Tone-Deaf Cardinal?

We have no other way to start this post than with that title.

The following email was sent out yesterday by Catholic Schools superintendent, Mary Grassa O’Neill, inviting pastors, school principals, and heads of schools to their annual Catholic Schools convocation.  For the single annual convocation of the leaders of the Catholic Schools in the archdiocese, Cardinal O’Malley chose as the speaker none other than Fr. Bryan Hehir.  His topic: ““Catholic Identity: Its Roots and Realization in our Schools.”  The Cardinal might just as well have chosen Jack Connors.  Maybe Jack was invited and was busy, so they went with Fr. Hehir instead.

High-order message to you–we suggest priests stay away, we suggest school principals stay away, and we suggest parents of school children ask their pastors and school principals to stay away.

The archdiocese has thousands of experienced school leaders (whose retirement pensions are frozen), auxiliary bishops, seminary rectors, hundreds of priests, and an archbishop.  Most of these people know a fair amount if not a huge amount about Catholic elementary school and high school education.  Yet the one person Cardinal O’Malley wants to lecture the leaders of Catholic schools is Fr. Bryan Hehir–who has no experience with elementary school or high school Catholic education and whose record of clarity with respect to “Catholic identities” is extremely murky.

Last we checked, Fr. Hehir was the one behind the fiasco back on 2005 of honoring the pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage Mayor Menino of Boston at a Catholic Charities fund-raiser, in violation of USCCB guidelines that said very clearly that Catholic politicians who oppose the church were not to be honored publicly. How does this qualify him to talk about “Catholic identity”?  If anything, it should DIS-QUALIFY him.  Fr. Hehir’s far-fetched explanation was that despite dozens and dozens of articles in the mainstream media that made it clear that Menino opposed the Church on these key matters (including his leading the Gay Pride parade and welcoming 99 gay couples to City Hall on the first day when they could “marry”), Hehir and the Catholic Charities staff were somehow obliviously unaware Menino opposed the Church on abortion and gay marriage. Here is what the Bryan Hehir Exposed blog had to say about the matter last year:

Was Fr. Bryan Hehir really asking the Archbishop and Catholics of Boston to believe that he was not aware of the statements against Church policy from the mayor?  Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir, who received a “genius” MacArthur fellowship?  Is this the same Fr. Bryan Hehir who was called “a brilliant, brilliant student of politics–especially the geopolitical scene” by the former general secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference ?  Is this the same Fr. Hehir who Cardinal Sean recently recognized as highly trusted “strategic advisor” who brings “fidelity to the work of the Church” and ”clarity to our message and mission”?  Fr. Hehir’s claim that he and his staff were unaware of Menino’s history is troubling and difficult to believe.  If Bryan Hehir was somehow naively unaware of Mayor Menino’s opposition to the Catholic Church on a host of issues, then Fr. Hehir bears responsibility for his own negligence and has no business being Cabinet Secretary of anything in this archdiocese.  And if he was aware but lied to the archbishop and presbyterate of Boston, then he should have been fired then and should still be fired now because this strongly suggests that what he says and does simply cannot be trusted–let alone trusted to align with Church teachings.

This is not just a one-off. Fr. Hehir was also right up there keynoting the Catholic Healthcare Association’s annual conference praising their leadership after the CHA opposed the USCCB and Catholic bishops on Obamacare.  Fr. Hehir is now the person to speak about Catholic identity in Catholic Schools?  Puleeze!

One can only surmise one of two things about this situation:

  1. Cardinal O’Malley genuinely wants to take the archdicoese in a direction aligned with the ideologies of Jack Connors (who chairs Partners Healthcare, a large abortion provider in the state) and Fr. Bryan Hehir (who has no problem honoring people who publicly work against Church teachings), or
  2. Cardinal O’Malley is remarkably tone-deaf to the concerns of the laity and priests of the archdiocese

Either scenario is not encouraging.

Below is the letter from the schools superintendent:

From the Desk of Mary Grassa O’Neill

January 3, 2010

Dear Principals, Pastors, and Heads of Schools:

Cardinal Seán O’Malley and I look forward to seeing you at our Convocation and Celebration of Education.  The event will take place at the Pastoral Center on Thursday, January 6th, 2011 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. This annual celebration always has drawn together nearly all our school leaders. We hope that you will take the opportunity to join your fellow Catholic school leaders on Thursday.

We will open with a prayer and remarks from Cardinal Seán.   Our featured speaker will be Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, who will discuss “Catholic Identity: Its Roots and Realization in our Schools.”  Lastly, I will provide a multi-media overview of our shared achievements and challenges this past year and our priorities for the future.  We will close with a reception and refreshment.

We would like to continue our tradition of honoring those schools that are celebrating landmark anniversaries. If you would like your school to be recognized, please share your information with Christina Sorgi (617-779-3614 or  so that we can recognize you on Thursday.

We look forward to this celebration of our school community and your unflagging spirit, strength, and leadership that make it all possible.  If you have not yet RSVP’d for Thursday, please let Christina Sorgi know as soon as possible (617-779-3614 or

Happy New Year!

Mary Grassa O’Neill

Time: Tuesday January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

If you are the parent of Catholic school children, please tell your pastor and school principal you want them to at minimum intentionally miss Fr. Hehir’s talk. If you are a priest, we suggest reading your breviary or making phone calls during this time.

We do not want to open a debate on doctrine here.  Objectively, Fr. Hehir has no experience with Catholic elementary and high school education while other vastly more qualified have been passed over for the speaking slot, and his track record when it comes to Catholic identity is sufficiently controversial that he clearly is not the model speaker on the topic.

Many signs of modest encouragement we saw about potential progress in this archdiocese have now gone out the window. So has our patience.

ps. Mary, while you’ve got everyone together, will you, Fr. Hehir, or the Cardinal specifically be talking about your efforts to restore Catholic identity at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, in the face of the articles about atheism and gay students “coming out” in the school newspaper?  Concerned parents down there have been waiting 4 months for action.

12 Responses to Tone-Deaf Cardinal?

  1. A Priest says:

    Why am I NOT surprised…this will continue because as I have been told the Cardinal trusts Fr Hehir and then I was told I should too because the Cardinal does and that’s all I needed to know. I won’t say who said that, but it was a high ranking official in the so-called Pastoral Center. This will continue until there is revolt.

  2. Paul says:

    The laity can protest by not contributing. When will the clergy and religious, as a group, stand up?

  3. another priest says:

    Paul: just a clarification. There are priests who, like the laity, contribute financially to both to the Catholic Appeal and to the parishes where they worship and serve.

  4. SAd Boston Priest says:


    • Paul says:

      SAd Boston Priest
      I could be wrong but I thought the priests that signed the letter to remove Law were not touched my the new Archbishop. The priests hold the real power, your numbers are shrinking, you can’t be replaced.

    • SAd Boston Priest says:

      I respect your view … if, however, you review the present administration’s over-all treatment of priests, particularly the retired and/or disabled you would be shocked … the present administration is far more committed to P.R. and Financial concerns … ALL else is of secondary or less importance { as has been demonstrated in the B.C.I.].

      Also I personally know of priests who have confronted the present administration + even some of the prievious administration and have been sidelined + or slandered {blackballed into ‘oblivion’ … In short, many priests simply do not TRUST the pottential retaliation of members of the present administration. Furthermore many priests realize the very REAL possibility of FALSE Accusations + the subsequent dismissal by the bishop + his minions regardless of the investigation outcome. Summarily, these are very dark days for the clergy.

      MESSAGE:If your parish priests respect + love the TRUTH + their flock … THEN YOU, The People, should also shelter + protect them ! They well may not be replaced for a VERY LONG TIME!

      • anna says:

        The regime at 66 Brooks Drive is an enemy to truth and as such, priests should not go looking for confrontations. It is better left to the laity.

        However, with that said, when 66 Brooks Drive gathers priests to rubber stamp their policies and programs that destroy our children, I think you can expect that when they come looking to eat you up, parents are not going to be there to ‘protect you’ because you were not there to ‘protect’ the salvation of their children.

        If you are ever looking for the answer as to why there’s nobody behind you, this, sadly, is it.

        You don’t have to be in their face. You are expected not to turn over our children to be corrupted to save your own backsides. You’ve gotta man up.

  5. Father J says:

    Bci: You are making a leap to say that the Cardinal made the invite or approved it. This is more likely the invite of the CSO only. This is an unfair shot at the Cardinal for “old news”.

    Fair game to criticize Hehir and the Cardinal for keeping Hehir on. But another blog does that well and has for months.

    • TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

      Father J,
      From the pews it appear that the Cardinal should be grateful that Fr. Hehir keeps HIM on. You are in complete denial if you think that the Cardinal gets a ‘pass’ on anything having to do with the Catholic School system in Boston. The on-going debacle of a policy for queer parents has national if not global significance for Catholic families. Perhaps Father you should stop worshiping the dirt they treat you like and get with Rome and Benedict XVI.

      A leap indeed. PAY ATTENTION.

  6. Carolyn says:

    What troubles me most about this is that you are inviting hundreds of people for some kind of formation and mission building, and you can’t find a speaker who makes the gathering a special occasion. Even if you could convince me that Bryan Hehir is qualified to enlighten Catholic school educators by dint of his deep understanding of pedagogy or of children (not likely), why in Heaven’s name have as your featured speaker the guy across the hall? Why not have Mary? At least she has a background in the field.

    Why is Bryan Hehir the one-size fits all expert on everything? This blog needn’t take on his Theology to raise the question, why not have a Catholic school expert speak to Catholic educators about the roots of Catholic identity in our schools? Why indeed not the cardinal himself, if you’re not going to leave the 4th floor to find a speaker?

    The teachers and principals deserve to hear a speaker they might not be able to hear otherwise. That’s some budget you have, Mary. Next time find a speaker who makes the gathering worthwhile, and pay the speaker a little stipend.

    • TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

      Anybody home?
      This stuff does NOT just happen.
      Hehir is renown as a Strategist.

      If it please God, could somebody post the complete transcript of Hehir’s speech and I will point by point explain the methods, techniques, false presuppositions that these modernist use to befuddle and confuse in order to leave the well intentioned empty and wanting – and feeling positively giddy about themselves and their accomplishments.

      Why is Bryan Hehir the one-size fits all expert on everything? That’s easy, it is because; he IS the one-size fits all expert on everything?
      A true Modernist.

      As a strategist he will give the people at the meeting exactly what they want and those who have any contrary thoughts or even mild criticism will be one of several things; mean spirited, ostracized, found ‘in need of a hug’ (please kill me first), lacking charity, confused or un-enlightened and lacking vision etc.. The reality is that if there are any rational thinking Orthodox Roman Catholics left in the room they will smell a rat as usual.

    • Carolyn, very well put!

      As another commenter put it a few weeks ago, we have yet to hear this archdiocese articulate its vision and direction for Catholic education, with a million dollars or more spent on superintendent-level salaries.

%d bloggers like this: