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Mayor’s recognition spurs controversy

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BOSTON — At their annual Christmas banquet held Dec. 9 at the Boston Harbor Hotel, Catholic Charities thanked Mayor Thomas M. Menino for his great contribution to the work of the Catholic charitable organization.

Some local Catholics opposed that decision arguing that giving public recognition to a politician who supports abortion and same-sex marriage could create scandal among the faithful. They contended that this action was in contradiction with a 2004 document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that said Catholic institutions should not honor politicians who support abortion or whose positions oppose fundamental Church teachings

Representatives of Catholic Charities responded to those allegations inside the hotel before the dinner began, saying that Menino deserves to be recognized for his work helping the poor.

“The mayor has said things that I don’t agree with personally — regarding abortion and gay marriage, and we want to be clear that there are differences between us on those two issues,” said Father J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities. “It’s a fact of life. He has acknowledged it. We acknowledge it. We then sought some common ground in spite of our differences, and it’s that common ground that we acknowledge and thank him for.”

On Nov. 22, Boston Catholic Charities issued a statement announcing that Archbishop O’Malley would not attend the banquet, “In light of the mayor’s past statements concerning abortion and same-sex marriage policies.”

Father Hehir said Archbishop O’Malley cancelled his attendance because he supports the policy among the bishops of dialogue with those who do not support Church teaching.

“They want to dialogue and engage Catholic politicians who differ with them on issues of significant Catholic teaching. These issues are issues of significant Catholic teaching,” he said.

About a dozen people braved snow and icy winds outside the hotel to protest the mayor’s presence.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, said that he hoped that the protest would “communicate to fellow Catholics what a tragedy it is for an organization that bears the name Catholic to honor someone who believes that it is morally acceptable to kill the unborn.”

Referring to the archbishop’s decision not to attend the event because of its honoree, Doyle said, “We’re sorry that Catholic Charities chose to embarrass the archbishop by persisting in this scandal.”

The controversy erupted in mid-November when the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and the group Faithful Voice raised objections to Menino being honored at the annual Catholic Charities event.

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