Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Cardinal O'Malley's missed opportunity

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 23, 2013

“We must build a civilization of love, or there will be no civilization at all,” said Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, at a Mass for the repose of the souls of those killed in the Marathon bombing. So far, so good. But then the wheels came off.

Pointing to sources of the “culture of death,” the cardinal mentioned individualism, alienation, abortion, violent films, and video games. He decried the death penalty. And then this:

The inability of the Congress to enact laws that control access to automatic weapons is emblematic of the pathology of our violent culture.

What’s wrong with that statement? Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s inappropriate. This Mass was celebrated for a congregation still grieving a series of sudden, shocking tragic deaths; it was not the time for political pronouncements.
  2. It’s factually incorrect. Access to automatic weapons is already tightly restricted. Congress was debating measures that would restrict access to some semi-automatic weapons. If you don’t know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons, you shouldn’t issue public statements about gun control.
  3. It’s factually incorrect for another reason. As I explained yesterday, Congress did not show an “inability” to impose restrictions on access to firearms. Supporters of one particular legislative measure voluntarily withdrew their bill, because they refused to compromise on any particular.
  4. It’s misleading. From what we already know, it seems quite clear that tighter gun-control laws would not have prevented the Marathon bombing. (The accused bombers did not have licenses to obtain guns legally, and in any case most of their killing was done with ordinary household items: pressure cookers, ball-bearings, nails.) For that matter, laws against abortion would not have prevented the slaughter either, nor would restrictions on violent films and video games. Whatever damage the “culture of death” has done to our society, these particular killings—and thus the deaths that brought together this congregation at Holy Cross cathedral—were apparently motivated by radical Islam. The cardinal was searching far afield to explain the bombers’ motivations, when there was an obvious explanation close at hand.

Cardinal O’Malley may have been right to say that the bombers were influenced by a “perversion of their religion.” He was certainly right to warn against a blanket condemnation of all Muslims. But he missed an opportunity to comment on a problem that was surely on the minds of those who heard or read his homily. The cardinal’s congregation was not (for better or worse) thinking about abortion or gun-control or video games. The people of Boston were thinking about Islamic terrorism. It’s a difficult topic, but one that Church leaders cannot wish away.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 25, 2013 12:48 PM ET USA

    Fr. Jonathan Morris had a better take on this than Cdl. O'Malley. I tremble as I write this.

  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Apr. 24, 2013 10:27 AM ET USA

    Only by the grace of the Holy Spirit will the Church survive our national confusion. That Cardinal O'Malley permitted Obama to use Holy Cross Cathedral as his pulpit last week tells me how influenced his judgement is by things Democrat. It's almost as bad in New York, though, at least the Al Smith dinner was not held in the sanctuary of St. Patrick's.

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Apr. 24, 2013 1:35 AM ET USA

    He did not "Miss An Opportunity" he missused the pulpit. A message reducing the grief of those gathered, a message of compasion and healing for the injured, and a message about leaving vengence to the Lord were all that the good Father should have spoken.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Apr. 23, 2013 7:18 PM ET USA

    I remember thinking after the homemade bombs and the frightening fact that no one is safe from any one who wants to cause damage,who can be blamed for wanting their guns? I am an advocate for gun control,but the Cardinal's message was ill-timed.

  • Posted by: mario.f.leblanc5598 - Apr. 23, 2013 5:12 PM ET USA

    Claiming that our political opponents lack the 'most basic moral instincts' is not the best way to advance the Christian Truth. Fortunately, our bishops (thoroughout the Universal Church), with all their imperfections, understand this basic fact better than the average lay person.

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 23, 2013 3:13 PM ET USA

    Phil, you're way too kind to the Cdl on his silly thinking. The Church in Mass. has its head in the sand. Cdl OMalley is just the tip of the iceberg. Your readers might find it helpful to recall that in Massachusetts, the Bishop of Worcester had recently rescinded an invitation to talk at a major event by a well-known islamist expert-- Robert Spencer who has been toiling to inform people of the dangers of the radical Islamists. The bishop buckled to complaints by islamophiles in the Bost.Globe

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Apr. 23, 2013 1:09 PM ET USA

    Even worthy men like O'Malley find it hard not to curry favor with the inferior politicians we elect and reelect these days. They think that to be heard in the public realm they have to concede dignity to the hare-brained schemes of men like Deval Patrick and B Obama. What needs to be understood, of course, is that these schemes, faulty as they are, are fig leaves these pols use to cover their own lack of even the most basic moral instincts. We should not humor them or encourage their deceit.