Obama In Catholic Cathedral Pulpit
An interfaith service was held at Boston’s Catholic Holy Cross Cathedral on April 18, 2013, dedicated to those affected by the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended, and President Obama spoke at the gathering.
Pros and Cons
The pros and cons of giving President Obama the pulpit in an American Catholic Cathedral can and will be argued, particularly by Catholics.
The use of a Catholic Church for public prayer at a time when Boston turns to God is a very powerful and appropriate symbol of the universality of the Catholic Church, and of its predominance in America and in the world. The Catholic Church is the largest religious denomination in Boston, in Massachusetts, in the United States, and until, recently, in the world.
- 45% of Boston is Catholic
- 44% of Massachusettes is Catholic
- 24% of Americans are Catholic
- Islam just outnumbered Catholics worldwide in 2008
However, giving America’s most radically pro-abortion President who supports the redefinition of marriage and of family, and who has spearheaded the violation of the religious freedom of Catholics in the United States, giving this President the pulpit in a Catholic Cathedral from which he can spread his dubious theology is also a contestable choice.
On President Obama’s violation of the religious freedom of Catholics:
- August 1st, 2012 – Day of Infamy
- July 4th or Obama’s Independence Day Gift to America – a Trojan Horse
- What’s in a Mandate?
- To My Friends Who Are Democrats
Not surprisingly, prior to the interfaith service, the wisdom of letting President Obama take the pulpit at Holy Cross Cathedral was questioned by many.
Catholics asked themselves whether the Catholic Church’s customary role as mankind’s intermediary with God would be exercised through this arrangement, or whether the Catholic Church and her teachings would be debased by the presence of Barack Obama in the pulpit. The same Barack Obama, who 6 days later became the first US President to speak at Planned Parenthood, where he ended his speech by invoking God’s blessings on Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood performs 1/3 million abortions per year, and receives over half a billion federal dollars annually towards that effort. Six out of ten Americans oppose federal funding of abortion (3 of 10 approve). Abortion is a much bigger deal than most think.
The key to what would happen at the interfaith prayer service, whether it would facilitate a beautiful ecumenical lifting of souls to God, or whether it would resemble more a cheap political stunt debasing the Catholic Church, would lie in what each of the two men, Cardinal O’Malley and President Obama, said while standing in the pulpit.
As it turns out, neither man went to any heroic or shocking extremes, and it is not clear to this Catholic whether the use of Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral for this purpose was appropriate.
Other faiths, in including Islam, were also represented at the prayer service. Mercifully, the choice of Islam representative was corrected in the nick of time, before an Imam from a Muslim Brotherhood-linked Mosque ended up in the pulpit of Holy Cross Cathedral.
What Did the Cardinal and the President Say from the Pulpit?
For text of Cardinal O’Malley’s homily, scroll down below.
In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley did somewhat courageously mentioned the culture of death, abortion, the devaluation of human life, and the need for steering clear of revenge. These subjects reflect Catholic Church teaching, and are relevant and appropriate to the Boston Marathon tragedy. Cardinal O’Malley’s role as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities made him an ideal spokesman on these issues.
Other comments made by the Cardinal must have reflected his more personal views. Cardial O’Malley voiced his disappointment over insufficient gun control, and made almost friendly, or at least neutral references to the Communist Party and to “community building,” a phrase that has taken on somewhat progressive political connotations in recent years. The Catholic Church takes no position on gun control or on “community building,” but it does tread cautiously where Communism is concerned:
Paragraph 2425: The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.”208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.
The text of President Obama’s address is also provided below; scroll down.
Mercifully, President Obama refrained from commenting on hot-button issues, and did nothing shocking like asking God to bless the dismemberment of unborn and accidentally born infants at Planned Parenthood. He did not push his views directly, as he had done at the recent dedication of the George W. Bush Library, where he had promoted his immigration views.
The President’s speech also reflected the his global world view, including a somewhat personal perspective.
President Obama’s assured Boston that those who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing would face justice. He said that Americans always “come together to celebrate life,” and referred to the source of American strength. According to the President, our American strength comes from our faith in each other. President Obama said that Boston is “the perfect state of grace,” and that the political and religious leaders of Boston, as well as the people of Boston, are the source of grace.
The President’s focus on people (instead of God) as the source of faith, of grace and of justice, was disconcerting. Religious Americans usually consider God to be the source of faith, grace and justice. Non-religious Americans generally avoid discussing faith and grace altogether, and struggle to agree on what constitutes justice.
So the President’s use of terms like the “state of grace” in a secular context made his intent somewhat obscure.
The President did reference God several times, as the source of our power, love, and self-discipline, as one Who holds close those who died, Who comforts their families, and Who will continue to watch over the United States.
The President seemed to have no understanding of the irony of his comments regarding “celebrating life,” or “visiting death upon innocents” in Boston. As President, he must know that half of his nation opposes abortion and two thirds of us oppose its federal funding. So to speak of “celebrating life” and “death of innocents” in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy, while failing to show any compassion for the 1 million annual innocent lives lost to abortion, and failing to comment on the horror stories of the Gosnell abortion clinic trial and scandal, was bound to antagonize much of the President’s audience.
Text of Cardinal O’Malley’s homily:
Jesus said “they will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter”; that is what happened to His disciples after the Crucifixion, as they scattered in fear, doubt and panic.
This week we are all scattered by the pain and horror of the senseless violence perpetrated on Patriots Day. Last Sunday at the 11:30 Mass here at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Fr. O’Leary led a special blessing for the many runners who participated in the Mass. Some people here were among those injured and those who witnessed the terrible events that unfolded at the finish line of the Marathon, but everyone was profoundly affected by the wanton violence and destruction inflicted upon our community by two young men unknown to all of us.
It is very difficult to understand what was going on in the young men’s minds, what demons were operative, what ideologies or politics or the perversion of their religion. It was amazing to witness, however, how much goodness and generosity were evidenced in our community as a result of the tragic events they perpetrated.
It reminds me of a passage in Dorothy Day’s autobiography where she speaks about experiencing a serious earthquake in California when she was a young girl. Suddenly neighbors that never spoke were helping each other, sharing their food and water, caring for children and the elderly. She was amazed and delighted, but a few weeks later people retreated to their former individualism and indifference.
Dorothy Day spent the rest of her life looking to recapture the spirit of community. That led her to the Communist Party and eventually it led her into the Catholic Church and to found the Catholic Worker Movement, dedicating herself to the care of the homeless, the drug addict
This past week we have experienced a surge in civic awareness and sense of community. It has been inspiring to see the generous and at times heroic responses to the Patriots Day violence. Our challenge is to keep this spirit of community alive going forward. As people of faith, we must commit ourselves to the task of community building.
Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that we must care for each other, especially the most vulnerable; the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the foreigner; all have a special claim on our love. We must be a people of reconciliation, not revenge. The crimes of the two young men must not be the justification for prejudice against Muslims and against immigrants.
The Gospel is the antidote to the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” mentality. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the story about helping one’s neighbor when that neighbor was from an enemy tribe, a foreign religion, a hostile group. The Samaritan cuts through centuries of antipathy by seeing in the Jewish man who had been beaten and left for dead not a stranger or an enemy, but a fellow human being who has a claim of his humanity and compassion.
We know so little about the two young men who perpetrated these heinous acts of violence. One said he had no friends in this country, the other said his chief interests were money and his career. People need to be part of a community to lead a fully human life. As believers one of our tasks is to build community, to value people more than money or things, to recognize in each person a child of God, made in the image and likeness of our Creator.
The individualism and alienation of our age has spawned a culture of death. Over a million abortions a year is one indication of how human life has been devalued. Violent entertainment, films and video games have coarsened us and made us more insensitive to the pain and suffering of others. The inability of the Congress to enact laws that control access to automatic weapons is emblematic of the pathology of our violent culture.
When Pope John Paul II visited Madrid in 2003, addressing one million young people, he told them; “Respond to the blind violence and inhuman hatred with the fascinating power of love.” We all know that evil has its fascination and attraction but too often we lose sight of the fact that love and goodness also have the power to attract and that virtue is winsome. Passing on the faith means helping people to lead a good life, a moral life, a just life. Thus part of our task as believers is to help our people become virtuous.
Plato thought that virtue was knowledge. As Chain Ginott, the concentration camp survivor, reminds us, doctors, nurses, scientists and soldiers were part of the Holocaust machinery, showing that knowledge is not virtue, and often science and technology have been put at the service of evil. It is only a culture of life and an ethic of love that can rescue us from the senseless violence that inflicts so much suffering on our society.
Like Christ our Good Shepherd, we who aspire to be Jesus’ disciples and to follow His way of life, we too must work to gather the scattered, to draw people into Christ’s community. It is in His Gospel that we find the answers to the questions of life and the challenging ideals that are part of discipleship; mercy, forgiveness, self sacrifice, service, justice and truth.
John Lennon once said, ‘Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.’ Our faith goes beyond that optimism. Love is stronger than death. We are going to live forever in the Resurrection Christ won for us on the Cross. The innocent victims who perished this week; Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Officer Sean Collier, will live in eternity. Life is not ended, merely changed – that is the message of Easter. As Martin Luther King expressed, ‘Death is a comma, not a period at the end of a sentence.’
Although the culture of death looms large, our Good Shepherd rose from the grave on Easter and His light can expel the darkness and illuminate for us a path that leads to life, to a civilization of solidarity and love. I hope that the events of this past week have taught us how high the stakes are. We must build a civilization of love, or there will be no civilization at all.
Text of President Obama’s Address:
Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Run with endurance the race that is set before us.
On Monday morning, the sun rose over Boston. The sunlight glistened off the Statehouse dome. In the Common and the Public Garden, spring was in bloom. On this Patriot’s Day, like so many before, fans jumped onto the T to see the Sox at Fenway. In Hopkinton, runners laced up their shoes and set out on a 26.2-mile test of dedication and grit and the human spirit. And across this city, hundreds of thousands of Bostonians lined the streets — to hand the runners cups of water and to cheer them on.
It was a beautiful day to be in Boston — a day that explains why a poet once wrote that this town is not just a capital, not just a place. Boston, he said, “is the perfect state of grace.”
And then, in an instant, the day’s beauty was shattered. A celebration became a tragedy. And so we come together to pray, and mourn, and measure our loss. But we also come together today to reclaim that state of grace — to reaffirm that the spirit of this city is undaunted, and the spirit of this country shall remain undimmed.
To Governor Patrick; Mayor Menino; Cardinal O’Malley and all the faith leaders who are here; Governors Romney, Swift, Weld and Dukakis; members of Congress; and most of all, the people of Boston and the families who’ve lost a piece of your heart. We thank you for your leadership. We thank you for your courage. We thank you for your grace.
I’m here today on behalf of the American people with a simple message: Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands with you.
Because, after all, it’s our beloved city, too. Boston may be your hometown, but we claim it, too. It’s one of America’s iconic cities. It’s one of the world’s great cities. And one of the reasons the world knows Boston so well is that Boston opens its heart to the world.
Over successive generations, you’ve welcomed again and again new arrivals to our shores — immigrants who constantly reinvigorated this city and this commonwealth and our nation. Every fall, you welcome students from all across America and all across the globe, and every spring you graduate them back into the world — a Boston diaspora that excels in every field of human endeavor. Year after year, you welcome the greatest talents in the arts and science, research — you welcome them to your concert halls and your hospitals and your laboratories to exchange ideas and insights that draw this world together.
And every third Monday in April, you welcome people from all around the world to the Hub for friendship and fellowship and healthy competition — a gathering of men and women of every race and every religion, every shape and every size; a multitude represented by all those flags that flew over the finish line.
So whether folks come here to Boston for just a day, or they stay here for years, they leave with a piece of this town tucked firmly into their hearts. So Boston is your hometown, but we claim it a little bit, too
I know this because there’s a piece of Boston in me. You welcomed me as a young law student across the river; welcomed Michelle, too. You welcomed me during a convention when I was still a state senator and very few people could pronounce my name right.
Like you, Michelle and I have walked these streets. Like you, we know these neighborhoods. And like you, in this moment of grief, we join you in saying — “Boston, you’re my home.” For millions of us, what happened on Monday is personal. It’s personal.
Today our prayers are with the Campbell family of Medford. They’re here today. Their daughter, Krystle, was always smiling. Those who knew her said that with her red hair and her freckles and her ever-eager willingness to speak her mind, she was beautiful, sometimes she could be a little noisy, and everybody loved her for it. She would have turned 30 next month. As her mother said through her tears, “This doesn’t make any sense.”
Our prayers are with the Lu family of China, who sent their daughter, Lingzi, to BU so that she could experience all this city has to offer. She was a 23-year-old student, far from home. And in the heartache of her family and friends on both sides of a great ocean, we’re reminded of the humanity that we all share.
Our prayers are with the Richard family of Dorchester — to Denise and their young daughter, Jane, as they fight to recover. And our hearts are broken for 8-year-old Martin — with his big smile and bright eyes. His last hours were as perfect as an 8-year-old boy could hope for — with his family, eating ice cream at a sporting event. And we’re left with two enduring images of this little boy — forever smiling for his beloved Bruins, and forever expressing a wish he made on a blue poster board: “No more hurting people. Peace.”
No more hurting people. Peace.
Our prayers are with the injured -— so many wounded, some gravely. From their beds, some are surely watching us gather here today. And if you are, know this: As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again. You will run again.
Because that’s what the people of Boston are made of. Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act. If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us from those values that Deval described, the values that make us who we are, as Americans — well, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it. Not here in Boston. Not here in Boston.
You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We’ll choose friendship. We’ll choose love.
Scripture teaches us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” And that’s the spirit you’ve displayed in recent days.
When doctors and nurses, police and firefighters and EMTs and Guardsmen run towards explosions to treat the wounded — that’s discipline.
When exhausted runners, including our troops and veterans — who never expected to see such carnage on the streets back home — become first responders themselves, tending to the injured — that’s real power.
When Bostonians carry victims in their arms, deliver water and blankets, line up to give blood, open their homes to total strangers, give them rides back to reunite with their families — that’s love.
That’s the message we send to those who carried this out and anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And, yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable. But more than that; our fidelity to our way of life — to our free and open society — will only grow stronger. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but one of power and love and self-discipline.
Like Bill Iffrig, 78 years old — the runner in the orange tank top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast — we may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race. In the words of Dick Hoyt, who’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, in 31 Boston Marathons — “We can’t let something like this stop us.” This doesn’t stop us.
And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us — to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race.
And we do that because of who we are. And we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think that we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall. We know that.
And that’s what the perpetrators of such senseless violence — these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important — that’s what they don’t understand. Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be — that is our power. That’s our strength.
That’s why a bomb can’t beat us. That’s why we don’t hunker down. That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love — and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life, and to walk our cities, and to cheer for our teams. When the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again — to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans — the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street.
And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.
Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston. Tomorrow, the sun will rise over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace.
Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” As we do, may God hold close those who’ve been taken from us too soon. May He comfort their families. And may He continue to watch over these United States of America.
Additional Details on the Interfaith Service
A more detailed description of the Holy Cross Cathedral interfaith service can be found in the National Catholic Register: