By the grace of God, the recent decision by Cardinal SeÁn Patrick O'Malley could be a turning point in Catholic history, a collective epiphany on the road to Boston College. He has made it entirely clear that he will not be attending the university’s annual commencement, at which Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will be speaking. Boston College’s decision to invite the Taoiseach was provocative and was supposed to be so. Frankly, it’s a childish and petty thing to have done but entirely in character with the modern approach of liberal or even post-Catholic institutions of higher education. Give a metaphorical finger to those horrible old grassroots Catholics who still believe in the faith, and to the Magisterium and episcopacy who insist on making it difficult for teachers from Boston College or Notre Dame or Georgetown to be invited onto talk shows and to fashionable dinner parties.
Ireland is in the midst of a culture war. It is the country that in spite of—perhaps even because of—occupation, oppression, starvation, and dispersion, remained true to the Church. It was the epicenter for English-speaking Catholics and Catholicism, and Irish Catholics fuelled English and Scottish Catholicism and became the beating heart of the Church in the United States.
Today the kulturkampf concerns a triumphant secular and modernist government declaring virtual war on Church prestige and standing, and challenging Catholic teaching on life, sexuality, and morality. Kenny wants to change Ireland’s abortion laws. He claims it is a minor reform, but he knows that is not the case; the legislation is not only in itself a major departure, but will open a door to a room full of frightful eugenics. If you don’t believe me, read the editorials and columns from his supporters in the Irish media.
None of us were sure what Cardinal O’Malley would do. He is an orthodox man, of course, and a fine and good Catholic priest and bishop, but he had assisted at the funeral mass of Sen. Ted Kennedy, an individual with a worrying personal record, and an execrable public one. Kennedy had opposed the Church on most of its moral teaching around life issues, often leading campaigns to introduce and extend abortion, same-sex marriage, and other related subjects. O’Malley led a prayer at the Mass, explaining, “as archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time.”
This time, however, the reaction was fundamentally different.