Boston cardinal to boycott graduation over honors to Irish official

Boston, Mass., May 10, 2013 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Séan O'Malley announced that he would not attend the commencement of Boston College due to an honorary degree Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will receive at graduation.

According to a May 10 statement from the cardinal, “Mr. Kenny is aggressively promoting abortion legislation” in Ireland.

“Because the Gospel of Life is the centerpiece of the Church’s social doctrine and because we consider abortion a crime against humanity,” Cardinal O’Malley explained, “the Catholic Bishops of the United States have asked that Catholic institutions not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and 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“Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach (prime minister) has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation,” the cardinal added.

In addition to serving as the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley also serves as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

On April 25, Boston College, a Catholic Jesuit university in Boston, announced that it would host Kenny as its commencement speaker and award the Irish Prime Minister an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at its May 20 graduation ceremony. On May 9, the college reaffirmed its commitment to having Kenny as its speaker following condemnation from various pro-life groups within the Boston area and across the country.

Traditionally, the archbishop of Boston delivers a closing benediction during the commencement ceremony.

Kenny and his party has been advancing legislation that would legalize abortion when the mother’s life is in danger – including when the mother threatens suicide.

Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland, and both Kenny and his party, Fine Gael, had previously promised not to advance abortion legislation. Kenny has hinted that pro-life members of parliament who vote against the legislation may be expelled from the party.

Kenny has claimed to reporters that the legislation “ restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland,” and merely places into law an earlier Irish Supreme Court ruling that permitted abortion in such cases. However, critics note that the lack of a gestational age limit means that abortion would be available on-demand to any woman in Ireland who raises the threat of suicide.

As currently proposed, the law also lacks conscience protections for doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, and would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

Irish bishops have criticized the legislation in a May 3 statement, calling it “a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.” They also note that the legislation, if approved, would “make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful.”

Cardinal O’Malley has also criticized the legislation, saying in a May 10  interview with the Catholic Herald that abortion “is the taking of an innocent human life” and that “everyone should resist” it.

The cardinal noted that while Ireland has had the “good fortune” to “have been opposed to abortion despite the great pressure that they have come under from secularizing forces,” he hopes “that Ireland will continue to stand up against the pressures” to advance abortion within the country.

“Pressure to legislate for abortion is a dehumanizing force in our world,” Cardinal O’Malley added.

In his May 10 statement, the cardinal said he was “sure that the invitation was made in good faith, long before” Kenny’s legislative actions “Came to the attention of the leadership of Boston College.”

Boston College Spokesman Jack Dunn said to the Boston Globe on May 10 that the school “invited Prime Minister Kenny a year ago” and chose him “in light of our long-standing connection with Ireland and our desire to recognize and celebrate our heritage.” Dunn also said that the decision to invite Kenny is “independent” of the proposed legislation.

The cardinal offered his “ardent hope that Boston College will work to redress the confusion, disappointment and harm caused by not adhering to the Bishops' directives,” and resolve the situation.

Adding that while he will not be able to give the final benediction, “I assure the graduates that they are in my prayers on this important day in their lives, and 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.”

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