Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has made a grave error condemning Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny on abortion and boycotting his commencement speech at Boston College next Monday.
After his Vatican stay when he was accused of having “Tiber Fever” -- i.e. seeing himself as papabile -- O’Malley has returned to the less opulent surroundings of Boston. But perhaps some of the Vatican rigidity has stuck.
O’Malley is deeply admired by many in Boston and beyond, and he did a decent job of patching his church back together after the criminal behavior of Vatican retiree Cardinal Bernard Law in covering up for pedophiles.
The type of cut and thrust involved in securing settlements for those abused and still standing by his church should have made O’Malley aware of the complexity of issues and the tragic consequences of making everything black and white.
However, by outright condemning Kenny as a pro-abortion foil, he has made a disastrous mistake.
Kenny is nothing of the sort. Rather, he’s a politician handled a poisoned chalice if ever there was one, and trying to make the best of it in response.
The 1992 Supreme Court judgment in Ireland mandated that politicians legislate for abortion in very limited circumstances. Kenny has followed the law, reluctantly and with lots of foot dragging, but nonetheless obedient to the Irish Constitution, not the church.
The Savita Halappanavar in Galway, when a young Indian woman died of sepsis after she was refused an abortion to terminate her dying fetus, made Kenny’s task all the more urgent.
In the event he came out with a bill that, while satisfying no one on either side of the debate, seemed to hit the right note with the Irish public.
There the matter should have rested, but O’Malley clearly thought otherwise, firing slings and arrows and incredibly quoting the most discredited church official in Ireland’s history as his guide.
Cardinal Sean Brady, like Cardinal Law, could well have faced criminal prosecution for partaking in the cover up of the actions of the dreadful pedophile Father Brendan Smyth.
Instead he has been allowed to retire gracefully, and still has the gall to issue moral judgments on politicians like Kenny.
O’Malley cited the Irish bishops, who with the shining exception of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in Dublin and few others, have disgraced the name of the many good clergy in Ireland with their actions covering up pedophiles these past decades.
So O’Malley’s attack on Kenny will only make him more popular in Ireland and also ensure that the Labor Party and Fine Gael, the two parties in government, will close ranks even more as a result.
O’Malley should really have taken the other option, not to show up at BC for the commencement, but not make a fuss about it.
He bent principle enough to enthusiastically welcome President Obama, a hundred times more pro-abortion than Kenny, and he should have done so for the Irish leader too. He has disappointed his many fans in Ireland and Irish America by his actions.
It is too late to go back now, but there is no doubt that O’Malley has overreacted. But perhaps he still sees himself as papabile and is ensuring he ticks all the boxes for the next time. If so he has made a grave error in judgment.