Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Responding to a Time of Testing

Welcome back!

The whole country has been shocked and disappointed by the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia that provoked the death of a young woman. We should be trying to build a greater sense of harmony and peace among the peoples and not trying to exacerbate peoples’ differences in provoking these violent outbursts that cause so much harm to not only individuals involved but to the entire community.


The possibility that hate groups such as white supremacists may come to Boston this weekend is also very disturbing. I issued a statement that I think speaks for itself.

Nations live and flourish because of their ideas and ideals, not simply because of their material wealth or power. Our ideas and ideals express our identity and set the standards for our behavior as citizens. For the United States a core statement of our identity is expressed in the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”, from many peoples we shape one nation. This treasured civic truth reflects and is rooted in the biblical heritage of belief in the dignity of all people, and a shared humanity.

We have not always as a nation reflected the best of our ideas and ideals, but they stand as a goal toward which we strive. Our country is once again in a moment when the civic and biblical heritage is being attacked and tested. We need to reassert and reaffirm the belief that one nation is meant to include all: the multiple races, cultures, ethnicities and religions which make up our country.

The angry and violent mob which gathered in Virginia this past weekend, by word and deed, contradicted our national creed and code of civil conduct. As a nation in the past century we led the struggle against the pagan ideas of Nazism. Those who seek to resurrect a new form of Nazism and extreme nationalism — those who denigrate African Americans, who preach and practice anti-Semitism, who disparage Muslims, those who threaten and seek to banish immigrants in our land — all these voices dishonor the basic convictions of the American political and constitutional traditions. They must be opposed in word and deed. As a Catholic bishop I welcome the opportunity to stand with other religious leaders of the land in opposition to the voices of fragmentation and hatred. As the Archbishop of Boston, it is my responsibility to call the Catholic community which I serve to remember the basic truths of faith and reason which are so central at this moment. The truth that our rights and our duties to each other derive from God. The truth that we can successfully oppose hatred and bigotry by civility and charity. These truths can bind us together across racial, religious and ethnic communities. They can help us celebrate our pluralism as a rich treasure which strengthens this land. Today when our unity is tested, when our basic truths of faith and reason are violated, as people of faith and as citizens we must uphold our ideas and ideals. My prayer is that we can rise to this challenge. My belief is that we are surely capable of doing so.

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Of course, since the famous Colleen McCullough novel The Thorn Birds, published in 1977, people have, in literature and real life, spoken about priests who have broken their vow of celibacy and fathered children. I believe that this is a serious problem, but in my experience as a priest and as a bishop, the instance of when a priest has fathered a child has not been very frequent. But the priests have themselves seen the need to step away from ministry and dedicate themselves to the upbringing of that child and taking care of the mother.

So, I issued the below statement to reassure Catholics that this is what the policy is in the Archdiocese. I think it’s also important for us to realize that just as people at times are not faithful to their marriages, priests are not always faithful to their vows, but this does not mean that celibacy has not been a great blessing in the life of the Church. So many priests, sisters and brothers have embraced very difficult ministries and assignments; often times even placing their lives at risk and doing things we would certainly hesitate to ask many people with the responsibility of a family to do. So, besides the fact that celibacy witnesses to the Church’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it has also made men and women available for service to God’s people in extraordinary ways and it has brought many, many blessings upon the Catholic community.

“Every child is a precious gift from God”

“The gift of life must be protected and cared for in any and all circumstances. Every child is a precious gift from God, deserving the respect accorded to all people. At their ordination, Catholic priests make a promise of celibacy, a commitment to the Church and the people they serve. If a priest fathers a child, he has a moral obligation to step aside from ministry and provide for the care and needs of the mother and the child. In such a moment, their welfare is the highest priority.

In 2016 “The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors” received correspondence regarding the children or priests. After careful consideration of this important issue, it was judged to be beyond the Commission’s mandate. The Commission functions as an advisory body to the Holy Father, proposing norms and practices for protecting minors from sexual abuse. In particular, the Commission seeks to assist dioceses and religious orders throughout the world as they implement education and training programs for the prevention of sexual abuse. It is not within the charge of the Commission to become involved with individual cases.

With recognition of the importance of these matters that have profoundly impacted the lives of the children, their mothers and the community at large, the Commission determined to refer this issue to the Holy See for further review.”

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This year is the 100-year anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima. As you may have read in the blog, I participated back in May in the celebration with Pope Francis in Fatima where he canonized two of the seers, St. Jacinta and St. Francisco Marto.


On Sunday, St. Anthony Parish in Cambridge marked this centenary with a Mass that I celebrated. The pastor, Father Walter Carreiro and two Brazilian priests, Father Louis and Father Cristiano where there. Father Gaspar, who of course is from that parish originally, was also there and his parents and a number of his relatives also joined us.


It was also a time when the Portuguese parish received from Brazil a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, which is the patroness of Brazil. This is the 300th anniversary of the finding of the original statue in Brazil, so there were many people in the Brazilian community that were there to welcome the statue. IMG_2741



At the conclusion of the Mass local members of the World Apostolate of Fatima presented me with a spiritual bouquet. I was very moved by this expression of faith: over one hundred people who belong to this apostolate were offering a holy hour of Eucharistic Adoration for me and for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Our Lady’s message in Fatima is one of prayer and conversion, and I invite you to join me in praying the prayer of the Angel of Fatima, which was printed on the front of every card that was signed by the members of the World Apostolate of Fatima:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

I adore Thee profoundly.

I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood,

Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ,

present in all the Tabernacles of the world,

in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges

and indifference by which he is offended.

By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”


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I spent most of this week in Kennebunkport, Maine on our annual bishops’ retreat with 15 bishops from the New England Province. It was held in the Franciscan Retreat Center that is run by the Lithuanian Franciscans. The retreat master was Bishop John Corriveau, the bishop of Nelson in British Colombia, Canada, who is a capuchin and was our Father General for 12 years. He had been also the provincial of the Toronto province and he was kind enough to consent to come and preach the retreat to us.



The theme of the retreat was about Trinitarian Spirituality, and Bishop Corriveau’s talk on the subject was very well done. He spoke about the Trinity in relationships, the Trinity in our own vocation and how important relationships are as well as the Franciscan theology of the Primacy of Christ, which is very “Bonaventureian.”


It’s always a wonderful opportunity for the bishops to be together to foster community among us and for prayer and reflection.


We were very blessed by lovely weather in Maine; it was nice to walk along the seashore and in the woods. It’s a lovely spot to make our retreats.




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Also this week, I was invited to have dinner at the capuchin house in Jamaica Plain with Father Paul Soper, the capuchin friars there, and Sean Bryan, the Papal Ninja.


Sean Bryan, @papalninja

Last month he was on American Ninja Warrior, a television show that features an athletic obstacle course that people must traverse to win. Apparently, he’s very adept at this, and on the television program he wore a t-shirt that is actually a papal flag. You can see him in action on this video:


When he’s not “ninjing” he works as the Animating Director for the Lay Mission Project in California’s Bay Area. He’s very involved in preparing lay evangelists and using distance learning to do that.

While in Boston he gave a small exhibit of his gymnastic abilities outside our cathedral.unnamed4


unnamed5Until my next post,

In Christ

Cardinal Sean