Boston Cardinal O'Malley Blasts Democratic Party UPDATED
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 02:40:34 AM EST
I did an expanded version of this at Daily Kos and Blue Mass Group, and decided to import it back to Talk to Action. -- FC

The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops is too poor, according to The Boston Globe, to send to its local parishes, its traditional instructional mailing on how to approach politics and public policy. The Globe did not explain why the Bishops are broke and buried the point in the last paragraph of the story -- but we can guess that it probably has something to do with the massive payouts the church has made to settle lawsuits related to the priest pedophilia scandal.

Traditionally, the document has been mailed to all parishes in the United States; this year, to save money, the cash-strapped bishops' conference will e-mail the document to parishes and post it on a website.

However, the Globe headlined the story, O'Malley draws line with Democrats:  Backing abortion rights candidates 'borders on scandal'.

The Globe reported:
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, saying the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to opponents of abortion rights, asserted yesterday that the support of many Catholics for Democratic candidates "borders on scandal."

In his sharpest comments about the political landscape since he was installed as archbishop of Boston four years ago, O'Malley made clear that, despite his differences with the Republican Party over immigration policy, capital punishment, economic issues, and the war in Iraq, he views abortion as the most important moral issue facing policymakers.

"I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church's position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues," O'Malley said.

The Globe continued:
O'Malley's predecessors as archbishop of Boston were also staunchly antiabortion. Cardinal Bernard F. Law called a news conference to criticize a Republican governor, William F. Weld, for his support for abortion rights, and Law had the lieutenant governor at the time, Paul Cellucci, also a Republican, disinvited from a Catholic high school for the same reason; Law also blasted Geraldine A. Ferraro, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1984, for her support of abortion rights. Law's predecessor, Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros, in 1980 tried unsuccessfully to persuade Catholics to vote against two Democratic congressional candidates, Barney Frank and Jim Shannon, because of their support for abortion rights.

Interesting, but I don't recall -- and the Globe does not mention -- any Catholic official ever having blasted any Massachusetts Republicans in recent years for their positions on abortion -- suchas the formerly prochoice Gov. Mitt Romney or continuously prochoice Lt. Gov and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey -- although I suppose I could have missed something.

It is interesting too, to see the Cardinal attack the Democratic Party as a whole, as if the institutional "party" had a lot of say, or should have a lot of say over who the membership picks as its candidates, and who the voters ultimately choose as its representatives. And while we appreciate and respect our party leaders, the days of the smoke-filled room are long gone. Of course, GOP Catholic strategist Deal Hudson immediately cheered O'Malley's blast:

Other Catholic bishops have admonished Democrats, but O'Malley's words are the most direct challenge to Catholic Democrats yet. O'Malley said they were fooling themselves by saying they are not supporting abortion: "I think there's a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions, and I think if they did that, then the party would have to change."
"Forming Citizens for Faithful Citizenship" should put an end to this type of political abuse of Catholic moral and social teaching.
But for all of the stridency of O'Malley's attack on the Democratic Party, the fact is that both the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party in Massachusetts have changed. Cardinal O'Malley's behavior is a throwback to the old days, when conservative Catholic pols and prelates dominated state politics. But the Church is not nearly the powerhouse it once was, having lost enormous credibility in the wake of the priest pedophilia scandal, whose epicenter is Boston.

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party has become more open, more vibrant, and more (small d) democratic. What's more, the legislature is a far more progressive place than it was just a few years ago, and the transition is still underway as the progressive reform movement that powered the candidacy of Deval Patrick into governor's office has lost none of its energy and has only increased its skills and experience over several election cycles. O'Malley's attack on the Democratic Party sounds like the last gasp of a dying era.

O'Malley complains that the Democratic Party should include more "pro-life" candidates. Well, the vast majority of the Democratic Party membership and our elected leaders are intent on continuing to elect candidates that are fully, and articulately in favor of reproductive rights and comprehensive sexuality education. Prolife candidates are welcome to participate, but they are no more entitled to recieve preferential treatment than anyone else. Here in Massachusetts, we respect the right of people to receive and to provide abortion care.

Coinicidentally, a few days before the O'Malley controversy broke out, Governor Patrick signed a bill that expands the buffer zone designed to protect patients and staff from harrassment by antiabortion zealots. Below is the complete text of the press release issued by the Governor's office. Note the strong, clear statements from our top Democratic officials, including the Governor, the Attorney General, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. I have highlighted their quotes for emphasis.

BOSTON – Monday, November 13, 2007 -- Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law a bill expanding the protected area around reproductive health facilities in Massachusetts. The legislation, supported by Senate President Therese Murray and Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi, establishes a fixed 35-foot buffer zone around the entrances and driveways of all reproductive health facilities in Massachusetts.
“Women in the Commonwealth have the right to obtain medical care free from violence, harassment or intimidation and this new law will guard that right,” said Governor Patrick. “By widening the buffer zone around reproductive clinics we will protect patients from the harassment that so many have encountered as they seek care.”
The prior buffer zone law, enacted in 2000, established a 6-foot “bubble zone” within an 18-foot buffer zone outside of reproductive health care facilities. A person could not knowingly approach another person within the 6-foot bubble zone unless he obtained that person’s consent. That law had been difficult to enforce, however, because it was unclear how to prove that a patient did or did not give consent to a protester. Although violations of the law were reported to be frequent, there had not been a successful prosecution under the law since its enactment. The new law attempts to remedy the problem by establishing a fixed 35-foot buffer zone around the entrances and driveways of all of the reproductive health facilities in the state, thereby ensuring safe access, without interfering with the ability of protestors to express themselves outside of the protected area.
"Patients have the right to seek medical care; health professionals have the right to assist their patients; and they both have the right to pursue care without being harassed, humiliated or threatened," Senate President Murray (D-Plymouth) said. "The new, improved Buffer Zone law is enforceable, common-sense legislation to protect the rights and well-being of women and their health care providers."
"Women seeking health services and the people who provide them should be free to do so without fear of assault, harassment or intimidation," said Speaker DiMasi (D-Boston). "This expanded buffer zone provides much-needed improvements to public safety and I commend everyone who worked so hard to see this bill become law."
"The Legislature's and Governor's quick work in passing the Buffer Zone Legislation addresses an important public safety issue," said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “Over the years, reproductive health care facilities have been the scene of mass demonstrations, congestion, blockades, and disturbances. This legislation will help to ensure greater safety on our public ways and sidewalks and prevent violence, harassment and intimidation of women who are attempting to exercise their fundamental right to access healthcare.”
“Planned Parenthood supports this new law because it will protect the privacy, dignity and safety of patients who are just trying to get to their doctor’s appointments and staff who are just trying to do their jobs,” said Dianne Luby, President/CEO Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “This is an important public safety measure and we commend Governor Patrick for signing it into law today.” The lead sponsors of the legislation – which had broad support in both the Senate and the House – were Senators Susan Fargo (D-Concord) and Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), and Representatives Marty Walz (D-Boston) and Carl Sciortino (D-Medford).

The times they are a changin' in Massachusetts: a stronghold of the Democratic Party and a model for what Democratic politics and governance can be.

Its just a new version of the same old song and dance.

The bishops say they are not an advocate for either party.

Then they say that abortion is the most important issue by far.

Then they attack the Democratic Party or its presidential candidate for being prochoice.

For several election cycles now, top Catholic leaders meet with the GOP presidential candidate, and then stage a photo op in which they declare the candidate to be "pro-life."

This is the not very subtle code for "vote for this candidate."

Read the whole Globe article with this general modus operandi in mind.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 03:30:02 AM EST

As a lay Catholic, I note that I am not happy with the hierarchy as a whole. It appears to me that they forfeited any moral authority they may have possessed with their collective mishandling and coverups of the sexual abuse scandals in the church, but then they want to turn around and act like the laity should heed everything they say on political matters, including making abortion, sex, and contraception one's primary concern in voting. I know people who do exactly this, but I've never shared that mindset as an adult voter.

Karl Rove and his political allies, such as Karl Keating, Deal Hudson, and Bill Donohue, managed to effectively exploit the hierarchy's sentiments and to get a slight majority of Catholics to support Bush in 2000 and 2004. There were those of us out there who saw what was happening, and strongly disagreed with it.

by khughes1963 on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 12:17:54 PM EST

he was fired from his academic job for sexually harassing and schtupping a mentally vulnerable freshman woman student. And he got bounced from his editorship and official advisory position when that sexual harassment story came to light.

by NancyP on Mon Nov 19, 2007 at 11:08:42 PM EST

The Politics of Boston Archbishops, written in response to this post.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 03:10:14 PM EST
I hope Frank Cocozzelli reads this diary. It is excellent.

by khughes1963 on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 04:53:54 PM EST

I thought that the Catholic Church in America(at least by the mid-20th century) supported church/state separation, because I remember JFK mentioning in his famous speech Houston speech "the statement of the American [Catholic] Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed Church-State"? (I couldn't find the statement on the web)  Why did the heirarchy of the American Catholic church change its mind on church/state separation?

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 05:49:32 PM EST
The hierarchy has always exerted a political influence behind the scenes, but Vatican II and the Vietnam War changed the way that lay Catholics related to the bishops' political influence. Some Catholics left the church, some were conservative, others were not, and many started to listen to their own consciences. To some extent, I also think they were building upon the example of the Christian right, although as a rule it has been lay Catholics who tend to build bridges with their evangelical Protestant counterparts.

by khughes1963 on Sat Nov 17, 2007 at 05:58:04 PM EST

Locally, it is disturbing to see such effects of the newish atavistic Pope. The brazen politicking for the VoteOnMarriage effort to halt same-sex marriages here was clearly on orders, which O'Malley executed with vigor.

It was nearly 35 years ago when he founded that Hispanic center in D.C. and worked for the poor, including rent strikes. He has retained his charming mannerisms, but his politics have become much more cynical. Pity. He used to understand what the duties of his church were.

However, his tactical errors and failures in these political attacks further trivialize the R.C. influence here. As in Spain and even Italy, such heavy footed tromping has served to alienate the church members.

by massmarrier on Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 06:45:00 AM EST

Time to add the church property to the Tax Rolls...... if they want to participate in the political process like this, make 'em pay. Previous "scandals" showed that behavior changed when it cost the church $$.....

by fahma on Mon Nov 19, 2007 at 11:32:20 AM EST

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