I want to begin this week addressing a very important issue.
Some say that the Catholic Church hates people with same-sex attractions. This is not true. In fact, if there are any members of the Church who hate people because of their sexual orientation, they need to go to confession. But it is true that the Church exists to announce the Gospel and invite people to conversion, to greater discipline in their lives as they seek to follow Christ’s teachings, which apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
As Catholics, we must oppose the hatred and rejection of homosexual persons that exists in our society. We do not want them to be the object of discrimination or violence. We believe, however, that God’s law is written in our hearts and that to lead a fully human life we need to embrace His commandments. This is not always easy, we all struggle and sometimes we fail; but a loving and forgiving God is always there to lift us up and help us start over again.
The Church opposes changing the definition of marriage because to do so would weaken one of the oldest and most sacred institutions of human society. The most recent Census revealed that married households are, for the first time, in the minority in our country. The culture of easy divorce, cohabitation and the redefinition of marriage are all threats to strong family life. For this reason, the Church will always defend traditional marriage. This does not mean that we reject anyone. During the heat of the debate on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts I wrote a letter to explain the Church’s position and would like to share that letter with you again today.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Church’s efforts to defend the institution of marriage has been interpreted by some as an indication of the Church’s 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 Church’s 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 God’s eye. We are God’s 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 God’s 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 Church’s 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: “Lord, look 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,
Seán P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
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Each year a bishop from Uganda comes to celebrate the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs at the beginning of June in Waltham. This year it was Bishop Callistus Rubaramira of the diocese of Kabale.
On Tuesday, I was pleased to be able to have dinner with Bishop Rubaramira.
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Last Wednesday, I was able to spend some time with our parish Pastoral Associates who were holding their meeting at our Pastoral Center.
I was happy to have the chance to address them and thank them for the very important work that they perform in our parishes.
It was also an opportunity for me to speak a little bit about my recent Pastoral Letter on Evangelization and the need to continue the initiative of Catholics Come Home in the parishes.
I am grateful to Sister Pat Boyle and to Father David Couturier who were instrumental in providing such an enriching program for them at the Pastoral Center.
We also want to express our thanks to Mary Peterson, a pastoral associate from St. Brigid and Sacred Heart Parishes in Lexington, who worked so hard to prepare the meeting.
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The next day I attended our yearly Presbyteral Convocation held at Lombardo’s in Randolph.
This is always a wonderful opportunity for our priests to come together for a day of fraternity, enrichment and community prayer.
Each year we like to present the men with a talk or workshop that will help enrich their priestly lives or ministries. This year, we heard a series of presentations by Msgr. Jim Moroney on the upcoming changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal.
Msgr. Moroney’s talks were excellent and it was a great success. A number of the priests told me they found it very, very profitable.
He had magnificent Power Point presentations to accompany his talks, into which he incorporated the spirituality and theology of the liturgy along side his explanations of the new translations.
It was very, very well-done and we had over 300 priests there and they had a wonderful experience.
It was a great blessing to have our newly ordained priests there, as well as a few of our military chaplains, including Father Robert Monagle and Father Red Raux, who were able to be back to participate in the day with us.
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On Friday I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation for some of the inmates at the MCI- Concord.
Deacon Jim Greer, who heads up our prison ministry, assisted at the Mass.
Also with us were the two lay Catechists who prepared the inmates for confirmation. They have been going to the prison there for years and are doing a wonderful job.
It’s a great joy, and to be able to have confirmations in the Pentecost season is so meaningful.
Something I thought was very interesting was this bulletin distributed in the prison by the Order of Malta.
It contains a great deal of information such as spiritual reflections, the Mass readings for the season and information on prayers such as the Stations of the cross.
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On Saturday, I had lunch with the Guild of St. Luke, an organization of Catholic physicians here in the Archdiocese, at the Algonquin Club of Boston.
Dr. Gerald Corcoran and Dr. Helen Jackson organized the event, which included a number of medical students.
It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to the Guild’s annual White Mass in the fall.
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I also had the honor of meeting with the President of Cape Verde, Pedro Pires, who paid us a visit at the Cathedral on Saturday. It is the second time that I have met him, the last time was during a visit he made to the States several years ago. He was accompanied by his wife, the ambassador, and the consul general.
President Pires recently completed ten years in office and he wanted to visit the Cape Verdean community in America once more.
We discussed the activities and presence of the Cape Verdean community here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and also spoke about the Church in Cape Verde. There is a very close collaboration between the Church and the whole community there. The president is knowledgeable about the Church and he was anxious to share some of his thoughts.
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For the feast of Pentecost, I was pleased to be able to celebrate Confirmations at the Cathedral for the Brazilian Community in the archdiocese.
In all, there were about 200 being confirmed. It was a very joyful and spirit-filled celebration. Father Eduardo Marques, the coordinator for the Brazilian Apostolate, concelebrated with me and the cathedral was filled.
We are also so grateful to Sister Elisete Sigmor who does so much in the Brazilian Apostolate.
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On Monday, I visited with the Sloane family at the headquarters of Century Bank. Marshall and Barbara Sloane were great hosts and it was my pleasure to meet many of the workers there.
With Barry, Barbara and Marshall Sloane
I chuckled when we drove into the parking lot and saw they had a big electric sign that said “Welcome Cardinal Seán O’Malley.”
They had a lunch and they invited all of their workers to go to lunch and to meet the archbishop. The Sloanes have been very supportive of the archdiocese and I was happy to be able to accept their invitation.
With Marshall and Barbara Sloane, Linda Sloane Kay, Paul Evangelista and Brian Feeney
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On Tuesday I announced to our Pastoral Center Staff that Msgr. Robert Deeley will succeed Father Richard Erikson as our new Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia on September 1.
First of all, I would like to say how very grateful we are to Fr. Rich for the five years of extraordinary service that he gave to the people of the archdiocese as Vicar General — times of so many challenges and difficulties. Yet, he carried out his responsibilities with such grace and a priestly spirit.
He is now going to take a sabbatical in Rome at the North American College. He told us at the staff meeting that he has only spent three days in Rome in his life, so it will be a wonderful opportunity for him to experience the sense of Christendom there, the universality of the Church, and the Holy Father’s ministry. I know he is looking forward to it.
Of course, we are also grateful to Msgr. Deeley who has accepted to step into this responsibility in September when Father Rich leaves. Msgr. Deeley has very generously served in Rome at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but I know that he will be very happy to return to Boston.
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I would also like to express a word of congratulations to Archbishop Cyrille Bustros who was just named the Metropolitan of Beirut and Jbeil, Lebanon. I would like to assure him of my prayers as he begins his new responsibilities in Beirut.
I would also like to congratulate Bishop Nicholas Samra who will succeed him as the new Eparch of Newton.
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And finally, if we are giving out congratulations, perhaps no one is more deserving than our own Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins!
As some of you may have heard, I placed a friendly wager on the championship with Archbishop Miller of Vancouver. I am pleased to report that Archbishop Miller has already sent his donation to Catholic Charities of Boston along with the following letter:
Dear Cardinal Sean:
While I’d prefer this were under happier circumstances for the City of Vancouver, I’m very pleased to send this cheque for $100 to be used for the needs of Catholic Charities of Boston.
The important work of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Boston is well known, and I pray this donation will advance your efforts in some small way.
Meanwhile, I hope the friendly nature of our competition serves as an example to our fair cities in the healing of physical and emotional bruises accumulated during competition. Sports are an opportunity to bring people together in good-natured rivalry, and we look forward to meeting again next year!
Be assured of my fraternal affection and prayers.
+J. Michael Miller
Archbishop of Vancouver
Again, congratulations to the entire Bruins organization for a well earned victory!
Until next week,