This piece was published in The Wanderer on October 25, 2012. If you want to know why the Boston Archdiocese still has a lot of problems, here is one of several big contributing factors.
Thirty-four years ago, on March 16,1978, The Wanderer published an editorial by its editor, A.J. Matt Jr., calling on the United States Catholic Conference/ National Conference of Catholic Bishops to fire Fr. Bryan Hehir, associate secretary for international justice and peace, for his relentless advocacy of left-wing politics, especially his role in steering the U.S. bishops away from a principled and forthright opposition to abortion, contraception, and national and international “family planning” programs.
During his 20-year tenure at the USCC/NCCB, from 1972 to 1992, Fr. Hehir was a coordinator and facilitator for the 1976 Call to Action conference in Detroit; he advised the U.S. bishops, and the Holy See, to “regard contraceptive practice as an issue of private morality” — the poisonous fruit of which was episcopal and clerical silence when the purity of children and the rights of parents were assaulted by condom distribution programs in public schools; he advised the bishops, as the presumed originator of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” theory, that pushing the abortion issue would cause the Church to lose allies on other social justice issues; and he was instrumental in formulating New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s infamous 1984 address at Notre Dame, where he articulated the “personally opposed, but” con game on abortion that Catholic politicians could subscribe to Church teaching, but ignore it and oppose it in public policy.
After leaving the USCC/NCCB, Hehir’s influence continued. He was, for example, cited by the Playboy-funded Catholics for a Free Choice for his position that Catholic hospitals should not be exempt from providing contraceptive services to their clients and employees.
Fast-forward: Fr. Bryan Hehir, after leaving the USCC/NCCB, went to Harvard University to teach, and then, after Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., was appointed archbishop of Boston, was brought into the inner circle of archdiocesan leadership, as the head of Catholic Charities and as Cardinal O’Malley’s informal but influential adviser on a host of public policy questions.
Hehir would subsequently join the archdiocesan cabinet as secretary for Health and Social Services. But his portfolio is much broader than that. He was the decisive influence in selecting a new executive director for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm for the state’s four Catholic bishops, and has become, effectively, the episcopal moderator for the conference.
Many people believe that most public expressions of Catholic teaching in the archdiocese bear the influence of Fr. Bryan Hehir
Prior to Cardinal O’Malley’s arrival in Boston, the former archbishop, Bernard Cardinal Law, kept Hehir at arm’s length from the central administration of the archdiocese, and even objected to his hiring by Harvard Divinity School. As The Boston Globe reported, September 27, 2003, after O’Malley announced he had hired Hehir as president of Catholic Charities, “Cardinal Bernard F. Law, then archbishop of Boston, made it clear he was unhappy with Hehir being stationed at Harvard, a historically Unitarian school with a reputation for progressive theology.”
During his tenure as president of Catholic Charities in Boston, and then as secretary for Health and Social Services, Hehir has presided over a number of fiascos, including the notorious 2005 “Man of the Year” award to Boston’s fanatically pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-contraception Mayor Thomas M. Menino. After a memorandum by the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts to Cardinal O’Malley detailing and documenting Menino’s decades-long opposition to Catholic teaching was leaked to the press, O’Malley withdrew from the dinner. Hehir persisted in presenting the award to Menino, which resulted in the annual banquet of Catholic Charities being picketed by the Catholic Action League, Operation Rescue Boston, and numerous pro-life groups.
The archdiocese and Catholic Charities were further embarrassed when an aggravated Menino decided to unburden himself to the media on Catholic teaching. Menino explained that abortion, after all, was just “choice,” that pro-lifers were filled with “hate,” and most memorably, “Jesus, you know, didn’t go around all the time talking up God.”
In April 2005, Hehir also criticized the U.S. bishops for threatening to withhold Communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians, such as Massachusetts’ Sen. John Kerry. At the same time, according to The Boston Globe (April 30, 2005), he expressed his fears of the “conservative” papacy of newly elected Pope Benedict XVI. Other fiascos include Catholic Charities advertising in the viciously anti-Catholic, homosexual newspaper Bay Windows, the decision of the Holy See to order Catholic Charities to cease placing children in homosexual households, the subsequent end to adoption services by the Archdiocese of Boston — viewed by some as Hehir putting a thumb in the eye of the Vatican, and, finally, the infamous Commonwealth Care contract of 2009 in which Caritas Christi Healthcare (the chain of six Catholic hospitals affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston) was to implement health-care programs for low income residents which included abortion, sterilization, and contraception.
The Boston Globe gleefully broke the story of Catholic complicity in abortion in February 2009, igniting a firestorm in the pro-life community. Instead of immediately pulling the plug on the contract, which was scheduled to go into effect in July 2009, the archdiocese, under Hehir’s influence, needlessly protracted the controversy, resorting to every trick to preserve Caritas Christi involvement in the program. Using Clintonian language, the archdiocese claimed Caritas Christi would not be involved in abortion referrals despite the testimony of officials of the Caritas subsidiary. Because of Hehir’s decision to go through with the contract, it was the end of June 2009 before Cardinal O’Malley ordered Caritas to withdraw, vindicating the very pro-life critics whom the cardinal had castigated a few months earlier as doing “a grave disservice to the Church” with their charges.
There is no question in Boston that Fr. Hehir is the eminence grise of the archdiocese; his fingerprints are on everything.
Under Cardinal Law, all those involved in the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and in the archdiocesan communications office — that is, anyone involved in articulating positions on Catholic issues — were known as conservative, orthodox, and pro-life. Now, under an O’Malley episcopate influenced by Bryan Hehir, Boston Catholics have Terry Donilon — a former aide to Rhode Island’s pro-abortion Gov. Bruce Sundlun and the brother of President Obama’s national security adviser — as the spokesman for the archdiocese; a major Obama-Biden fund raiser, Jack Connors, who serves on the archdiocesan Council of Finance, leads the Catholic schools foundation; and, under Hehir’s leadership at the health secretariat, there was Barney Frank fund-raiser James Karam as chairman of Caritas Christi.
Bottom line: The Archdiocese of Boston has taken a sharp left turn since Cardinal Law’s departure, and there is no indication that will change as long as Fr. Hehir, the ultimate liberal apparatchik, remains in power.
At a moment when the Church is striving to launch a “new evangelization” in this Year of Faith, the Archdiocese of Boston under Fr. Hehir’s leadership is more concerned with conforming to the secular culture, appeasing a hostile liberal media, and protecting renegade pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their apologists in the Catholic community. Hehir calls this “rebuilding trust” with civil society, but that is a ruse for enabling dissent, as Fr. Hehir’s record over 40 years illustrates. + + +
(C. Joseph Doyle is the executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts; Paul Likoudis is news editor for The Wanderer.)
# # # #
Does this key advisor to Cardinal O’Malley–who influences everything from public policy to parish configurations–embrace all of the truths of the Catholic faith? His record indicates not. From the perspective of BCI, this is a cause for grave concern.