I. A Word of Appreciation for Cardinal O’Boyle
A. Warmest thanks, dear friends, for bestowing upon me the Cardinal O’Boyle Award. I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award named for a great churchman, a defender of the faith and a servant of the poor. Let me offer just a word of appreciation for the late Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington whom I was privileged to meet many times, as a seminarian and a young priest.
B. Cardinal O’Boyle, as you know, was a native of Scranton but because the Diocese of Scranton had too many priestly vocations, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New York. From the beginning he worked with the poor and needy. He was among those who helped to found Catholic Relief Services and he directed Holy Angels Orphanage on Staten Island. Eventually he would head Catholic Charities of New York, the nation’s largest and after WWII was deeply involved with post-war relief efforts.
C. Appointed to the fledgling Archdiocese of Washington in 1947, he immediately moved to desegregate Catholic schools both in Southern Maryland and in the District of Columbia. When the Supreme Court heard the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Chief Justice, Earl Warren, consulted then-Archbishop O’Boyle in Washington. With few resources but a lot of grit, he built up the Archdiocese of Washington but was never happier than when he was at St. Ann’s Orphan Home – with the poor and the needy, Cardinal O’Boyle was in his element.
D. It was this man of impactful charity who also defended the faith and did so without counting the cost. His defense of Humanae Vitae in 1968 earned him a lot of ridicule not only from sectors of Catholic higher education but also in the public and religious press and among ordinary parishioners far and wide. All this was going on when I was a junior in high school in the mid-West – Long before the advent of social media, I knew who Cardinal O’Boyle was and I knew that he was unpopular because of his defense of the faith even as the sexual revolution was tightening its grip on society. God bless Cardinal O’Boyle – the 30th anniversary of whose death will be marked on August 10th, 2017 – may he rest in peace!
II. Connection with Religious Freedom
A. Bear with me another minute or two while I link Cardinal O’Boyle’s defense of life at its beginnings and his defense of the link between life and love – with his love for the poor and our current struggle over religious freedom.
B. Cardinal O’Boyle never saw himself as a theorist but he clearly saw the danger to family life in severing the link between the two dimensions of sexuality, love and life. And while he clearly understood the importance of strong family life for everyone – he saw how critical strong family life is for the poor and disadvantaged. After all, he had lots of direct experience in caring for children and young people who had no parents. Today I serve a city in which intact inner-city families are nearly non-existent with the result that violent drug gangs serve as a substitute for wholesome family life. The dangers Cardinal O’Boyle understood so well have tragically come to pass.
C. His defense of HV is also related to the current struggles over religious liberty. The most obvious is the HHS, so-called “contraceptive mandate” which would force religious employers to violate the teachings of their churches by insuring for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, religious liberty is threatened not merely by a few government regulations but rather by the wholesale redefinition of marriage – made possible by the severance of the link between life and love. Any church that does not go along to get along faces choppy waters, now and in the years to come.
D. Cardinal O’Boyle was severely criticized during his final years as Archbishop but as time goes by his true, visionary greatness becomes more and more apparent. Thank you for this award named for Cardinal O’Boyle. With God’s grace, I pray that somehow I will live up to it!