A Catholic priest was forced to leave his position as chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after sending an email to campus Catholics questioning whether the death of George Floyd was the result of racism.
Fr. Daniel Patrick Moloney, a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston, had been the Catholic chaplain at MIT since 2015.
“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is a major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that,” wrote Fr. Maloney, according to a report by The Boston Globe.
In the same June 7 email, Fr. Moloney also questioned Floyd’s character, saying that while Floyd shouldn’t have been killed by the police officer, “he had not lived a virtuous life.”
After members of MIT’s Catholic community, troubled by Fr. Moloney’s remarks, reached out to campus and Archdiocesan authorities, the Archdiocese of Boston moved swiftly, asking Fr. Moloney to resign on June 9.
“The personal opinions echoed in his comments regarding the murder of George Floyd do not reflect the positions of the Archdiocese and are not consistent with the positions detailed in the recently issued statement of Cardinal Seán O’Malley,” asserted a statement issued by the Archdiocese.
The Archdiocese condemned Fr. Moloney’s intellectual curiosity and honesty, writing: “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
“The message from Father Moloney was deeply disturbing,” wrote Suzy M. Nelson, a vice president and dean for student life in a statement.
“Those who wrote me and other senior leaders were outraged, and many felt alienated and abandoned by their faith,” continued Nelson. “By devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character, Father Moloney’s message failed to acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism — especially within the criminal justice system — on African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color.”
“Moreover, his message dismissed the need for urgent action and change in America,” added Nelson.
Nelson said that MIT would “engage the Archdiocese in nominating a Catholic chaplain whose views and ministry are consistent with the Institute’s values of inclusion, respect, and dignity for all community members as well as the values proclaimed by the Church’s leadership.”
Professor Anthony Esolen defended Fr. Moloney, asking, “Exactly WHAT did he say that was not TRUE?”
“We do not know that Floyd’s killer was motivated by racism. How the hell can we know that?” wondered Esolen in an online comment. “And it does not appear that Floyd lived a virtuous life. What exactly was not TRUE?”
“Why was this email message so controversial?” asked Phil Lawler, founder of Catholic World News and news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. “Because Father Moloney questioned the popular narrative.”
“The chaplain didn’t say that Floyd’s death was not prompted by racism. He simply remarked that the evidence is not conclusive,” wrote Lawler. “For that he was banished from the campus. For that he was given a public reprimand by his own archdiocese, which announced to the world that his statements ‘were wrong.’”
“Now imagine that a Catholic chaplain on some other campus had issued a statement questioning the Real Presence or the Virgin Birth. Or — this will be a good deal easier — imagine a chaplain who welcomed the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Would he be forced to resign? Would the archdiocese issue an immediate public correction?” wondered Lawler.
Others called the Archdiocese’s response an act of “calumny and slander” that requires a “sincere public apology.”
Some followed the Archbishop’s dismissal of Fr. Moloney to its logical conclusion:
“Just like good men will leave (or never join) the police force if they feel the higher-ups won’t back them, so too good men will flee from a priestly vocation when they see how priests are treated for simply expressing a legitimate opinion,” tweeted Catholic author Eric Sammons, citing Fr. Moloney’s dismissal as MIT’s chaplain.
“Can you imagine recommending a young man become a priest and turn his life over to these wicked, cowardly, apostate bishops?” tweeted Catholic writer and commentator John Zmirak in response.
“I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus,” Moloney told The Boston Globe. “The whole thing went down in a way that I wish were otherwise. … I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
According to his biography which is still available at the MIT website, Fr. Moloney has a doctorate in Philosophy from Notre Dame, a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Yale University, and a Bachelor’s of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, graduating magna cum laude.
Fr. Moloney has been a lecturer on religion, politics, and American constitutional law in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, where he was affiliated with the university’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and was a Senior Policy Analyst at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, where he studied policy issues affecting family, religion, marriage and culture civil society in America.
He is the author of the book Mercy: What Every Catholic Should Know (Ignatius Press, 2020).
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