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Boston Globe and Boston Herald coverage of Catholic Action League protest of 2013 Boston College graduation

POSTED: May 29, 2013

Articles and Letters (below):

May 10 - Globe article: Boston College defends choice of speaker for commencement

May 10 - Globe article: Cardinal O’Malley says he’ll boycott BC graduation

May 14 - Globe Editorial: Boston College standing by its invitation

May 14 - Globe column: O’Malley’s reasoning on BC graduation boycott is flawed (Kevin Cullen)

May 25 - Globe Letter: Swipe at Catholic Action League off the mark (C.J. Doyle)

May 14 - Herald column: O'Malley goes one step too far (Marjorie Eagan)

May 23 - Herald Letter: Eagan off on Ireland (C.J. Doyle)

NOTE: Past Boston Globe and Boston Herald articles are sometimes difficult to access

Boston College defends choice of speaker for commencement

By Katherine Landergan, Boston Globe
May 10, 2013

Amid criticism from a conservative local Catholic group, Boston College reaffirmed Thursday its decision to invite the Irish prime minister to be its commencement speaker.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been under fire in Ireland for supporting legislation that would permit abortions if there is a real and substantive threat to the mother’s life, including from suicide.

Earlier this week, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts assailed the school’s decision and circulated a statement urging Catholics to express their outrage over Kenny’s ­selection. The statement provides contact information for several officials, including BC president William P. Leahy and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

C. J. Doyle, executive director of the advocacy group, said he has received a great ­response from Catholic groups around the country.

“How does any rational person reasonably take seriously the Catholic opposition to abortion when a Catholic institution honors someone who is in the process of legalizing abortion in their country,” said Doyle, a BC graduate. “This is a terrible scandal.”

BC spokesman Jack Dunn defended the choice, saying the school selected Kenny to celebrate its heritage and relationship with Ireland.

“Boston College invited Prime Minister Kenny a year ago to speak at our commencement in light of our longstanding connection with Ireland and our desire to recognize and celebrate our heritage,” he said in a phone interview. “Our invitation is independent of the proposed bill that will be debated in the Irish Parliament this summer.”

The college is scheduled to award Kenny a doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, which will be held May 20 at Alumni Stadium. The criticism of ­Kenny was first reported by the Irish Times.

Irish bishops have spoken out against the legislation, calling it “a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”

“It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person,” they said in a statement earlier this month.

But Kenny has said the measure would clarify Ireland’s strict abortion laws, not alter them.

“This bill restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland,” Kenny told reporters this month.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Cardinal O’Malley says he’ll boycott BC graduation

Opposes invitation to Irish PM, who backs some abortion rights

By Travis Andersen and John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
May 10, 2013

The controversy over Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland, who supports narrow abortion rights legislation in his country, speaking at Boston College’s commencement took a dramatic turn Friday when the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston declared that he will not attend the ceremony.

The announcement from Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley upped the ante in a ­debate that earlier in the week had pitted BC against the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, a group that opposes abortion rights and had strongly criticized the university for inviting Kenny.

The Irish legislation would permit abortions if there is a real and substantive threat to the mother’s life, including from suicide.

In a statement, O’Malley said US bishops have urged Catholic institutions not to honor government officials who “promote abortion” with their policies.

“Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach [prime minister] has not seen fit to ­decline, I shall not attend the graduation,’’ O’Malley said. “It is my ardent hope that Boston College will work to redress the confusion, disappointment, and harm caused by not adhering to the bishops’ directives.’’

By tradition, the Boston archbishop delivers the final benediction at BC’s commencement each year. The university is scheduled to award Kenny an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, which will be held May 20 at Alumni Stadium.
“I assure the graduates that they are in my prayers on this important day in their lives,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

“I assure the graduates that they are in my prayers on this important day in their lives,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

“Although I shall not be present to impart the final benediction, I assure the graduates that they are in my prayers on this important day in their lives,” O’Malley said. “I pray that their studies will prepare them to be heralds of the Church’s social gospel and ‘men and women for others,’ especially for the most vulnerable in our midst.”

Jack Dunn, a spokesman for BC, defended the college’s choice for the second time this week, saying Friday that Kenny was invited because of the school’s close ties to Ireland.

Dunn added in his statement that BC, as a Catholic university, “supports the church’s commitment to the life of the unborn.”

“Prime Minister Kenny has encouraged individuals to read the bill and his position statement, which reaffirms the constitutional prohibition on abortion in Ireland and attempts to clarify and regulate Ireland’s ­response to the ruling of the ­European Court of Human Rights,” Dunn said.

Kenny’s press aides did not return e-mails seeking comment Friday.

Dunn also said that BC ­respects O’Malley and regrets that he will not attend.

The head of the Catholic ­Action League praised O’Malley in a brief phone interview Friday.

“We’re delighted,” said C. J. Doyle, the group’s executive ­director. “We commend the cardinal for his forthright and ­unambiguous statement.”

Doyle, a BC alumnus, added that the controversy is “not the first scandal and betrayal [of church teachings] to afflict BC and probably won’t be the last.” He said that he hopes O’Malley will “perhaps contribute to the reform of that institution.”

In March, BC threatened to take disciplinary measures against a group of students who were distributing condoms from their dormitory rooms, calling the act a violation of the univeristy’s mission as a Catholic institution.

Last spring, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and an abortion rights supporter, spoke at the BC Law School commencement, despite protests from some Catholics.

The cardinal’s decision, while welcomed by the Action League, drew criticism from one student leader. Stephanie Rice, a BC senior and president of the College Democrats of Boston College, spoke out against O’Malley’s move to skip commencement.

“I am deeply disappointed that Cardinal O’Malley has chosen to politicize what should be a day of celebrating the four years of hard work and learning that I and my classmates have experienced at Boston College,” Rice said in a statement.

“In my time here at BC, we have been taught to respect and understand the value of a diversity of opinions, and I am proud that those values will be represented at our commencement ceremony by Prime Minister Kenny.”

Marty Walz, president and chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, called Kenny an “appropriate commencement speaker.”

Walz said, “It is disappointing that a measure to provide health care to a woman whose life is in danger would draw protest in Massachusetts.”

Catholic Irish bishops have spoken out against the pending legislation in their country, calling it morally unacceptable.

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said in a recent homily that “we need both to affirm our conviction that abortion is never the solution while at the same time relaunching ­Ireland’s care of mothers and babies,” according to a transcript of his remarks.

But Kenny has said the pending measure would clarify Ireland’s strict abortion laws, not alter them.

The conflict on Kenny’s invitation is not the first time there has been controversy involving BC and the archdiocese over commencement ceremonies.

Some members of the BC community clashed with Cardinal Bernard F. Law a decade earlier. In 2002, a number of students and faculty told the Globe that Law should not attend graduation, in light of the scrutiny he faced for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis.

Travis Andersen can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. John R. Ellement can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.

Editorial: Boston College standing by its invitation

Boston Globe
May 14, 2013

Boston and Ireland enjoy a deep historical kinship. So Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s visit to Boston College for the school’s commencement next week ought to be an honor for the college, and the city.

Unfortunately, his appearance has gotten caught up in controversy about a proposed abortion law in Ireland. Kenny’s willingness to allow abortion in case of serious threats to a mother’s life has caused Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to say he will boycott BC’s graduation, in a break with long-standing tradition.

Heavily Catholic Ireland does not permit abortion, but public opinion was shaken by a heartbreaking case last year when a woman died after she was denied what might have been a life-saving abortion. The Irish Supreme Court has also ruled that women have the right to emergency abortions, a right that Kenny’s proposal would formalize. While abortion is a polarizing issue, protecting the lives of mothers should be a point of common ground.

O’Malley is entitled to avoid Kenny if he wants. But as a Catholic institution, Boston College has to strike a difficult balance, upholding church teachings while providing an open academic environment to a diverse student body. It’s right to refuse to alter its plans to present Kenny with an honorary degree. Kenny’s visit is a credit to the institution, and to its graduates, and that’s where the focus should be next week.

O’Malley’s reasoning on BC graduation boycott is flawed

By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe columnist
May 14, 2013

The only thing I have in common with Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda ­Kenny, besides a sheer, unadulterated love of everything about County Mayo, is that we’ve both incurred the wrath of a group of ­local zealots called the Catholic Action League.

These people would be deeply offensive if they weren’t so deliciously comical. They are self-righteous, self-appointed keepers of the faith, who especially like pointing out that a la carte Catholics — that is, most Catholics, who use contraception, don’t think gay folks are disordered, and believe that people should be allowed to get a ­divorce — do not belong in their church.

I have fallen afoul of the Catholic Action League many times, most recently when I had the audacity to point out that if Jesus Christ came back to earth he would have been appalled by the spectre of the recent papal election, in which more than a few of the cardinals voting amid much pomp and circumstance had protected predatory priests who raped children. I instead lauded four ordinary priests who should be, but never will be pope.

C.J. Doyle, the executive director of the Catholic Action League, took great offense at the column, suggesting in a letter to the editor that I was insulting the intelligence of “faithful Catholics” by trying to pass off my “dissident friends” as “real Catholics.”

That’s the Catholic Action League for you. Keepin’ it real.

Now, you may have heard the Catholic Action League demanded that Boston ­College rescind its invitation to poor Enda Kenny, the taoiseach, or prime minister, of Ireland to attend its commencement ­because he has proposed legislation, on the orders of Ireland’s highest court, that would create an exception to Ireland’s strict prohibition on abortion by making it legal for doctors to abort a fetus if it would save the life of the mother.

Pretty radical stuff, huh?

The caped Crusaders in the Catholic ­Action League love pointing out how hypocritical Catholics who use condoms and don’t chain their heads to parking meters outside abortion clinics are. They are less forthcoming when it comes to pointing out the hypocrisy of the Catholic bishops who will sit and sup at the feet of some of the worst enablers of sexual abuse in history.

Now, one of those bishops, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, also made some news by announcing that he agreed with the Catholic Action League, that he could not in good conscience attend the Boston College graduation next Monday at which the aforementioned Enda Kenny, prime minister of Ireland, is to ­receive an honorary degree and give the commencement speech.

O’Malley accused Kenny of “aggressively promoting abortion legislation,” which is an odd way to describe a democratically elected leader of a republic following the mandatory legal advice of the highest court in the land.

I would be the first guy to defend the cardinal’s right to skip the BC graduation. But his reasoning is embarrassingly flawed and his selectivity in whom he deems ­worthy of his presence is breathtaking in its hypocrisy.

Enda Kenny, as the duly elected prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, has a duty to respond to court decisions ordering his government to find an exception to ­Ireland’s strict prohibition against abortion so that doctors and other health care workers can take steps to save the life of a ­woman in a troubled pregnancy.

Women in Ireland have died because there is no exception to the law. Most recent­ly, it was a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar, a native of ­India who was working as a dentist in Ireland while her husband worked in Galway for the Natick-based firm Boston Scientific. When her husband learned the 17-week-old fetus his wife was carrying was non­viable, he begged the doctors to terminate the pregnancy to save his wife. The doctors pointed at the law, threw up their hands, and said there was nothing they could do.

When Praveen Halappanavar expressed exasperation that no one was lifting a finger to save his dying wife, someone tried to explain it by saying, “This is a Catholic country.”

An inquest last year found that Savita Halappanavar would most likely still be alive if the law in Ireland allowed for an abortion in that circumstance.

I am sure Cardinal O’Malley is sincere in his point of view that abortion is wrong, but I’d like to see him try to convince Praveen Halappanavar that non-Catholics like the Halappanavars have to abide by the Catholic Church’s edicts even if it means the death of a mother carrying a fetus that had no chance at life.

OK, enough of the Kafka­esque stuff. Let’s get back to the hypocrisy stuff.

Cardinal O’Malley won’t share a stage with Enda Kenny, a good man who is personally opposed to abortion but knows that his duty as the elected leader of a sovereign nation is not to impose his personal beliefs but to adhere to the Irish Constitution and the Irish people who embody that Constitution. But, while voting for pope, Cardinal O’Malley had no problem sitting in the same room as Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, who belongs not in the Sistine Chapel but San Quentin for his shameless protection of predatory priests who raped children.

Needless to say, Cardinal O’Malley’s snub of Boston College and Enda Kenny is going down well with the Catholic ­Action League, but it’s also going down well with the Vatican, where the prime minister of Ireland is viewed as a dangerous heretic.

When the clerical sexual abuse crisis exploded in ­Ireland, it was a blast caused by the scandal that unfolded right here in Boston. Irish people ­began demanding answers. The adults who as children were beaten and raped and psychologically ravaged while under the care of priests and brothers and nuns in Catholic orphanages and workhouses demanded justice.

Kenny’s predecessor, Bertie Ahern, indemnified the Catholic Church in Ireland to the tune of $1 billion. So the taxpayers of Ireland, not the Catholic institutions who protected the predators, paid the bulk of the redress handed out to victims.

When Kenny became prime minister, he sounded a different tune. Two years ago, after the release of yet another report that showed how Irish bishops and the Vatican downplayed the rape and torture of Irish children by clerical predators, Enda Kenny found his indignation and his voice. He rose in the Dail, Ireland’s parliament, and accused the Vatican of caring more about maintaining its power than protecting children.

“The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominate the culture of the ­Vatican today,” Kenny said. “The rape and the torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, its standing, and its reputation. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St. Benedict’s ‘ear of the heart,’ the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

The bishops can try to say with a straight face that none of them should take to the stage with Enda Kenny because he is about to propose legislation to legalize abortion in some rare instances, but let’s be honest here: Kenny is hated by the Catholic hierarchy for that aching­ly honest and courageous speech he gave in the Dail in 2011.

Having reread the speech, I don’t think Boston College should be giving Kenny a ­degree. They should be giving him a medal.

Cardinal O’Malley is a very learned man, and he understands logic, and so by his logic I’m assuming he will not be accept­ing any money from all those well-heeled BC alums who are big donors to the archdiocese, because BC gives honorary degrees to people like ­Enda Kenny who want to save the lives of women who might die in difficult pregnancies.

Look, I was always fond of Cardinal O’Malley. I’ve written about him in very positive terms many times. He cares about the poor. But he’s lost me with this one. He and his self-righteous, preening acolytes in the Catholic Action League have staggered so far from reason and logic that it is hard to take any of them seriously anymore.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

Letter: Swipe at Catholic Action League off the mark

Boston Globe, May 25, 2013

Kevin Cullen was so busy hurling insults and invectives at the Catholic Action League that he omitted a few salient facts about Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Ireland’s abortion laws, the core issues in the Boston College commencement controversy (“O’Malley lost me on this,” Metro, May 14).

Cullen, with audacious revisionism, repeatedly refers to an Irish Supreme Court decision that he alleges is forcing the hand of an otherwise pro-life Kenny to loosen Ireland’s prohibition on abortion. What he does not mention is that the decision was rendered in 1992, 21 years ago. The notion that an unoffending Kenny is under some imminent compulsion depriving him of all discretion is meretricious.

The reality is that Kenny, who was elected on a promise not to change abortion laws, is making a political payoff to his coalition partners in the Labor Party, who want legalized abortion in Ireland.

Cullen also invents the unsupported charge that women in Ireland have been dying because of abortion laws. Ireland has one of the world’s lowest maternal mortality rates, and abortion was not an issue until the tragic Savita Halappanavar case, whose death, according to the inquest, was caused by medical misdiagnosis.

Cullen was right about one thing. In too many cases in the past, the church failed to stop the molestation of children. It is a pity, therefore, that Cullen seems to have no understanding of those who want to stop the killing of children before they are born.

C. J. Doyle
Executive director
Catholic Action League of Massachusetts

O'Malley goes one step too far

by Margery Eagan, Boston Herald columnist
May 14, 2013

Good for Boston College for refusing to disinvite Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny as this Sunday’s graduation speaker after Cardinal Sean O’Malley basically told BC: It’s him or me. Well, BC chose Kenny. O’Malley’s staying home. Fantastic. On his blog, O’Malley chastised Kenny as a politician “aggressively promoting abortion legislation.” Hardly. In fact, Kenny is responding to outrage in Ireland over the death last year of a non-Catholic Indian woman who was miscarrying and bleeding heavily, went to the hospital, begged for help for three days but could not get an emergency abortion. She died of blood poisoning.

Think about that for a moment. Savita Halappanavar was carrying a wanted child. But she miscarried, as so many women do. She and her panicked husband desperately sought to save her, and the care she needed was denied.

Kenny’s proposed legislation would not legalize abortion, which is banned under Ireland’s constitution. It would, however, clarify for physicians when a mother’s deteriorating health warrants an intervention to save her. Yet this very legislation is what O’Malley, on his blog, calls a “dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”

In fact, again, Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortion must be legal in cases where the mother’s life — not health, but life — is at risk. But between then and now, five governments have refused to pass laws supporting that ruling, fearing backlash from the powerful Catholic Church and Catholic voters. Kenny, courageously, has decided to act to save women’s lives. O’Malley’s response: He cannot sit on a graduation stage with a man such as Kenny.

There’s another layer to this story. University of New Hampshire Catholic scholar Michele Dillon told me yesterday that Kenny two years ago stunned Ireland by publicly blasting the Vatican for its cover-up of sexual abuse by Irish priests.

“Even today, Ireland is extremely deferential to the bishops,” she said. “So the language he used was stunning, unprecedented.” And widely approved in a country sickened by an abuse epidemic. It’s unclear whether BC chose the controversial Kenny because he’s taken on the Vatican. What is clear is that the O’Malley honeymoon is over for those of us who rooted for him when he made the short list for pope, who were proud to see him preside at the funerals of marathon victims Krystle Campbell and MIT police officer Sean Collier, and who were hopeful about the break from the hierarchy’s typical bashing of gays, women and all things sexual.

Well, that’s all over now.

Letter: Eagan off on Ireland

Boston Herald, May 23, 2013

Margery Eagan parrots the party line of pro-abortion activists and says that Savita Halapanavar, an Indian immigrant to Ireland, died in an Irish hospital because she was denied an abortion.

The coronor's inquest found the cause of her death to be "medical misadventure" -- an aggregatio of mistakes and misdiagnoses -- and made nine recommendations, only one of which was clarifying existing abortion legislation. Under current Irish law, steps can be to save the life of the mother even if it leads, indirectly, to the death of the unborn child.