Hello and welcome!
Friday, I had a Zoom meeting with FOCUS campus missionaries in the archdiocese. Ordinarily, we would meet for a dinner and a time of dialogue, but this time we did it virtually. The gathering was a chance for them to share with me, and with each other, some of their experiences working in the various universities during the pandemic. A number of the priests who are university chaplains were part of the meeting, as well, and they spoke about how wonderful it was to have the collaboration of the FOCUS missionaries.
We are very fortunate to have a wonderful team of FOCUS missionaries working in several of our universities here in Boston and, of course, Father Michael Drea is also very involved with them nationwide. We are very grateful for their commitment and the witness of their lives that makes such an impact.
Saturday was our annual Social Justice Convocation. Several months ago, even before racial tensions flared around the country, we had chosen the theme of racial justice for this year’s convocation, which turned out to be very timely.
Our day together began with a Mass concelebrated by myself and Father Oscar Pratt, the pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Dorchester. I’d like to share my homily from that Mass with you here:
I am so grateful to Pat Dinneen, Father Bryan Hehir, Deacon Tim Donahue and Byron Wratee for their many contributions to this year’s convocation.
On Sunday, I celebrated a television Mass for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sunday afternoon, I attended a virtual gathering of the Ugandan Catholic community in the archdiocese for their annual harvest festival, which was held virtually this year. The Ugandan community is based at St. Mary Parish in Waltham so, of course, Father Michael Nolan was very involved. They also invited two bishops to greet them from Africa: The Archbishop of Kigali Rwanda, Cardinal-designate Antoine Kambanda, as well as Bishop Serverus Jjumba of the Diocese of Masaka, Uganda.
We also heard testimonies from several members of the Ugandan community. One of them was a woman who spoke very beautifully about how when she was sick during the pandemic, the people in the community prayed for her, called her, and brought her food at a time when she felt very frightened and alone.
This was a wonderful opportunity to be able to address some of our African parishioners from the Ugandan community. Of course, we have ministries organized in many of our parishes for different African immigrant communities, including the Eritrean-Ethiopian Ge’ez Rite community here at the cathedral. Within the archdiocese, we also have very large Nigerian, Congolese and Kenyan communities, in addition to the very vibrant Ugandan community. And, of course, there are Africans from many other countries. We are so grateful for the presence of these African Catholic communities, which are making such an important contribution to the life of our archdiocese.
On Tuesday, we had a Zoom meeting of the heads of the various working groups of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. It was an opportunity for us to hear about what’s happening around the world, share ideas and continue planning for different upcoming events.
I reported on the meeting with the Episcopal Conference of Paraguay that I mentioned last week and spoke about plans for meetings in Eastern Europe.
Of course, on Tuesday, we also saw the release of the “Report on The Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick,” and I would like to share with you the statement I issued that afternoon in reaction:
The “Report on the Holy See’s institutional knowledge and decision-making process related to former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick” is a painful and shameful account of how someone in McCarrick’s position rose to the role of bishop and cardinal and caused so much harm to so many. In word and deed, Pope Francis has followed through on his commitment to a comprehensive, transparent and thorough investigation.
Theodore McCarrick betrayed his sacred commitment to be a good and holy priest. Also, as a bishop and cardinal, he chose secrecy when transparency and accountability were required. His removal from the priesthood in early 2019 after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor was a necessary sanction at the time. However, the release of the Vatican’s report today reveals the depth of the suspicion and the clericalism that allowed him to rise to the level of bishop and cardinal in the face of those allegations.
McCarrick’s victims who came forward in this investigation must be recognized for their courage. We offer them and all victims of clergy abuse our commitment to take responsibility for our failures and our continued resolve of responsibility, accountability and transparency. It is no longer enough for the Church to simply ask for forgiveness, to pledge transparency and apologize. All survivors, who have been courageous in coming forward, forcing the Church to face the crimes committed by clergy, religious and other personnel deserve our care, support and honesty. We have an obligation by all means possible to hold accountable those responsible for such reprehensible violations of human dignity and ensure that every effort is being made to assure the safety of our people.
The Church has made significant progress in responding to the clergy abuse crisis over the past two decades. While the work is ongoing, we must be vigilant at all times and there is much more to do.
In recent years, Pope Francis has addressed the global issues related to abuse. In February 2019, he hosted the Vatican Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, and the subsequent release of “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” established substantive measures to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Every diocese throughout the world is called to develop and implement a public, accessible and reliable system for reporting crimes of clergy sexual abuse and any cover-up of abuse. In the United States, these reporting systems are providing a means for any person to report allegations of abuse against a bishop or cardinal.
We will carefully review the findings of this report in the days ahead with the understanding that rebuilding trust and earning the confidence of the people of the Church and the communities we serve will be an ongoing process. We pray that with the help of God and one another we will not fail in our obligation.
This week we learned that there is an attempt to include many of the provisions of the ROE Act into the budget currently working its way through the state legislature. In response, I joined the bishops of the dioceses of Massachusetts in issuing the following letter to legislators:
The Catholic Church teaches that life itself starts at conception and ends with natural death. The Massachusetts state legislature is currently debating the annual budget to fund state government for the balance of the fiscal year. As part of that process many amendments are filed for consideration. House amendment number 759 will be considered by the full House in the coming days. This amendment would expand abortion access in the Commonwealth well beyond what is enshrined in state law.
While we acknowledge the amendment addresses some concerns that were raised about the deeply troubling provisions of the ROE legislation, the fact remains that abortion would remain an option under certain circumstances for the full term of the pregnancy. That fact alone is in direct conflict with Catholic teaching and must be opposed.
In addition, current law requires a young woman under the age of 18 years old to gain the consent of a parent, guardian or the court to have an abortion. The amendment under consideration would decrease the age of consent to 16 years old. In its simplest terms, a 16 or 17 year old girl would be deprived of the guidance and support of an adult at the time of making this life changing decision.
Finally, although life-supporting equipment would be required to be in the room for abortions performed after 24 weeks, the specific language in the amendment is nuanced enough that the physician would not be required to use the equipment. Specifically, it would “enable” the physician performing the abortion to take appropriate steps, in keeping with good medical practice….to preserve the life and health of a live birth and the patient.
For these reasons we urge the full House of Representatives not to pass amendment number 759.
His Eminence Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap., Archbishop of Boston
Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester
Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, SDV, Bishop of Fall River
Thursday, we had a meeting of the new group of Vicars Forane for the archdiocese with myself, Father Bob Blaney, as well as the auxiliary bishops and episcopal vicars. Several of the men were becoming Vicars Forane for the first time, so Brother Jim Peterson explained to them what their role is canonically, and I shared with them some of my hopes and expectations.
I also expressed my gratitude for their willingness to take on this additional responsibility, which is so important in the archdiocese. The Vicars Forane are a key part of our efforts to build communication. Through the vicariate meetings, they serve as a sounding board for the priests and provide a mechanism through which the issues that are being discussed by the Presbyteral Council can have the input from the priests in our parishes. We also see their role as being one of helping to promote the spiritual, physical and pastoral health of our priests. Particularly in this time of the pandemic, when people can feel very isolated, it is very important for priests to have a strong network of support, and the role of the Vicars Forane is very central in that.
Thursday evening, I celebrated a live-streamed Mass from the cathedral for the members of the Boston Area Order of Malta.
With us in person at the cathedral were Boston Area Chairs Craig and Nancy Gibson and the Chaplain to the Boston Area, Father Jack Ahern, who concelebrated the Mass along with Msgr. Kevin O’Leary and myself.
We are very grateful to the Order of Malta for all of the assistance they provide at the cathedral, particularly with the distribution of food to the homeless of the area. They also give invaluable assistance with the many safety measures we have needed to implement for the liturgies during the pandemic.
We are, of course, also grateful for all the good work they do worldwide, particularly on behalf of the sick and the poor. There are about 13,000 Knights and Dames of Malta and about 80,000 volunteers, and they have embassies in 110 countries, so they have quite an influence worldwide.
They recently elected their new Lieutenant Grand Master, who will function for one year while their constitutions and statutes are being redone. Then, at the end of that time, they will elect their new Grand Master.
Until next week,