Notes on a Scandal

These are not good times for the Catholic Church, especially in Boston. Just yesterday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested that Dorchester’s Caritas Carney Hospital may be in trouble, and, of course, Pope Benedict XVI will not be coming to Boston.

Regardless of how you feel about the pope’s snub, the logical conclusion one can draw is that Benedict wanted no part of dealing with the priest sex scandal. Which brings us to the word, “scandal,” and to Cardinal O’Malley’s unfortunate choice of words.

In a front-page, above the fold story in today’s Globe, O’Malley takes Democrats to task for their stance on abortion and suggests that Catholics supporting Democratic candidates “borders on a scandal.”

Thanks to the Catholic Church’s insensitive response to the priest sex abuse case here—which didn’t just “border” on criminal—it’s difficult to hear a high-ranking member of the Church employ the word “scandal” with no hint of irony. It’s offensive, too. To Catholics (which I am) and non-Catholics alike.

The Church certainly has a right to stake out political positions, and it certainly has a right to claim abortion as its key issue — even over, say, a war, which the Cardinal did not mention at all. But, as usual, the Church tries to have it both ways.

The document declares that “as Catholics we are not single-issue voters,” but says, “a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

Intrinsically evil? Makes us wonder how exactly the Church defines those words.