Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

The U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Meetings In Baltimore, Sharing My Letter On Homosexuality & The Baltimore Basilica

Hello. For those of you who are returning to my blog, welcome back and thank you for returning….and to those of you who are visiting for the first time, welcome and thank you for visiting.

I hope this post finds you all in good health and spirits.

I just arrived back in Boston a few hours ago from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meetings in Baltimore. There has been much public discussion about the meetings topics and agenda. Id like to share with you some of the events of the week, as well as some related reflections.

This past week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings, the Bishops looked at different documents that various committees have composed; one on the ministry to people with homosexual inclination, another one on the preparedness for the reception of Holy Communion, another one on marriagenone of the documents pose new teachings of the Church.basically, simply trying to help our people have a deeper understanding of what is in the Catechism and what the teachings of the Catholic Church have always been.

We also worked on restructuring the Conference, trying to amalgamate committees, and planning for the futuretrying to be more flexible so that we can address the various pastoral needs of Catholics in the United States.

During these November meetings, there are always elections for presidents of committees and I was elected to be president of the Committee on World Mission. As president, one chairs the committee meetings and also has a seat on the Administrative Board, which is the board that gathers to write the agenda for the annual November meeting and does the business of the Conference between sessions.

Our Bishops from the Archdiocese of Boston were also in attendance for the meetings in Baltimore Bishop Irwin, Bishop Boles, Bishop Allu, and Bishop Edyvean joined us at the Conference meetings. Additionally, our two new Bishop-elects were at the Conference, Bishop-Elect Hennessey and Bishop-elect Dooher. They were presented to the whole body of Bishops at the first session on Monday morning. It was a chance for the presence of our new Bishops to be recognized.

Every year we sponsor a breakfast for Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary. We invite the Bishops to come learn more about the seminary. Fr. Peter Uglietto, Rector of Blessed John XXIII, joined us in Baltimore to speak with Bishops about the wonderful formation program we offer in the Archdiocese of Boston to train second career men who feel called to the priesthood. We have men from about 30 dioceses studying at Blessed Pope John. There were also a number of alumni of Blessed Pope John XXIII who came to the breakfast, including Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, Louisiana, also came to the breakfast. Archbishop Hughes was born, raised and ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston. He attended St. John Seminary and later returned to St. John for 24 years as a professor, Spiritual Director and Rector. We also had a Diocese of Fall River reunion of sorts, as current Fall River Bishop George Coleman and Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Fall Rivers 5th Bishop, joined us for the breakfast. As you may know, I succeeded Archbishop Cronin in Fall River during 1992.


This year’s annual U.S. Bishop Conference fall meetings in session.


During the meetings.


View from the middle of the very large ball room where we they held the sessions.


Another session picture.


Bishop-elect Robert Hennessey and Bishop-elect John Dooher during the meetings.


We host an anual breakfast for Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary each year at the annual Fall gathering and invite the Bishops to come learn more about the seminary.


Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary’s Rector Fr. Peter Uglietto addressing the Bishops.


Fr. Uglietto, Bishop Boles and Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls.


Archbishop Alfred Hughes.


Fr. Uglietto speaking with Bishop-elects Dooher and Hennessey after the Blessed Pope John XXIII breakfast.


Current Fall River Bishop George Coleman (standing) and Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Fall Rivers 5th Bishop.


Blessed Pope John XXIII Rector Fr. Peter Uglietto.

In light of the recent political events and public discussions about marriage and homosexuality, I wish to share with you some pertinent reflections. I originally issued this message last fall, but I feel that its important to share my thoughts with you again at this time, as many of you may not have had the opportunity to read it:

Letter from Cardinal O’Malley on Homosexuality – Issued November 23, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Churchs efforts to defend the institution of marriage has been interpreted by some as an indication of the Churchs hostility toward homosexual persons. The way that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts framed the issue is unfavorable to Catholics or others who do not oppose anyone, but rather support an institution which is the cornerstone of society.

Right from the beginning of this controversy I have called on all Catholics to rally behind the cause of marriage. It is encouraging that a number of Catholics who are homosexuals have expressed to me their conviction that marriage between a man and a woman is important for children and therefore for society.

The Churchs position is not based on an animus against people with a homosexual orientation. Each and every member of the Church is called to holiness regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church has often warned against defining people by their sexual orientation in a way that diminishes their humanity. Each person is a mystery, an irreplaceable treasure, precious in Gods eye. We are Gods creatures and in baptism we are His sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to one another.

The extreme individualism of our age is undermining the common good and fractionalizing the community. The Church wishes to call people to unity based on mutual respect and a commitment to the common good. We do not want Catholics who have a homosexual orientation to feel unwelcomed in the Catholic Church. We remind them that they are bound to us by their baptism and are called to live a life of holiness. Many homosexual persons in our Church lead holy lives and make an outstanding contribution to the life of the Church by their service, generosity and the sharing of their spiritual gifts.

We must strive to eradicate prejudices against people with a homosexual orientation. At the same time the Church must minister to all people by challenging them to obey Gods commands, the roadmap for a meaningful human life that allows us to draw near to God and to one another.

In the Gospel when the self-righteous Pharisees bring the adulteress to be stoned, Jesus says let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Then to make sure they got the point Jesus wrote their sins on the ground. The stones fell from their hands and they fled. Jesus said: Neither do I condemn you, but He added, Go and sin no more.

If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people. If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible. Jesus teaches that discipleship implies taking up the cross each day and following Him with love and courage.

It is never easy to deliver a message that calls people to make sacrifices or to do difficult things. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger. For this reason we priests at times find it difficult to articulate the Churchs teaching on sexual morality. We must never deliver the message in a self-righteous way, but rather with compassion and humility. It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church. We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is out of season, but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today.

We know that friends and relatives of homosexual Catholics sometimes feel torn between their allegiance to Christ and their concern for their loved ones. I assure them that these goals are not incompatible. As Catholics we profess a firm belief in the dignity of each person and in the eternal destiny to which God calls us. Calling people to embrace the cross of discipleship, to live the commandments and at the same time assuring them that we love them as brothers and sisters can be difficult. Sometimes we are told: If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me. In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.

God made us to be happy forever. That true and lasting happiness is accessible only by a path of conversion. Each of us has our own struggles in responding to the call to discipleship and holiness. We are not alone. Christ promised to be with us and has given us His Church and Sacraments to help us on the road.

At every Mass we pray that beautiful prayer before the sign of peace: Lordlook not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom. May God grant us that grace of peace and unity.

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Sen P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston

When we first arrived in Baltimore for the Bishops Conference, we were invited to take part in the dedication Mass on Sunday for the renovated Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption, the Baltimore Basilica. It was a wonderful occasion to showcase this very historic church, where so much of the history of the Church in the United States took place. In Maryland (“Mary Land”), which was the Catholic Statethe King of England gave to Lord Baltimorewas the one of the few places in the New World where there was religious freedom because the Catholics allowed other people to come practice their faith there as well.

Among the very outstanding families of that time, were the Carrolls of Carrollton. One of them, Charles Carroll, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Another Carroll, John, was the first Bishop in the United States. He was a Jesuit and founder of the first University, Georgetown. He was the one who actually began the impetus of building this cathedral.

Its out of the Baltimore Basilica that three Plenary Councils took place, with the First Plenary Council taking place in 1852. It was at the Third Plenary Council that the Baltimore Catechism was written. I believe that was the largest meeting of Catholic Bishops ever held outside of Rome since the Council of Trent.

For the first period in our history this was the only cathedral and the only diocese in the United States. In 1808, four dioceses were formed Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Bardstown. Thats why in two years we will be celebrating our 200th Anniversary in Boston.

Our first Bishop, Bishop Cheverus, came to Baltimore to be ordained a Bishop. He was ordained by Bishop Carroll. In those days, Bishop Cheverus was probably the only diocesan priest that was a Bishop in the United States. The first Bishop of New York was a Dominican and he died on the way to New York. Cardinal O’Connell used to say that he was his successful successor he didnt make any mistakes at

Bishop Carroll was elevated to Archbishop in 1808, during the early years of the construction of the Baltimore Basilica. As I mentioned, he was the United States first Archbishop and he was responsible for Catholics in an area of roughly two-thirds of our country. He was certainly a visionary and founding leader of the United States Catholic Church. The Baltimore Basilica is official named the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Front exterior of America’s first Cathedral, the Baltimore Basilica.


Inside the newly restored Baltimore Basilica.


View of the altar area.


Another view of the altar area.


Altar – front view.


View from the altar looking out at the pews.


Closer look.


The Cathedra – the oldest Bishop’s chair in the United States.


Another view of the Cathedra.


Archbishop John Carroll was a Jesuit. He was educated by the English Jesuits in Flanders with other family members. The Jesuits have been great supporters of the Baltimore Basilica over time and its recent renovation.


A plaque listing Bishops consecrated at the Baltimore Basilica. Boston’s first Bishop, Bishop Cheverus, is listed on the plaque.


In the basement of the Basilica, there is a small museum of sorts with many artifacts of the history of the Baltimore Basilica and the U.S. Church. This is a chalice given to Archbishop Marechal by Bishop Cheverus in 1817.


A letter from George Washington to Catholics of the United States.


An 1812 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Archbishop Carroll.


Cardinal Lawrence Shehans Cappa Magnathe Great Cape.


Also under the main Basilica area, there is a unique chapel called “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel.”


Another view of the chapel beneath the Basilica.


Hanging near the “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel” is a portrait of Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe is credited as one of the leading founders in modern architecture in the U.S. He donated his services to design the Baltimore Basilica.


“Life-size” statue of Jesus located a short distance from the downstairs chapel.


Another view of the same statue.


There is an “Archbishop’s Crypt” located next to “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel” under the Basilica, the final resting place of eight of Baltimore’s 12 deceased Archbishops, including Archbishop Carroll.


Portrait of Cardinal James Gibbons, named Bishop of Baltimore in 1877, hangs in the Basilica.


In the back of the Basilica there is a painting called “St. Louis Burying His Dead Soldiers.”


Also hanging in the rear of the Basilica is a painting called “The Descent From The Cross.” The painting was commissioned by Louis XVIII.


The Basilica’s grand organ.


Beautiful art work on the ceiling of the Basilica.


The artwork in the Basilica was very bright.


The artwork on the ceiling inside the middle dome of the Basilica.


The original Basilica paintings depicting each of the Stations of the Cross were restored.

“Picture of the Week”:


Inside the Basilica, there is a bust called “The Blessing,” depicting Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On May 29, 1996 Mother Teresa Witnessed the profession of 35 of her Missionaries of Charity in the Baltimore Basilica.

With Thanksgiving Day next Thursday, I thought that I would make my post for next week on Wednesday, November 22.

In that post, I will have a message to all of our men and women from the Archdiocese of Boston serving in the military, their families and to our military chaplains.

Well, I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable weekend. Until my post next Wednesday.

God Bless,
Cardinal Sen