Pro-lifers dismayed at Massachusetts pro-abortion governor’s appearances at Catholic school events

Maura Healey Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey walks across the campus of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, on April 9, 2024. | Credit: Screenshot of St. John's Prep Facebook page last visited April 19, 2024

Pro-lifers in the Archdiocese of Boston are criticizing Cardinal Seán O’Malley over two recent appearances at Catholic education events by the pro-abortion governor of Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat who supports legal and publicly funded abortion and who has taken steps to make abortions easier to obtain, spoke at a fundraiser for The Catholic Schools Foundation, which raises money for Catholic schools in the archdiocese and helps poor students attend.

O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, is the chairman of the board of trustees of the foundation, though he was in Rome at the time of the gala and did not attend it.

Healey also recently visited a Catholic school north of Boston, speaking to students and answering questions.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called Healey’s appearances “a grave scandal.” 

“Cardinal O’Malley should be ashamed of himself. Is Maura Healey an inspiring role model for Catholic students?” Doyle said.

Thomas Harvey, chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions, called including Healey at the Catholic events “really disgraceful,” and he placed the blame on O’Malley.

“Maura Healey is a huge proponent of killing babies in the womb, in direct defiance of Catholic teaching, and yet here she is being presented to impressionable Catholic students as if she were a Catholic role model,” Harvey told the Register by text. “And the clear message being sent to Catholic students here is that killing babies in the womb is just not that big a deal.”

In June 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a document called “Catholics in Public Life,” which states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, pointed out that Healey was not an honoree at the gala or during her earlier appearance at the Catholic school.

Since Healey is the governor of the state, Donilon said, Cardinal O’Malley has worked with her “on a number of issues important to Catholics and the wider community,” including public funding for the archdiocese’s charitable work providing “basic needs assistance, job training, child care services, and immigration and refugee assistance to thousands of residents,” as well as building “badly needed affordable housing” and trying “to stem gun violence.” 

“At the same time, the cardinal has been a leader in the pro-life movement for over 50 years and his commitment in being a staunch promoter of life is well known and unwavering,” Donilon said.

O’Malley, 79, a Capuchin Franciscan, has frequently attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and has spoken at pro-life rallies. Last week, The Boston Globe published a column by O’Malley urging state legislators to oppose a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide.

But critics such as Doyle claim that O’Malley during his time as archbishop has seemed to mix easily and uncritically with abortion-supporting Catholic politicians, including the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (whose funeral Mass he celebrated), the late Boston mayor Thomas Menino, former Boston mayor Marty Walsh, and the current governor, Healey, with whom he co-authored a column in The Boston Globe in September 2017 on immigration.

Donilon, O’Malley’s spokesman, addressing Healey’s participation in The Catholic Schools Foundation gala last week, said that “the governor has been a vocal supporter of Catholic education. … Our Catholic schools save cities and towns hundreds of millions of dollars in education costs. Our families benefit from an outstanding education based in an excellent faith-based environment.” 

Gov. Maura Healey speaks to students at St. John's Prep on April 9, 2024. Credit: Screenshot of St. John's Prep Facebook page last visited on April 9, 2024.
Gov. Maura Healey speaks to students at St. John's Prep on April 9, 2024. Credit: Screenshot of St. John's Prep Facebook page last visited on April 9, 2024.

Who is Maura Healey?

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Healey, 53, was elected Massachusetts attorney general in 2014 with an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund. She served two terms as attorney general before being elected governor of Massachusetts in November 2022. 

As an elected official, Healey has frequently supported public policies that clash with Catholic teachings on life and sexuality.

She has verbally attacked pro-life pregnancy centers, steered state government money to private abortion funds, and, in April 2023, quietly arranged for the flagship campus of the state-run University of Massachusetts to purchase 15,000 doses of abortion pills.

Healey’s administration in June 2023 successfully proposed a curriculum framework for public schools that calls for teaching between third and fifth grades “the differences between biological sex and gender identity” and “how one’s outward behavior and appearance does not define one’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Healey also supports same-sex marriage. In February, she nominated her former same-sex partner for a seat on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which is the state’s highest court. She is currently living with a woman.

Two appearances

Healey appeared Thursday, April 11, at the annual gala of The Catholic Schools Foundation at a hotel in Boston.

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“So I didn’t have the benefit of going to Catholic school,” Healey said, according to a text of her remarks provided by a spokesman. “My mom went to Catholic school, and my nephew goes to Catholic school; we have priest[s] at the dinner table every Sunday. But I do know, both having been your attorney general and now as your governor, what your work means. And I can see that experience firsthand.” 

She also said she wants to find ways “to partner” with the foundation “in the important work that you [are] doing.” 

“And I want you to know that, as governor, I value our vibrant mix of education, our public schools, our private schools, and our religious schools,” Healey said. 

Two days earlier, on Tuesday, April 9, Healey spent about 50 minutes with a group of 120 students at St. John’s Preparatory High School, a Catholic boys’ school founded by the Xaverian Brothers in Danvers, about 18 miles northeast of Boston, according to a description of the visit published on the school’s website. The school is in the Archdiocese of Boston, though it is not run by the archdiocese. 

Healey had never visited the school before, “but it was quickly clear her personal values are closely aligned with those of the Xaverian Brothers,” the school’s write-up states. 

Healey emphasized leadership and empathy during her remarks. The governor also told the students that while she believes in civil discourse, “there are some basic values that have kept our society intact,” and she told students they should “call out hate when you see it.”

“We can have differences of opinion on things,” Healey said, according to the school’s write-up, “but, to me, equality has got to abide. Respect for the dignity and worth of each person is something I call on people to really adhere to.”

Robert Joyce, a lawyer and member of the board of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal representation for pro-lifers, said that St. John’s Prep last fall turned down an offer he made to provide a pro-life assembly for students featuring a canon lawyer, a physician, and a vocations director. (The head of school, Edward Hardiman, did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.)

Joyce called Healey’s recent appearances at the gala and at the school “abominations for Catholic education.”

“They send the clear message to Catholic students and parents that critical, fundamental precepts of the Catholic faith are not all that important. In simple terms, they declare that protection of innocent unborn life and the defense of traditional marriage are negotiable with these Catholic educators,” Joyce indicated.

Healey is also a featured speaker at the annual Spring Celebration of Catholic Charities Boston scheduled for Wednesday, May 29, at the Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston. O’Malley is expected to receive an award at the event for his work in welcoming immigrants.

Healey and the Catholic Church 

Healey does not often talk about religion in public, but she occasionally identifies herself as a Catholic.

In October 2018, when she was state attorney general, she led off a brief column in The Boston Globe with the words: “As a member of law enforcement and as a Catholic …” 

In April 2022, when Healey criticized Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester for calling for a Catholic school to take down a rainbow flag, she added, according to “And I speak as a Catholic …” 

In October 2022, during a debate while she was running for governor, Healey used a Catholic reference while defending herself from a claim by her Republican opponent that a bill she had supported effectively legalized infanticide, as the National Catholic Register subsequently reported. “You know, my mom goes to Mass every morning,” Healey said.

Healey is widely thought of as a potential candidate for other offices. She would be an obvious Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts if either of the two incumbents (both in their 70s) leaves office.

Additionally, just hours before her appearance at The Catholic Schools Foundation gala, Healey participated in an event at Northeastern University in Boston honoring former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. The moderator floated Healey as a potential future candidate for president of the United States, to applause from the audience.

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

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