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:
- 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 email@example.com).
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.