Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Reflecting on abortion setbacks here and abroad

The Christmas season is about God becoming a child, so it is even more painful that this Christmas was a time when we saw the abortion cause being advanced in legislatures both in our Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as in Argentina, the Holy Father’s own country.

The bishops of Massachusetts have released the following statement expressing our disappointment to the latest developments here:

The unborn child is a human life that must be protected. That precious child has no voice to protect itself from the evils of abortion. The Catholic Church recognizes that it has a primary moral responsibility to speak for the most vulnerable among us – the unborn. That responsibility is at the center of the Catholic moral vision. Because of its centrality, the Church must oppose the directly intended taking of human life through abortion at any stage of pregnancy. It is a serious moral wrong and directly undercuts our unyielding goal to promote the common good throughout a civil society.

We are deeply disappointed by the failure of the Massachusetts legislature to uphold Governor Baker’s veto of legislation which further expands access to abortion in the Commonwealth beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy. The new legislation also reduces from 18 to 16 years old the requirement for a teenager to have the benefit of adult counsel (parental or judicial) prior to seeking an abortion.

With the issue of abortion at the forefront of our ministries, we recommit ourselves to defend life from conception to natural death. Our commitment to human dignity also includes strongly opposing capital punishment and physician assisted suicide, but it does not end there. We will also continue to defend life by protecting immigrants and refugees seeking our assistance, by serving the poor in our communities and by a constant appeal to others in our society to see the fragile ties which hold us together as a civil community.

Just 20 years ago, I attended a pro-life meeting of Catholic legislators in Argentina and, as a result of that meeting, we met with the president of the country. He declared the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, as the day of the unborn. To think that just 20 years later the protections for the life of the unborn in Argentina are being abolished is very sad and stresses the need to continue to work hard in the pro-life movement.

It is not just a question of legislation, because we know that it is a matter of changing people’s hearts and helping them to understand what abortion really is. It is also a spiritual combat of prayer and fasting that is required of us in order to promote the Gospel of Life. It is also especially important that we be better people, people whose lives are coherent and consistent with the Gospel, and show the world that we care about life from the first moment of conception all the way through until natural death, but also are very aware of the need to reach out to those who are suffering and whose lives are threatened in so many different ways.

It’s also sad that at the same time we see how our government is advancing the death penalty in carrying out so many executions. All of these things are a threat to the sacredness of life. Our one great consolation is that our young people are more pro-life and that as time goes on, I’m confident more and more Americans will come to realize the need to protect all human life and especially innocent human life in the womb.

Last week I received a call inviting me to receive the vaccine. Some doctor friends had contacted me urging me to do it not just because of my advanced age but to try to dispel people’s fear of the vaccine and encourage people to make use of the vaccine.


So, I was very grateful to Dr. Joseph Weinstein, Chief Physician Executive of the Steward Health Care Network, and Mr. James Terwilliger, President of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, who very kindly offered to facilitate my inoculation at St. Elizabeth’s on Christmas eve.


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I want to encourage all people to be vaccinated as the opportunity is presented, as an important action of care and concern for our loved ones, our communities and our nation. With the help of God and the excellent medical care provided at St. Elizabeth’s and many other hospitals, we will make our way through and beyond the pandemic.

This year our midnight Mass was virtual over CatholicTV and then we rebroadcast the next day on channel 56, channel 7 and CatholicTV.

I was very edified that so many people were able to tune in. In fact many members of my family and other friends contacted me from different parts of the world to say that they were watching and praying with us during this time when, due to the pandemic, we can’t always gather with our loved ones. At least we had this opportunity to pray and to be able to announce the Good News of the Gospel over the airwaves to many people who perhaps would not ordinarily have come to celebrate the Eucharist with us but were hearing the message of the Gospel by their participation online or on television.


The cathedral was beautifully decorated. Msgr. Kevin O’Leary does a great job each year to make the cathedral shine during Christmas.


I want to show you the beautiful stained-glass window with the image of St. John the Baptist as a child presenting Christ with a lamb.

In the English speaking world St. Thomas Beckett is very well known because of the play and the film about his life and because so much of our literature, like the Canterbury Tales, is about pilgrimages to his place of burial, the Canterbury Cathedral, which I have visited myself.


So, I was very gratified by the White House statement marking the 850th anniversary of this death and holding him up as an icon of religious freedom.

Unfortunately, in our country often religious freedom has become sort of a political football and a partisan issue but, in fact, it is a very important issue for all of us as Americans. Our country in many ways came about as a result of people looking for religious freedom and coming to these shores to be able to practice their faith. We also live in a world where there is so much persecution of Christianity and other religions in many parts of the world and so, it is important to remember the figure of St. Thomas Becket and to be reminded of how important religion is in society and of our duty to protect people’s rights of conscience and to practice their religion.

I received a nice invitation for a birthday celebration for Beirne Lovely who has gone home to God but on January 5th would have been celebrating his 75th birthday. He is sorely missed, and I applaud Beirne’s wife’s decision to celebrate his 75th birthday.


Beirne with his lovely wife Joan

I shall do so with a Mass and I look forward honoring him as well by celebrating with a birthday cake or some other treat. We all miss him at the Pastoral Center. He was a wonderful presence there and we commend him to God’s loving mercy and to the care of our Blessed Mother.

A Polish couple who are friends of mine include in their Christmas card every year an Oplatek, an unleavened wafer, which is a Polish Christmas tradition. It’s a beautiful custom. The idea is that you share the piece of bread with other people.


It has a strong Eucharistic connotation which is very fitting at Christmas where the Word has become flesh and the flesh has become bread. Christ is born in Bethlehem, which means the house of bread, and is placed in a manger, which is a feedbox, as a sign that he is here to feed his flock, all of us. It is a beautiful Polish Christmas custom that I am so grateful to be able to partake in it each year.

Thursday the archdiocese joined with other dioceses throughout the country in ringing bells to honor the more than 300,000 lives lost to COVID-19 this year in the US.

In our own Commonwealth 12,000 people have died so far. So, the bells were an invitation for us to pray for all our beloved dead who were victims to this terrible pandemic and to pray for their families and loved ones as well as for all the people who put themselves in harms ways to take care of the sick and the dying during this time.

Every year we celebrate a midnight Mass to mark the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. This year we had to stream the Mass instead, which you can watch here. It will become live at around 11:20 PM on new year’s eve.

Happy new year!

Cardinal Seán