WESTON — On a breezy, overcast afternoon, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley delivered a warning against moral relativism in front of the thousands gathered on the lawn of Regis College.
“As people of faith, we are called to live the gospel values by bringing God’s law and truth into the world,” O’Malley told the thousands of graduates, family members, and friends gathered in a massive white tent on Saturday afternoon for the college’s 82d commencement service. “May our graduates and all of us gathered here take that mission to heart and go out and renew the world.”
O’Malley, vocal advocate for the Catholic church’s staunch anti-abortion stances, focused much of his message on the “gospel of life” and the need for those of faith to refrain from embracing the moral ambiguity of the secular world.
“The gospel of life is so basic to the social teaching of the church,” O’Malley said. “But, in the US, secularism and de-Christianization are gaining ground.”
The cardinal quoted from previous speeches by various popes and criticized academia and the media for straying from a message of absolute right and wrong. Above all, O’Malley said, the secular world has lost its understanding of the importance of life.
“Openness to life is at the center of true development,” O’Malley said, quoting Pope Benedict. “When a society moves toward denial or suppression of life it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good.”
O’Malley’s commencement address at the 2,000-student liberal arts college came one day after he publicly declared that he would boycott the graduation services of Boston College.
O’Malley announced Friday that he will not attend BC’s commencement because the scheduled speaker, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, supports abortion-rights legislation that is controversial in his country.
The Irish legislation would permit abortions in cases of a real and substantial threat to the mother’s life.
O’Malley traditionally delivers the final benediction at BC’s commencement and school officials said in a statement Friday that they regret that he is boycotting the ceremony but will not disinvite Kenny.
Many of those in attendance at Regis’s commencement said they were honored to host the cardinal, and most said they had not heard of O’Malley’s Boston College decision.
Their energy, they said, was focused on celebrating the more than 500 Regis students who received diplomas.
“We don’t have time to worry about Boston College’s commencement,” declared one newly christened Regis alumna, flowers and diploma in hand, minutes after walking the stage. “We’re here to celebrate our achievements.”
The ceremony, during which O’Malley was awarded an honorary doctorate degree, included opening remarks from Regis President Antoinette M. Hays.
Much of Hays’s short speech centered on the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Boston strong! Boston brave!” Hays declared, over passionate applause, toward the beginning of her address. “Boston stands as one.”
Hays noted that on a clear, sunny day, students standing on the campus’ green lawns can see the Boston skyline on the horizon.
“We are Boston,” she declared. “This campus is Boston.”
Wesley Lowery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.