Oil of O’Malley

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Seeking to calm the waters roiled by the decision of the pastor of St. Paul’s in Hingham to bar the son of a lesbian couple from the parish school, Cardinal Sean O’Malley has spread his unction in all directions: on Fr. James Rafferty (“one of our finest pastors”); on archdiocesan education secreatry Mary Grassa O’Neill, who promised to find another Catholic school for the child (“respectful of
all the people involved in this matter…showed leadership”); and even on the Archdiocese of Denver (a.k.a. Charles Chaput), which “has formulated a policy that calls into question the appropriateness of
admitting the children of same-sex couples.”

Whether it is appropriate or not is the question that O’Malley says will be answered in Boston after due consideration.

In all of our decision making, our first concern is the welfare of the
children involved. With that in mind, the essence of what we are looking
at is the question of how do we make Catholic schools available to
children who come from diverse, often unconventional households, while
ensuring the moral theology and teachings of the Church are not
compromised? It is true that we welcome people from all walks of life.
But we recognize that, regardless of the circumstances involved, we
maintain our responsibility to teach the truths of our faith, including
those concerning sexual morality and marriage. We need to present the
Church’s teachings courageously and yet in a way that is compassionate
and persuasive.

OK, then. Cardinal Sean is an irenic soul in a church that is a little short on irenicism these days, and so it’s more than tempting to give him time and the benefit of the doubt, as do James Martin, S.J. and David Gibson.

But it’s also pretty easy to hide behind the claim of concern for the welfare of the child. In Denver, for example, the little girls who were denied admission to the parish school were not barred from the parish CCD classes–whose whole purpose is to lay down doctrine. It’s hard to avoid concluding that the object of that Chaputian regime is not to protect same-sex couples’ children from the harshness of doctrinal censure but to ensure that their family situation does not come to be regarded as acceptable by the rest of the school community.

If the first concern is the welfare of the child, as O’Malley suggests, how about a policy that lets the “unconventional” parents decide what’s in the child’s best interest? And by the way, what is so difficult about ensuring that the church’s moral theology is not compromised? Children of divorced parents have been attending Catholic schools lo these many years. What do the schools teach about Catholic views of divorce? That it’s allowed in civil society but not by the church? Would it be so difficult for those gifted with an analogical imagination to apply this teaching to same-sex marriage?

  • Tom Downs

    Oddly enough, I think that what drives much of this is the attempt to avoid scandal. It is a long-standing high priority concern of the Roman Catholic Church and shapes much of their internal and external behaviors. Divorce is no longer considered scandalous, but same-sex marriage is, hence a little boy can’t go to school. There’s no way to make that image a win for the RCC.
    Unfortunately, most of their attempts at avoidance seem to turn into public relations nightmares. This is becoming increasingly the case with the new media so quickly and eagerly spreading bad news.
    Tom Downs