The Politics of Fr. Bryan Hehir

Fr. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Social Services and Healthcare, is off to Washington DC April 9-10 for a conference on “peacebuilding.”  In view of this conference and a piece that appeared during the time of the papal conclave, “Another American pope candidate embraces the far-left”, we are highlighting some aspects of Fr. Hehir’s political leanings. Given these leanings and publicly expressed views–as well as the lack of any real job for Fr. Hehir do any more–one might reasonably ask Cardinal O’Malley and Vicar General Bishop Deeley why they keep Fr. Hehir around.

At a high level, there is no real job that requires Fr. Hehir in the Cabinet at the Boston Archdiocese. Catholic Charities of Boston (“social services”) has a full-time paid president who runs the organization. And there is no longer Catholic “healthcare” because Caritas Christi was sold off to Cerberus/Steward. Yet Fr. Hehir remains the most important advisor to Cardinal O’Malley and involved in almost every major decision. Since he spends part of his time in his roughly $200K/year job at Harvard and associating with people and organizations that support left-leaning Democratic politicians and causes, why should this archdiocese keep Fr. Hehir as a cabinet secretary?  After you read the piece, you will probably ask the same question.

Now, here are excerpts from the piece, published in the run-up to the conclave, It was also published with the title, “Is God a Marxist? Top American Catholics and the far left“:

A top aide to a left-wing American Catholic Cardinal, reportedly in the running for the job of pope, taught a course called “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” at a pro-Marxist think tank in Washington, D.C. The course included a discussion of “the future of the Christian alliance with Marxism” and the “theology of the oppressed.”

The aide, Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, is described in the book Religious Leaders and Faith-based Politics: Ten Profiles as “one of the most important and influential voices in U.S. Catholicism.” A professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Hehir spent 20 years working for the Catholic Bishops and crafting policy positions on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy matters.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston, who hired Hehir as the Archdiocese of Boston’s Secretary for Social Services in 2003, has been “generating buzz in Rome as a possible contender to be the next pope,” says a recent report from NBC News.

If Hehir follows O’Malley to Rome, he could be in a position to exercise considerable power from the Vatican over global affairs, such as by promoting President Obama’s vision of a world free of U.S. nuclear weapons. But even if O’Malley doesn’t get the nod, Hehir could be a force in the Vatican. He has connections to Cardinal Peter Turkson, another candidate for the papacy, and played a role in formulating a Vatican document calling for creation of a “central world bank.” One of Hehir’s Harvard courses is “The Politics and Ethics of the Use of Force,” reflecting his desire to be taken seriously as a global affairs expert.

Hehir led the bishops in writing a 1983 letter titled “The Challenge of Peace – God’s Promise and Our Response,” which called the building of nuclear weapons “a folly which does not provide the security it promises.” Hehir was a member of a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) task force which produced a 2009 report on “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy” saying that while “the geopolitical conditions that would permit the global elimination of nuclear weapons do not currently exist,” steps could be taken “to diminish the danger of nuclear proliferation and nuclear use.”

But Cardinal O’Malley is not without controversy himself. He had to personally explain and defend himself after presiding at the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal Catholic who undermined church teachings on social matters such as abortion and homosexuality and lived a personal life characterized by debauchery.

A controversial figure in the American Catholic Church, Hehir has been the subject of fawning coverage in the liberal press. But blogs run by conservative Catholics in Boston have targeted him for years, with the Catholic paper The Wanderer once urging his ouster from church affairs because of his “relentless advocacy of left-wing politics.”

It was the “Bryan Hehir Exposed” blog which noted that his left-wing activities included lecturing for “a Socialist, pro-Communist think-tank back in the 1980’s.”

That think tank, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), is where Hehir taught his course on “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John.” Hehir was then the director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

The IPS came under strong criticism in the 1980s, even from a New York Times Magazine article “Think Tank of the Left,” for being a mouthpiece for anti-American and communist regimes from Cuba to North Vietnam. It conducted joint conferences with Moscow entities considered conduits for Russian KGB propaganda.

At the same time IPS was sponsoring the “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” course, it was featuring a “Liberation Theology Lecture Series” with Gustavo Gutierrez, author of A Theology of Liberation.

Hehir’s history of involvement in Marxist causes includes not only lecturing at the IPS on several occasions but receiving its 7th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Memorial Award in Washington D.C. in 1983. It was named for Orlando Letelier, a Marxist IPS fellow who was assassinated in 1976 in Washington by the Chilean government’s secret police. Letelier was exposed as a Cuban agent in briefcase papers found by law enforcement authorities after his death.

Hehir was known as a critic of U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan was preventing a Communist takeover of Central America and countering the Soviet Union’s nuclear buildup by deploying U.S. nuclear missiles in Western Europe. The IPS was then the center of much of the opposition to the Reagan agenda.

For example, in Nicaragua, where a Marxist regime that included Catholic advocates of “liberation theology” had seized power, Reagan armed freedom fighters to take back their country. Hehir and the U.S. Catholic Bishops opposed the use of military force to stop the Communists in Central America or anywhere else.

Even without an O’Malley appointment as pope, Hehir has exercised considerable influence in the Vatican and can be expected to do so in the future. He participated in a symposium hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican in October 2010.

This is significant because the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is the arm of the Vatican run by Cardinal Peter Turkson, another possible candidate for pope. In the 2011 document, “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of global public authority,” Turkson endorsed a “central world bank” that “regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges, as do the national central banks.” It spoke of “the need for a minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market which has grown much more rapidly than the real economy.”

A “world political authority,” a euphemism for a world government, was endorsed in Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), a papal encyclical issued by Pope Benedict, who was considered “conservative” by some. The new global structure is supposed to “manage the economy,” bring about “timely disarmament,” and ensure “food, security and peace,” his document said.

The Turkson document expanded on this concept, saying, “In a world on its way to rapid globalization, orientation towards a world Authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind. However, it should not be forgotten that this development, given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.”

Hehir and Turkson are scheduled to participate in a major “Catholic peacebuilding” conference in April to commemorate the 50th anniversary of another paper encyclical, Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), and promote a “just world order.” More than a dozen Catholic universities and agencies are involved in the event.

Pacem in Terris called for world disarmament under the auspices of the United Nations and other global institutions. It said, “Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.”

It also declared “[o]ur earnest wish that the United Nations Organization may be able progressively to adapt its structure and methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks.”

All of this fits in perfectly with the global approach of the Obama Administration. Obama himself talked of a “world without nuclear weapons,” while his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, was involved in the “Global Zero” approach that would eventually dismantle the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Not surprisingly, another scheduled speaker at the upcoming “peacebuilding” conference is Stephen Schneck, the “Catholics for Obama” operative who serves as director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. He had invited Cardinal Turkson and former AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney to one of his own left-wing conferences at CUA.

It looks like Stephen Schneck may have since dropped off the conference program , but a look at just a few other speakers confirms the concerns:

  • Scott Appleby (Notre Dame): said the Nobel committee chose “brilliantly” in selecting Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize.. He said, “consider a president who acknowledges human dignity based not on color, faith or citizenship, but inherent in our common humanity. Decidedly not a man who closes his eyes and ears to evil.”  How about the dignity of human life and the evil of abortion? Appleby also supported the decision of Notre Dame to have Obama as their commencement speaker in 2009.
  • John Carr (former Executive Director, USCCB Dept. of Justice, Peace & Human Development, now at Harvard’s Kennedy School): This piece, “The Scandal of John Carr at the USCCB” reports, “Mr. Carr has, while serving the USCCB, also chaired the board of the Center for Community Change, not to mention other leadership positions with this progressive, pro-abortion political group. During this time, the USCCB awarded $150,000 to the Center for Community Change through a 2001 Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) grant, promotes the group on its website, and has exchanged speakers at various events. Furthermore, at least 31 other CCHD grantees have worked with the Center, giving the Center’s political work unofficial but very substantial support from a powerful Catholic body.”
  • Fr. Drew Christiansen (editor of America magazine): This article describes how USCCB leaders clashed with America magazine over America’s criticism of the bishops’ strategy forcefully opposing the HHS contraception mandate.  America magazine apparently thinks the HHS mandate, though imperfect, fulfills Catholic social teaching and preserves the common good, and that the U.S. bishops were overreaching and being too political by threatening lawsuits and demanding the mandate be rescinded. Bishop William E. Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the USCCB’s Ad-Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, complained that the magazine’s editorial board believes the bishops are at their best when they speak in generalities and “go along to get along…Maybe Moses wasn’t at his best when he confronted Pharaoh. Maybe the Good Shepherd was a bit off his game when he confronted the rulers of his day.”

Not to be forgotten is this overview of Fr. Hehir’s history from “The Eminence Grise“, summarized with this passage:

 “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.

Many people have told Cardinal O’Malley he should remove Hehir. Yet he remains–with more power and influence than the Vicar General, Bishop Deeley. Hehir helps consolidate power in the Terry Donilon/Rasky Baerlein/Jack Connors coalition, does his best to thwart efforts around spreading the authentic truths and moral teachings of the Catholic faith, and ensures the continued inefficacy of the Mass Catholic Conference and or any efforts to communicate Catholic moral views in the public square and political process. And unlike diocesan priests who are paid about $42K/year with limited benefits, Hehir is paid an estimated $200K/year as a professor at Harvard (average full professor salary is $203K) with full pension and medical benefits.
BCI thinks Fr. Hehir should at last be set loose from his official Cabinet secretary role and duties. He can continue to collect his big paycheck from Harvard, but not sully the name of the Boston Archdiocese with his public excursions into left-leaning politics. We further suggest he be assigned as a parish parochial vicar in an inner city area such as Roxbury, Lawrence, or Chelsea where he can practice social justice much more effectively than living in the rectory at St. John’s in the affluent town of Wellesley.  Email this post to Vicar General Bishop Deeley at

11 Responses to The Politics of Fr. Bryan Hehir

  1. Alice Slattery says:

    Are we to draw the conclusion that Fr. Hehir fully supported Vivian Soper’s activities when she played a major role in choosing who would be invited in the leadership development of the Companions program which was advertised in Fr. Earley’s(St.Thomas of Villanova) and Fr. Cuenin’s(Or Lady Help of Christians) parish bulletins as the “outreach” for the Boston Archdiocese towards people and family and friends of men and women engaging in same-sex sexual behavior in 1999/2000? Fortunately Bishop Murphy listened to John Hass and put a stop to this pro-same-sex sex advocacy or else it would still be funded by Catholic Charities through the efforts of Vivian Soper who played a major role in the development of this dissident effort. Are efforts like this still being carried out under the cover of “charity” in the Boston Archdiocese?
    Is this why so few Catholics in the archdiocese are left in the dark about the true outreach through the Courage/EnCourage program?

  2. NY Catholic says:

    Fr. Hehir recently gave a talk at Fordham where he touched on the issue of abortion:

    “You have to make a presumption that a developing fetal life should be protected from conception,” he said. “The taking of fetal life is at the center of public order.”

    Father Hehir seemed well aware of the political realities of overturning Roe v. Wade, and said that setting limits to abortion could run concurrent to that effort, but that the church should tread carefully.

    “We have to watch what kind of limits we set so that we are seen to be protecting life and not being vindictive to women,” he said.

    I don’t know what he means. Exactly what kind of limits does Fr. Hehir think we should set regarding protecting life? Either you protect life starting from conception, or you don’t, right? This modernist relativism drives me nuts!

    • Stephen says:

      A Heretical Modernist if there ever was one.
      “… make a presumption…” (take things ‘as if’ they are true VS recognizing dogmatic teaching on the sanctity of human life) “…developing fetal life…” (don’t say baby, NEVER say baby!)
      “…so that we are seen to be…” (because to be ‘seen’ is what it is all about – style over substance)

      These heretics are ‘seen to be Catholic’ they are not.

  3. aged parent says:

    Father Hehir is merely laughable. What is not laughable is his continuing to masquerade as a Catholic priest and the toleration of his insufferable rubbish by higher Authority.

  4. soundingboard says:

    The last thing needed is Father Hehir to be sent out into the inner cities as a parochial vicar! There is already so much confusion and turmoil in these kids’ lives! They need good solid priests to try to reach out and help them and their families, not someone who “speaks out of both sides of his mouth” twisting the truth and leading so many astray….God help him and our Archdiocese which is so in need of a purging! We surely are a mess but we have been blessed with some good and dedicated priests, so there is still hope!

    Keep up your good work, shining light on the evil. Maybe our new Pope will be able to help set things straight with many of the wayward bishops in this country who want to do things “their way”
    instead of God’s way….

  5. Michael says:

    Is he the same Hehir who Fr. Tom DiLorenzo caught saying things he wished he hadn’t said on a phone call during a talk Fr. Tom gave (on YouTube). Fr. Tom called Hehir right in the middle of the talk – Afterward, Hehir denied that he was the other voice on the phone call. Funny because his voice is so distinct that his denial is not credible.

  6. Catholic businessman says:

    I find this piece that quotes Fr. Hehir about the election of Pope Francis to be interesting:

    The articles says Hehir said more or less:

    When the charismatic Pope John Paul II first stepped out onto that loggia overlooking Saint Peter’s Square right after he was chosen to lead the church, “he overwhelmed the crowd.” When scholarly Pope Benedict XVI ventured onto the balcony, “he taught the crowd,’’ and when humble Pope Francis “stepped onto that platform,’’ Hehir said, “he related to the crowd.”


    The article continues:

    Who will surround Francis at the Vatican? And specifically, who will serve as his secretary of state — in effect, as his prime minister? Nothing in the former Jorge Bergoglio’s background suggests a CEO pope in the making, and the new pontiff has no track record on the abuse issue.

    “He will not be able to fix things by himself,’’ Hehir told the class. No one could, of course. “And as you know from this school, good government is about choosing those around us.”

    >>>Yes. What does it say that Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley has chosen the likes of Fr. Bryan Hehir and Jack Connors to be around him?!

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