Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley is “boycotting” the Boston College graduation ceremony because the speaker will be Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who is trying to get legislation passed to allow abortion to save a mother’s life. Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Thankfully, Boston College is holding firm and has not rescinded the invitation to Prime Minster Kenny.
Cardinal O’Malley’s actions are but another indicator of the institutional Church’s slide into irrelevance. Churches of all stripes need to learn that the days in which they could demand compliance with their teachings are occupying the dustbins of history. Prelates who act like spoiled children are disregarded as the overgrown toddlers they are, and a moral universe in which disagreement on one point means that we cannot be in dialogue are in the same dust bin in which demands for compliance reside. I suspect there will be very few people at the Boston College graduation ceremony who will be filled with sadness and gaze wistfully at the place Cardinal O’Malley might have occupied wishing he was present. An institution that decries “moral relativism” and then arbitrarily decides that the potential life of a fetus is more important than the actual life of its mother rests impaled upon its own critique.
In a world filled with poverty, hunger, homelessness, violence, injustice, racism, sexism, environmental decay, and greed much of the Church is content to focus on genitals while wondering why more and more people find them irrelevant and depart every day. It’s no great mystery to anyone not isolated from the real world by religious hierarchies. The difference between the isolation found in the academy and the isolation found in religious institutions is that those in the academy do actually step outside their own walls for lunch now and then and in the process accidentally encounter real life. Unless the Church in all its forms takes off its blinders and starts addressing real life post-haste it isn’t going to need to worry about issuing pious declarations and boycotts because it won’t be able to afford the paper on which to issue them. That will be a fitting end indeed.