Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, has decided to skip this Monday’s commencement ceremony at Boston College (a Catholic university) because the chosen speaker, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenney, supports abortion-rights legislation in Ireland.
The Prime Minister (called a Taoiseach in the Irish governmental system) is working to draft legislation protecting doctors from prosecution for performing abortions when a mother’s life will be endangered for any reason, including threat of suicide. He has insisted all along that the bill being debated in Ireland’s parliament does not actually change existing abortion laws; it merely “provides certainty” for doctors who need to know they will not be punished for deciding to perform life-saving abortions.
It was this kind of certainty that was missing in the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died from an infection after doctors refused to remove her miscarrying fetus so long as it still had a heartbeat. Fear of prosecution led doctors to await the fetus’ natural death before removing it, at Savita’s expense — a decision that is considered at odds with the principles of patient-centered obstetrics.
Nonetheless, Archbishop O’Malley sees fit to boycott the commencement in protest of the Taoiseach’s work to clarify abortion laws, noting that abortion is “a crime against humanity” in the eyes of the Church. He notes that:
Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation. 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. 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 of 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.
He means fetuses, of course, and seems to ignore the likelihood that Savita Halappanavar, in her last moments, was probably pretty darn vulnerable.
Interestingly, O’Malley’s response has apparently angered the Irish government, who thought they had reached an arrangement with the Archbishop: O’Malley would skip the ceremony, but give a plausible reason not related to the Taoiseach’s pro-choice views, deftly avoiding the kind of publicity that would lead to major pro-life protests outside the commencement hall.
It’s hard to imagine that Boston College isn’t similarly peeved; after all, by publicly condemning Enda Kenny’s legislative efforts, O’Malley has boosted the likelihood of uncomfortable confrontations at an event that’s meant to celebrate students’ academic achievements. Nonetheless, the school’s administrators have chosen an even-handed response, observing that, while they will miss the Archbishop’s presence, they look forward to hearing the Taoiseach’s commencement address.