and Tim Stonesifer of CatholicTV

One of the presentations given before the meeting began was on the importance of new technology. They talked about blogs and other ways to use the Internet to spread the Word. Of course, with all the committee meetings I could not attend, but I really felt re-affirmed in my own blog.

– – –

Friday, we had our annual gathering of the alumni at St. John’s Seminary. Over 140 priests came for the Holy Hour and we all had dinner together. For some of the priests, it was their first time back in the seminary in years.


Many of them were impressed to see how beautifully the chapel has been refurbished. We were also encouraged by the increased number of seminarians, who joined us.

St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe 

St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

The alumni night was an opportunity for the priests to see their classmates—especially those who are serving in other dioceses and join them at the celebration.

St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe  StJ1_IMG_6983


St. John's Seminary Annual alumni gathering Nov. 7, 2008. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

Of course, we are very grateful to Father Arthur Kennedy, the rector, and the rest of the seminary community for hosting what is always a fine event.

Until next time, blessings to you all!

Cardinal Seán

30 thoughts on “Gathering with my brother bishops”

  1. I think there is a unique thing about the church, and that is to be as one – always seems to make me feel good inside to know there’s always someone I can talk to and rely on.

  2. It’s interesting how the church and politics can work hand in hand for a common goal a better life for our people.

  3. There is now doubt that the cardinal has spoken wisely and correctly defending the right of the unborn to be given life.
    It is, though, very dangerous to see above some comments defending Mr Obama. His defence of F.O.C.A defines him well.
    To believe that the republicans are for abortion is a mistaken judgment, whereas if we look into the hordes of democrats defending Abortion, is endless.
    Let us all fight for the Right To Life.


  4. I think this weeks blog was very interesting. I agree with Cardinal Sean that abortion is wrong. I think no baby should be killed. Thats Terrible! I thought that it was a great idea to talk about this in the blog.

  5. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I really liked reading this weeks blog. especially because it was about abortion. I think it is terrible for an innocent baby to be killed. I thought it was a great idea to have a meeting about that.

  6. I don’t like how people think abortion is ok! It is a very bad thing! No baby needs to be killed for that. All babies should have a chance to live life.

  7. Cardinal Sean,

    Once again you have posted a wonderful blog! I think it is very intersting to see and read about your adventures. My favorite part of your blog was seeing the Army Chorus singing in the photos you took. I think the saying :“Taking God to Soldiers and Taking Soldiers to God” was a very special message from the poster you saw. I think it really relates to the army and all of the sodiers and their familiesvery well. Thank you again for your blog, Cardinal!


  8. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Since President-elect Obama has shown such obvious affection for his own daughters, it would seem that the best way of melting his heart and changing his stated intention of making F.O.C.A. the law of the land might be through a concerted letter-writing campaign of the children of the U.S. This pan of action could have many beneficial results:
    1. Infomr the school-aged children of the evils of this legislation.
    2. Help each child be able to clearly explain what is wrong with F.O.C.A.
    3. Give them an understanding of true freedom.
    4. Help them realize that they can have an impact on the future of this country.
    5. Put the President-elect in the awkward position of refusing the impassioned request of millions of children should he sign F.O.C.A.
    My suggestion is that parochial schools, throughout the country, make this a part of their writing curriculum: a persuasive essay. This can also be done in CCD classes, and among home-schoolers. There should be a deadline of January 15th, in which all letters would be mailed. The letters would have the greatest influence in they were each mailed separately.

  9. Dear Cardinal:

    I highly disagreed with the abortion agreement years ago. I hope that will never happen again, because abortion is a horrible thing.

  10. Cardinal Sean, You worked with Father Scott Newman in the Caribbean, and know him personally. Have read his homily on reception of the Eucharist and voting (and not the words as reported by the news media)? Will you offer Catholics in Boston insight into the proper examination of conscience we should undertake before receiving Communion?

  11. I think this weeks blog is very interesting. I agree with the cardinal on the idea of abortion. I think it is not right to kill a baby’s life before it gets a chance to live. Even though they are not alive, God still loves them and he is still his children.

  12. Dear Cardinal Seán,
    I liked how you talked about how everyday issuses fall into Catholic faith. It made me realize that no matter what the issue is, religon will always be a part of it.
    Hope you have a great week.

  13. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I believe it is our vocation as Catholics to spread the word of God. It is great that you preach God’s word from week to week at different gatherings. It reminds people that we need to be kind to others, just as Jesus would. It is also wonderful how many people are now starting to spread God’s message through technology. An example being your blog.

    Mariah Ward

  14. Dear Cardian Sean,
    It is Caroline K. from St. Paul School. I ejoyed your bog this week. It is very interesting that you went to Baltimore for the U.S. Conference for Catholic Bishops. The pictures from your hotel are beautiful. Once again, thank you for your blog!!!

    ~Caroline Kenneally~

  15. Did you say that you were at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? That’s where I was baptized! Now I live in Massachusetts, though.

    I think abortion is so wrong. I can’t believe that some people think that it is okay to literally kill a baby. Some people say that it isn’t a baby, but it is. That baby could grow up to accomplish something great for our world, so why throw out that chance?

    -Kate, 7th grade, St. Paul’s School in Hingham

  16. I think supporting the army corps and our new elected president Barrack Obama is very important. It was wonderful to have a dinner dedicated to the troops.

  17. I am glad that you participated in the fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. It is important for people to remember that abortion is wrong. By aborting a baby you could have just killed the next Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. Let us just all hope that the Church will lead our country to being more pro-life.

  18. I thought it was a horrible thing to let abortion be approved. I enjoyed the idea of you all meeting together and talking about the horrible event.

  19. Hi Cardinal Seán –

    I just wanted to let you know how happy I am that you spell your first name correctly! I was born spelling it this way and am thrilled whenever I see other guys, particularly Americans, using the fada over the “a”. I’m from Boston originally but live in Chicago now. However, I’m home pretty often – I’ll have to come to one of your masses soon!

    Slán agus beannacht,
    Seán MacBhloscaidh

  20. Hi Cardinal Seán –

    I just wanted to let you know how happy I am that you spell your first name correctly! I was born spelling it this way and am thrilled whenever I see other guys, particularly Americans, using the fada over the “a”. I’m from Boston orginally but live in Chicago now. However, I’m home pretty often – I’ll have to come to one of your masses soon!

    Slán agus beannacht,
    Seán MacBhloscaidh

  21. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I think it is great how you are very pro-life. I believe that abortion is terrible and that no baby deserves to get killed.

    I also think that President-elect Obama is an example of how you can do anything you set your mind to. I hope he can help the country get out of this economic crisis.


  22. Pro-life is a very important issue that we need to pay more attention to. Thankyou Cardinal sean for this interesting blog
    Can’t wait for your next one
    Mikayla McGrath

  23. I believe that Cardinal Seans blog is a great ways to spread the Word and other important issues to the community!

  24. Dear Cardinal Sean
    i really enjoyed this weeks blog! It is nice to hear about what is going on in the Catholic community. I think the regional meetings are great! I alsothink that is was great that the priests got to see their classmates.

  25. As a strongly pro-life woman whose youngest child is fifteen years younger than the previous one, I spent much time in prayer before voting for President-elect Obama. I did so because both parties are coalitions and each includes some groups whose values are far from those that we Catholics share.
    For the past thirty years no Democrat, however well-qualified, who was openly pro-life could achieve national office, as the late Governor Robert Casey discovered. Now, we will have a president whose teenage mother would have been encouraged to have an abortion if she had become pregnant in 1973 instead of 1960 and a Catholic vice-president and Speaker. Maybe there is room to influence these apparently decent people. Bishops can, rightly, be prophetic, but politics is the art of the possible.

  26. My parish seems to be very politically correct. Perhaps I have missed it, but I’ve never heard preaching about abortion. Reading this blog is the first I’ve heard of the proposed legislation. I will be interested to see if they read this letter tomorrow

  27. Is is sad that the Bishops do not make as explicity clear that the Republican party has little convergence with catholic social teaching: options for the poor, rights of workers, fair not so called free trade, universal health care…….as well as many in that party support pro choice……….
    there is no doubt abortion is the singular issue, but the lack by the Bishops of clearly stating that Republicans in general, must be chastised for their [and could this be more obvious than in the unprescidented distribution of wealth in the USA-un paralled in the industrial world>?] lack of social justice…
    In obedience i voted for McCain, and for Bush twice, all the while seething that my church does not: 1..directly state no catholic can support abortion, and this might mean not voting at all 2…no explanation is available for the wealthy’s accumulation of wealth at the expense of the social contract, and 3…just as Obama much more closely parallels catholic reasoning on all social teaching and matters of foreigh policy but the scandal of abortion ops all else —so McCain’s views on social, economic, workers rights, and bombastic views on foreign affairs are against the Catholic approach to problems

    instead the Bishops fall into line with Republican winner take all, self righteous blather

    i say this in all due respect

  28. yes in the Of course, we are very grateful to Father Arthur Kennedy, the rector, and the rest of the seminary community for hosting what is always a fine event.

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November 2008