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Lexington priest apologizes after O’Malley says church doesn’t allow clergy to endorse political candidates

Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley.Nicolaus Czarnecki

After Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley issued a statement reiterating a church ban on political endorsements and its opposition to abortion, a Catholic priest apologized Thursday night for his controversial endorsement of Democrat Joe Biden.

The Rev. Paul Garrity, pastor of the Lexington Catholic Community, acknowledged the “confusion and upset” caused by his Facebook post Sunday titled, “I am pro-life and support Joe Biden.”

“I am totally against legalized abortion,” Garrity wrote in an apology posted to Facebook. “I am committed to upholding Church teaching regarding the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until natural death.”

Reached for comment, Garrity referred to his Facebook post.

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The apology came shortly after the Boston Pilot, the archdiocese’s newspaper, published a statement from O’Malley saying that Catholics have the right to expect priests “to be clear and unequivocal on the Church’s teaching concerning respect and protection for life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

Priests and other representatives of the archdiocese, “following the guidance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops … may not endorse or oppose candidates for election or political parties,” O’Malley said.

Garrity’s endorsement sparked controversy because Biden, who is Catholic, supports women’s access to legal abortions, and Garrity said he also supports “a woman’s right to choose.”

“I am pro-life and I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” Garrity wrote in the post, which was no longer visible on his Facebook page Thursday evening but was published by The Boston Pilot. “I will vote for Joe Biden for president because I believe that Joe Biden is pro-life like me. I believe that any woman who becomes pregnant should have the right to choose to give birth to her baby.”

Garrity went on to emphasize the support and opportunities women need to have healthy pregnancies and to take care of new babies.

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In his apology, Garrity suggested he did not expect the backlash his endorsement unleashed.

“I was not prepared for the uncharitable responses that I am receiving from this post,” Garrity said. “The last thing that I would ever want to do is to hurt anyone with my words.”

O’Malley encouraged Catholics to play an active role in their communities and to vote in elections, and stressed that the church’s role is to provide instruction on moral principles.

“Our advocacy addresses protection of human life at all stages and in all circumstances, including issues of social and economic equality, the pervasive influence of systemic racism and welcoming immigrants and refugees,” O’Malley said.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.