Cardinal O'Malley, Comfort, and Common Sense

By Andrew M. Haines
November 17, 2014

If I were creating a world, I'd love to have it without spiders. But that's not the world we live in. Of course, you'll call me an ecological dimwit—spiders are indispensable to proper environmental balance, and they're objectively beautiful things. But they scare the hell out of me; and I'd simply prefer them not to be around.

Now try this one: If I were founding a church, I'd love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.

This is the recent claim by Cardinal Seán O'Malley that's creating hubbub. Of course, you might call him an ecclesiological dimwit—male priests are part and parcel of the Church's apostolic tradition, and priestly vocations as such are objectively beautiful. But it's a scary proposition (especially when you have the 60 Minutes camera and editing team ready to pounce), and personal preference can be very fickle, indeed.

It doesn't take a degree in sacred theology to parse O'Malley's remarks. Nor, alas, will it require one to condemn them. What's at play here is an all-too-human limitation of comfort and common sense. What's not at stake is a fair hearing for the Church's timeless teaching, which the cardinal presents eloquently, and that can withstand even the capriciousness of her assailants—and her faithful members.

Andrew M. Haines is editor and founder of Ethika Politika, and co-founder and chief operating officer at Fiat Insight.