Cardinal Seán O'MalleyPiety or reverence: with the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley, normally a pretty good guy (he dresses simply and mows his own lawn, for instance) is nevertheless a stickler for the letter of Church law:
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of the Boston Archdiocese, said today he would not attend Boston College’s commencement because the scheduled speaker, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, supports controversial abortion-rights legislation in his country.
In a statement released this afternoon, O’Malley said the Catholic Bishops of the United States have urged Catholic institutions not to honor government officials whose views on the issue are inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic church.
The Irish legislation would permit abortions if there is a real and substantial threat to the mother’s life, including from suicide.Relax. This is not another article taking the Church to task for its insistence on an absolute ban on abortion. I am more interested in the way the Cardinal has fallen down in his "deep sense of respect for God and the Church."
Aside from the horrifying insistence that placing a mother's life in peril is in keeping with a Consistent Ethic of Life, there's the issue of closing off conversations with those with contrary views. There's something disturbing, even sinister, about refusing to engage with a college of learned theologians and teachers, some of whom are willing to hear out a person whose views may not be entirely congruent with that of Church leaders. Refusing to engage will not make the issue go away, nor will it silence those with sincere beliefs that lead them to conclude differently. Leaders like O'Malley are just playing to the grandstand, to their legions of fans who applaud their every move as though from God himself. Their tactics only entrench the already substantial hostility to dialog of those in the Church who are convinced, without the inconvenience of mental struggle, that they have the Truth.
O'Malley is doing what any Catholic bishop of the early 21st century does. And that's not meant as a compliment. He is completely obedient to the magisterium, the Church's teaching authority. But can a man of the early 2000s be honest to the magisterium while staying true to his own intellect and to his conscience? Or must conscience and intellect kowtow to every Church teaching? Is it good for a man's soul that he twist mind and heart around doctines that are intellectually impoverished, illogical and lacking in compassion? A person who honestly supports abortion (or contraception or gay marriage or a non-celibate priesthood or any other opinion out of plumb with the Church) is at least being true to their own minds and hearts. For the cardinal to refuse to engage people of faith in their honest struggles with the hot topics of the day is to turn one's back not on heathens, fools and apostates, but possibly on the stirrings of the Holy Spirit herself.
Not an exercise in piety, if you ask me.