The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is hosting an interfaith prayer service on Thursday at 11am in memory of the victims of Monday’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing. President Obama is headlining the event. Gov. Deval Patrick, and Boston Mayor Tom Menino will be there, along with Cardinal O’Malley.
We absolutely need to pray for the victims of this evil act. Within hours after the blast, Cardinal O’Malley issued a statement, “The Archdiocese of Boston joins all people of good will in expressing deep sorrow following the senseless acts of violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon today.” The 8-year-old boy who died in the blast was identified as Martin Richard, whose family belongs to St. Ann Catholic Parish in Dorchester. His mother and sister were seriously injured.
It also makes sense to promote a message of hope in response to the tragedy to those who are both Catholic and of other faiths. Cardinal O’Malley also said in his statement, “We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.” Hopefully, people across the country are praying in their own places of worship and according to their respective faiths.
It also is understandable that President Obama, Gov. Patrick, Mayor Menino, and Cardinal O’Malley would make public appearances in support of the victims, their families and all who are affected by the horror of what happened on Monday.
But this headline news is troubling: “Obama to Lead Interfaith Service in South End on Thursday.” Despite the good intentions, an “interfaith prayer service” headlined by President Obama at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross just feels bad for a number of reasons–practical, political and spiritual.
On a practical basis, one obvious concern as stated at The Tenth Crusade is that instead of looking for the murderer, police power and resources now shift to a Presidential appearance.
Politically, although it is appropriate for the President of the United States to make an appearance in Boston to offer condolences and support, the effect will likely be a political boost to his popularity. And he is doing so in a Catholic Church and the Mother Church of the Boston Archdiocese with the permission, support and imprimatur of Cardinal O’Malley.
We have Obama as no doubt the most anti-Catholic President in history–he is pro-abortion and favors the killing of children in the womb, and his HHS mandate threatens religious freedom for the Catholic Church, Catholic organizations, and any business or organization that operates with Catholic values. Under Obama, the U.S. Army Reserves recently published a training brief on “Extremism & Extremist Organization,” (covering militias, neo-Nazis, Islamic extremism, terrorism and gangs) which listed Catholicism and evangelical Christianity as examples of religious extremism, along with groups including al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan. His actions–and those of his administration–give the very clear message that he hates the Catholic Church and opposes our teachings and moral values. Despite this, on Thursday, we will have the most pro-abortion anti-Catholic president in history, appearing with one of the most pro-abortion governors in the country and the pro-abortion Mayor of Boston, complemented nicely for photo opps by the chair of the USCCB pro-life committee, Cardinal O’Malley, all talking about the senseless loss of life. What message does this give? When it is the senseless murder of adults it is wrong, but we will forget about the senseless murder of the unborn for today’s photo opp?
More important than the practical and political concerns are the spiritual ones of such an interfaith gathering. As we all know, our church teaches us that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church. This is the dogma of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, which literally means, “outside the church there is no salvation.” This dogma and its infallibility have been reaffirmed on many occasions. Pope Pius IX said in 1854: “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge.”
Given that reality, how it that Cardinal O’Malley can be comfortable with any “common language for us to pray together” representing the breadth of religious traditions in the city that those organizing the service hope to find–and that happening in the Mother Church of the archdiocese ? Those involved as of now include the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and clergy from First Church Cambridge, Old South Church, Trinity Church, Arlington Street Church and First Church Boston.
How can there be a “common language” for prayer amongst Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Protestantism and other faiths?
Is it at any time appropriate for there to be an “interfaith service” in a Catholic Church, let alone the Cathedral? Will the Body of Christ still be reserved in the Sanctuary too?
In this interfaith service, will there be any mention that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Our Lord, and it is necessary to be in it for eternal salvation?
Will there be any mention that the Protestants and people of other faiths in attendance are in error, which could condemn their souls to Hell?
One could argue that gathering people together of all faiths to mourn and pray together is a good thing, and that in this time of tragedy, non-Catholics would not take well to being evangelized by the Catholic Church. Both are valid points and reasons to criticize BCI for this post. But those arguments ignore the fundamental error of the interfaith gathering in a Catholic Church.
To not oppose error, and not instruct people in a charitable and pastorally kind way that they are in error would be to support that error and/or be an accessory to that error. For Catholics who participate, it also risks giving the appearance we are okay with polytheism.
People of all faiths should pray for the victims of the Monday tragedy and for the conversion of the soul of the murderer. If folks want an interfaith gathering to pray for the victims of the horrible tragedy of Monday, that should simply not be in a Catholic Church. And since dialogue with Obama (ie. Notre Dame commencement, the Al Smith Dinner, private negotiations over the HHS mandate) has not moderated his anti-Catholic positions, BCI believes we should not create scandal by having him speak as a featured guest and publicly-acknowledged “leader” of the interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Boston.