Monday, May 3, 2010

Remembering Cardinal O’Connor — 10 years after his death

Venerable Pope John Paul II shakes hands with Cardinal John O'Connor: 2 months before his death!

You are forever in our hearts, memories and prayers on this the ninth anniversary of your death. Your homilies still remain an inspiration today!

Cardinal John O'Connor

Jan. 15, 1920
May 3, 2000

It’s hard to believe, but May 3 will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal John O’Connor. O’Connor had been an outspoken and sometimes controversial figure, but his death was mourned by all of New York. Over four days, 150,000 people filed past his body in St. Patrick’s Cathedral to pay their respects.

Over 3,000 mourners filled the cathedral for the Funeral Mass, with thousands more outside listening to a broadcast of the service. President Clinton and Hillary were there. Al Gore and Tipper, too. George H.W. Bush sat with O’Connor’s family. I remember the roar that rose through St. Patrick’s when the homilist declared “What a great legacy he left us in his consistent reminder that the church must always be unambiguously pro-life.” (The homilist was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who had little idea that his world would come down two years later…)

Certainly, a big part of O’Connor’s legacy was his strong opposition to abortion. He started the Sisters of Life religious order to promote the church’s pro-life teachings.
Later this month, on Saturday, March 27, the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York will hold an all-day conference “honoring the legacy of Cardinal O’Connor” at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. Archbishop Dolan will get things started with his talk: “Cardinal O’Connor: Priest and Churchman for Our Times.”

Religious Figure. He was a product of his native Philadelphia, one of five children. He graduated West Catholic High School operated by the Christian Brothers. Ordained a priest on Dec 15, 1945, his first assignment was to St James High School in Chester, Pa. He continued work on advanced degrees, first a master's in advanced ethics from Villanova University and a doctorate at Georgetown in political science. He joined the Navy in 1952 in response to a call for more chaplains during the Korean War. When he retired 27 years later, he had risen to rear admiral and chief of Navy chaplains. After retirement, he was assigned to the Scranton, Pennsylvania area where he became a bishop.

In January of 1984, he was named to succeed New York's Terence Cardinal Cooke, who had died. He was elevated to cardinal 18 months later. Diagnosed with brain cancer and even during the terminal stage, Cardinal O'Connor continued to conduct Mass and execute his duties as head of the archdiocese of New York. He died in the early evening in his small bedroom at his residence in the rear of St Patrick's. in Manhattan. With him were family members and close friends from the clergy.

Four days of farewell was undertaken at St. Patrick's Cathedral culminating in a 40 minute service attended by 3,500 mourners. In attendance, President Bill & Hilary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and nearby sat the two George Bushes with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The Mass opened with a procession of 1,000 of O'Connor's fellow clergy. At the end of the service, O'Connor's dark wood casket was carried down a narrow staircase beneath the altar, where all previous archbishops of New York are buried. Sixteen years of service at St. Patrick's had come to a close.
Burial: Saint Patricks Cathedral

Archbishop of New York
Styles ofJohn O'Connor

His Eminence
Spoken style
Your Eminence

On January 26, 1984, after the death of Terence Cooke three months earlier, O'Connor was appointed Archbishop of New York, and installed on March 19. He was elevated to Cardinal in the consistory of May 25, 1985, with the titular church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Rome, the traditional titulus of the Archbishop of New York.

Archbishop of New York, O'Connor skillfully brought to bear the power and prestige of his office to bear witness to traditional Catholic doctrine. Upon his death, the New York Times called O'Connor "a familiar and towering presence, a leader whose views and personality were forcefully injected into the great civic debates of his time, a man who considered himself a conciliator, but who never hesitated to be a combatant", and one of the Catholic Church's "most powerful symbols on moral and political issues."

Pro-life advocacy
O'Connor believed in protecting all human life, from the unborn to convicts on death row. He was a forceful opponent of abortion, human cloning, capital punishment, human trafficking, and unjust war. Horrified by a visit to Dachau concentration camp, O'Connor was inspired to found a religious order that would serve the unborn and dying and be dedicated to the sanctity of all human life.

In 1991 his dream was realized in the Sisters of Life. He assailed what he called the "horror of euthanasia", asking rhetorically, "What makes us think that permitted lawful suicide will not become obligated suicide?" In 2000, O'Connor called for a "major overhaul" of the punitive Rockefeller drug laws, which he believed produced "grave injustices".

Critiques of U.S. military actions
Despite his years spent as a Navy chaplain, O'Connor offered severe critiques of some United States military policies. In the 1980s, he condemned United States support for counterrevolutionary guerrilla forces in Central America, opposed the U.S.'s mining of the waters off Nicaragua, questioned spending on new weapons systems, and preached caution in regard to American military actions abroad. In 1998, he questioned whether the United States' cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan were morally justifiable.

In 1999, during the Kosovo War, he used his weekly column in the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York, to challenge repeatedly the morality of NATO's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia, suggesting that it did not meet the Catholic Church's criteria for a just war and going so far as to ask, "Does the relentless bombing of Yugoslavia prove the power of the Western world or its weakness?" Three years before the 9/11 attacks on New York City, O'Connor insisted that the traditional just war principles must be applied to evaluate the morality of military responses to unconventional warfare and terrorism.

Organized labor relations
O'Connor's father was a union member, and O'Connor was also a passionate defender of organized labor and an advocate for the poor and the homeless. Early in his tenure, O'Connor set a pro-labor direction for the Archdiocese. During a strike in 1984 by 1199, the largest health care workers union in New York, O'Connor strongly criticized the League of Voluntary Hospitals, of which the Archdiocese was a member, for threatening to fire striking union members who refused to return to work, calling it "strikebreaking" and vowing that no Catholic hospital would do so.

The following year, when a contract with 1199 still had not been reached, he threatened to break with the League and settle with the union unilaterally to reach an agreement "that gives justice to the workers".
In his homily during a Labor Day Mass at St. Patrick's in 1986, O'Connor expressed his strong commitment to organized labor:
[S]o many of our freedoms in this country, so much of the building up of society, is precisely attributable to the union movement, a movement that I personally will defend despite the weakness of some of its members, despite the corruption with which we are all familiar that pervades all society, a movement that I personally will defend with my life....

In 1987, when the television broadcast employees union was on strike against NBC, a non-union crew from NBC appeared at the Cardinal's residence to cover one of O'Connor's press conferences. O'Connor declined to admit them, directing his secretary to "tell them they're not invited."
Following his death, SEIU 1199, published a 12-page tribute to O'Connor, calling him "the patron saint of working people" and describing his support for low-wage and other workers and his efforts in helping limousine drivers unionize, helping end the strike at The Daily News in 1990, and pushing for fringe benefits for minimum-wage home health care workers.

Relations with the Jewish community
O'Connor played an active role in Catholic-Jewish relations. He strongly denounced anti-Semitism, declaring that one "cannot be a faithful Christian and an anti-Semite. They are incompatible, because anti-Semitism is a sin." He wrote an apology to Jewish leaders in New York for past harm done to the Jewish community.
O'Connor criticized Swiss banks' failure to compensate victims of the Holocaust, which he called "a human rights issue, an issue of the human race."Even when disagreeing with him over political questions, Jewish leaders acknowledged that O'Connor was "a friend, a powerful voice against anti-Semitism".

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called him, "a true friend and champion of Catholic-Jewish relations [and] a humanitarian who used the power of his pulpit to advocate for disadvantaged people throughout the world and in his own community." Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called O'Connor, "a good Christian" and a man "who understands our pain."

Relations with the gay community
O'Connor adhered to the traditional Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are contrary to natural law, intrinsically immoral and therefore never permissible, while homosexual desires are intrinsically disordered but not in themselves sinful. He resisted attempts within the Church to modify that traditional understanding and was frequently at odds with New York's gay community during his tenure as Archbishop.

O'Connor actively opposed Executive Order 50, a mayoral order issued in 1980 by Mayor Ed Koch which required all City contractors, including religious entities, to provide services on a non-discriminatory basis with respect to race, creed, age, sex, handicap, as well as "sexual orientation or affectational preference".

After the Salvation Army received a warning from the City that its contracts for child care services would be canceled for refusing to comply with the executive order's provisions regarding sexual orientation, the Archdiocese of New York and Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish organization, threatened to cancel their contracts with the City if forced to comply. O'Connor maintained that the executive order would cause the Church to appear to condone homosexual practices and lifestyle.

Writing in Catholic New York in January 1985, O'Connor characterized the order as "an exceedingly dangerous precedent [that would] invite unacceptable governmental intrusion into and excessive entanglement with the Church's conducting of its own internal affairs." Drawing the traditional Catholic distinction between homosexual "inclinations" and "behavior", he stated that "we do not believe that homosexual behavior ... should be elevated to a protected category."

We do not believe that religious agencies should be required to employ those engaging in or advocating homosexual behavior. We are willing to consider on a case-by-case basis the employment of individuals who have engaged in or may at some future time engage in homosexual behavior. We approach those who have engaged in or may engage in what the Church considers illicit heterosexual behavior the same way.... We believe, however, that only a religious agency itself can properly determine the requirements of any particular job within that agency, and whether or not a particular individual meets or is reasonably likely to meet such requirements.

Subsequently, the Salvation Army, the Archdiocese and Agudath Israel, together with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, brought suit against the City of New York to overturn the executive order on the grounds that the Mayor had exceeded his executive authority in issuing it. In September 1984, the New York Supreme Court agreed with the religious entities and struck down that part of the executive order that prohibited discrimination based upon "sexual orientation or affectational preference" on the grounds that the Mayor had exceeded his authority. In June 1985, New York's highest court upheld the lower court's decision striking down the executive order.

O'Connor vigorously and actively opposed City and State legislation guaranteeing the civil rights of homosexual persons, including legislation (supported by then-Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani) prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation in housing, public accommodations and employment.

O'Connor also supported the decision by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to exclude the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from marching as such under its own banner in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade.

The Hibernians argued that their decision as to which organizations may march in the parade, which honors St. Patrick, a Catholic saint, was protected by the First Amendment and that they could not be compelled to admit a group whose beliefs conflicted with theirs. In 1992, in a decision criticized by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the City of New York ordered the Hibernians to admit the gay organization to march in the parade.

The City subsequently denied the Hibernians a permit for the parade until, in 1993, a federal judge in New York held that the City's permit denial was "patently unconstitutional" because the parade was private, not public, and constituted "a pristine form of speech" as to which the parade sponsor had a right to control the content and tone.

O'Connor also prohibited a pro-homosexual group from meeting in New York parishes. O'Connor celebrated Mass with members of Courage, a Catholic ministry to homosexual men and women that seeks to encourage them to abstain from sexual relations and live chastely in accordance with church teachings.

HIV and contraception controversy
The Cardinal opposed condom distribution as an AIDS-prevention measure, viewing it as being contrary to the Church's teaching that contraception is immoral and its use a sin. O'Connor rejected the argument that condoms distributed to gay men are not contraceptives. O'Connor's response was that using an "evil act" was not justified by good intentions, and that the Church should not be seen as encouraging sinful acts among others (other fertile heterosexual couples who might wrongly interpret his narrow support as license for their own contraception).

He also claimed that sexual abstinence is a sure way to prevent infection, claiming condoms were only 50% effective against HIV transmission. HIV activist group ACT-UP was appalled by the Cardinal's apparent opinion that it was sinful for an HIV positive person to use a condom to prevent transmission of HIV to his HIV negative partner, an opinion they believe would translate directly into more deaths. This caused many of the confrontations between the group and the Cardinal.
Cardinal O'Connor considered himself very supportive of those who were infected with AIDS and HIV. Early on in the AIDS epidemic, he approved the opening of a specialized AIDS unit to provide medical care for the sick and dying in St. Clare's Hospital in Manhattan, the first of its kind in the state. He often nurtured and ministered to dying AIDS patients, many of whom were homosexual.

Even though he frequently condemned homosexuals (some members of ACT-UP had protested in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in O'Connor's absence, to protest, holding placards such as "Cardinal O'Connor Loves Gay People...If They Are Dying of AIDS", when O'Connor had been appointed to Reagan's AIDS commission), he would not allow his moral differences to interfere with ministering to them. As USA Today reported, he "washed the hair and emptied bedpans of dying AIDS patients, some too sick to know who he was."

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo once said "No place in the country are they working more aggressively to help AIDS patients than in the archdiocese."

In 1987, O'Connor was appointed to President Ronald Reagan's Commission on the HIV Epidemic, known as the Watkins Commission, serving alongside 12 other members, none of whom were AIDS experts, including James D. Watkins, Richard DeVos and Penny Pullen.

The Commission was initially controversial among HIV researchers and activists as lacking expertise on the disease and as being in disarray.

The Watkins Commission surprised many of its critics, however, by issuing a final report in 1988 that lent conservative support for antibias laws to protect HIV-positive people, on-demand treatment for drug addicts, and the speeding of AIDS-related research.

The New York Times praised the Commission's "remarkable strides" and its proposed $2 billion campaign against AIDS among drug addicts. The Watkins Commission's recommendations were similar to the recommendations subsequently made by a committee of HIV experts appointed by the National Academy of Sciences.

Illness and death
When O'Connor reached the retirement age for bishops of 75 in January 1995, he submitted his resignation to the Pope as required, but the Pope did not accept it. In 1999, O'Connor was diagnosed as having a brain tumor, to which he eventually succumbed. He continued to serve as Archbishop of New York until his death. He died in the Archbishop's residence on May 3, 2000 and was interred in the crypt beneath the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Former President George H.W. Bush, Governor of Texas George W. Bush, New York Governor George Pataki and New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani were among the dignitaries who attended his funeral in St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was presided over by Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano. The eulogy was delivered by Cardinal William W. Baum. He was succeeded as Archbishop of New York by Edward Egan.

Cardinal O'Connor was posthumously awarded the Jackie Robinson Empire State Medal of Freedom by the Governor of New York George Pataki on December 21, 2000. On March 7, 2000 O'Connor was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by unanimous support in the United States Senate and only one vote against the resolution in the United States House of Representatives. Congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican from Texas, opposed on the grounds that awarding the medal was not among the powers of Congress listed in the Constitution.

O'Connor's tenure earned him the enmity of New York's gay community. O'Connor was a favorite object of scorn and ridicule in ACT UP's demonstrations, the most prominent of which was a protest at St. Patrick's Cathedral on December 10, 1989. Michael Petrelis, a founding member of ACT UP, was arrested along with 110 others. "We will not be silent,", he screamed before his arrest. "We will fight O'Connor's bigotry". Later, he indicated that the group "came to St. Patrick's in 1989 to repel the church's destructive intrusion into public policies concerning AIDS, gay civil rights and women's reproductive rights."

The strong feelings that Cardinal O'Connor's campaigning against gay civil rights inspired were evoked at his passing, when Time Out New York, a weekly city entertainment guide, expressed relief at his death, calling it one of the best things to happen to the gay community in 2000 saying "The press eulogized him as a saint, when in fact, the pious creep was a stuck-in-the-1950s anti-gay menace. Good riddance!".

The resulting cries of outrage forced the magazine to apologize for the insensitive tone of the statement, but Time Out New York stood by its view that the Cardinal was an "impediment to gay and lesbian progress. Carmen Vázquez, a spokeswoman for the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, opined that Cardinal O’Connor had "made the lives of gays and lesbians miserable with his public comments and opposition to their way of life."

Brendan Fay, of the Catholic gay group DignityUSA, summarized that "O'Connor will certainly not be remembered as a friend or advocate at our time of greatest need." (O'Connor had issued an order ending Dignity's masses in 1987, sparking protests. O'Connor had Dignity legally banned from attending services in the cathedral. After eight years of protests by the group, O'Connor started meeting with the group twice a year.)

Fay continued, saying that the cardinal's famed compassion did not extend to homosexuals. "What we will maybe remember most as representative of the cardinal's stance toward our community is the closed doors of the cathedral." Jeff Stone, a spokesman for DignityUSA, did note, "We are saddened by his death."
To honor his distinguished service as a US Navy chaplain, the Catholic Center at the Naval Post-Graduate School, Monterey, CA, is named the O'Connor Center. The largest student run pro-life conference in the U.S. is named in his honor. It is held every year at Georgetown University the day before the annual March for Life.

Cathedral Conference, Mass To Remember Cardinal O'Connor
An afternoon conference and Memorial Mass for Cardinal John O'Connor on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his death will be held at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Monday, May 3.
Cardinal O'Connor was Archbishop of New York from 1984 until he died on May 3, 2000, at age 80.
Archbishop Dolan will be the principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass at 5:30 p.m. The conference, beginning at 4 p.m., is titled "John Cardinal O'Connor: A Legacy of Courageous Love."
The Mass and conference are both open to the public.
Speakers will include Archbishop Dolan; Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus, who succeeded Cardinal O'Connor as Archbishop of New York; Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, a former rector of St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, who was consecrated a bishop by Cardinal O'Connor in 1996; and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., superior general of the Sisters of Life, the religious order founded by Cardinal O'Connor in 1991.
Also speaking will be Edward I. Koch, Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989 and a close friend of Cardinal O'Connor's; Helen Alvare, a professor at George Mason University School of Law and former director of information and planning for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Mary Ward, the cardinal's sister; and Rabbi Moses Birnbaum.

John O'Connor:you are also inspirtual individual especially for the Catholic Church. I admire your work and I was privelege to recieve holy communion and a prayer over me at one of your masses. I was also honored to attend your awake in 2000. I miss you, you should be a saint. You were truly a courageous and brave man who shares the same birthday as Rev. Martin Luther King Junior, may you rest in peace on this day after 10 years!- MFPS

New York's Cardinal O'ConnorOn May 3, John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, died at his official residence behind St. Patrick's Cathedral. But his legacy lives on...his words, his concern for the sanctity of life, efforts on behalf of the poor, the sick and the homeless, his defense of the unborn, his concern for his priests and his support for New York's Catholic schools.
"Every priest would like to be remembered as a priest and all that it conveys, rather than as a public figure with all that it conveys," Cardinal O’Connor once reflected when asked how he would like to be remembered. He then added, "I regularly go down to the crypt under St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I look at the tombs of my predecessors. Right in the center is the next marble block with no inscription. That’s reserved for me. And all that’s important when I move into the crypt is that I have served New York as a very good priest." And a very good priest he was.
The Cardinal will be remembered as a strong and faithful shepherd. At a time when Catholics in America were increasingly inclined to take a "cafeteria stand on matters of faith and morals", Cardinal O'Connor continued to proclaim Church teaching on birth control, abortion and homosexuality.
The one teaching of the Church that defined his ministry was the sanctity of life…at any age and at any stage. He is best known for his stand against abortion. To him, it was simple: Abortion is murder. It is a sin. But he did more than just talk about it. He was committed to the right to life and showed his concern by wearing on the lapel of his black clerical suit a tiny red rose with its stem spelling out "l-i-f-e". He participated at the annual Right to Life March held in Washington, DC, and formed a religious community, the Sisters of Life who are dedicated to protecting the sacredness of all human life beginning with the infant in the womb to those vulnerable to the threat of euthanasia. In addition, he repeated an offer many times to any woman in need: "go to him for help rather than abort her child". The Archdiocese of New York and Catholic charities responded by providing hundreds of women with medical assistance, housing, adoption and legal services, as well as, the Cardinal himself counseling women in difficult situations.
Cardinal O’Connor, the fourth of five children, was born in a row house in a blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood on January 15, 1920. His father, Thomas O’Connor, was his hero and his mother, Mary Gomble O’Connor, experienced both a sudden blindness and recovery that impacted Cardinal O’Connor with a sensitivity to disabled people for the rest of his life.
He attended public schools until he was a junior in high school. Under the Christian Brothers of West Catholic High, he was inspired to take up a religious life. He entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia at age 16 and was ordained nine years later on December 15, 1945, a month before his 26th birthday. Cardinal O'Connor and his 21 classmates promised to return for a reunion every year on that date, and the Cardinal kept that promise except for his years in Korea and Vietnam, and last year because he was ill.
After ordination, he worked as a diocesan priest for seven years. His days and nights were full with teaching at a Catholic high school, night school for adults, hosting a weekly, Catholic, radio news program, and volunteering in two psychiatric hospital wards.
In 1953, Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, who was also responsible for providing the Church’s chaplains to the U.S. Armed Forces, pleaded for more chaplains. Cardinal O’Connor responded and entered the Navy. When he retired 27 years later, he had risen to Rear Admiral and Chief of Chaplains of the US Navy. Later as an Archbishop and member of the Episcopal Commission that spent two years drafting the American bishops' 1983 pastoral letter on war and peace, he influenced the bishops in America to tone down criticism of U.S. nuclear policies.
After leaving the Navy in 1979, he was made an Auxiliary Bishop and assigned to the Military Vicarate under Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York. In May 1983 he was appointed Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He held that post less than a year before being chosen to succeed Cardinal Cooke - who died of cancer - as the Archbishop of New York. He was elevated to Cardinal in May 1985.
On his 75th birthday, as required by Church law, he submitted his resignation, but Pope John Paul II asked him to stay on and he did for another five years. On January 16, 2000, the Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrated the Cardinal’s birthday, one day after he turned 80. As he entered the Cathedral, Cardinal O’Connor received a standing ovation from the 3,000 people gathered. During his remarks, the Cardinal said his Sundays in the Cathedral had been among his happiest times.
During his years in the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal O’Connor was active in many areas – from ministering to both the rich and down trodden, to preaching it was important to live your faith in both politics and even on the baseball field. He would donate his Social Security benefits to a black scholarship fund and give blood to the Red Cross and ask others to "give" too. In the quiet of the night, he was known to visit AIDS patients at an archdiocesan hospital and could be found listening to them, cleaning their sores and changing their bedpans.
Perhaps one person who touched his life most deeply was Mother Teresa. He once stated, "Mother Teresa offered me one of the most precious gifts that I have received by telling me, ‘Only if we share the light of Almighty God do our lives become truly meaningful.’ " It is interesting to note that the last public appearance of Cardinal O’Connor was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on March 5, 2000, when he spoke about Mother Teresa.
The Funeral Mass for John Cardinal O’Connor was held on Monday, May 8, 2000, and he was buried in the crypt beneath the main altar of the Cathedral at St. Patrick’s in New York.

Cardinal John O'Connor gets last word at his own funeral
05/19/2000 By John Mallon*
Columns by John Mallon
BERNARD Law did his old friend proud.
For those who missed it, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston preached at the funeral of his close friend John O'Connor, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. O'Connor was a bold and fierce preacher on the subject closest to his heart: the sanctity of human life.
The funeral, broadcast live nationwide, was attended by the president and vice president, their wives and numerous dignitaries including the mayor of New York City.
At one point in the sermon, O'Connor's hand picked homilist said, "What a great legacy he has left us in his constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro- life."
There was a beat and then applause broke out. It grew louder, increasing as the cameras fixed on the Clinton-Gore party showing them on screens throughout the cathedral. Cardinal Law attempted to quiet the crowd with his hand, when suddenly the congregation began to stand up, applauding in a wave that moved from the back of the church to the front. If it hadn't been a funeral they would have cheered. It was a defiant, pivotal moment.
Then the bishops and cardinals in the sanctuary stood up. The elder George Bush stood up applauding, as did his son somewhere off camera. The camera panned back to the Clinton- Gore party who looked bemused and bewildered.
Having no water glasses to reach for as they did in 1994 when Mother Teresa received a thunderous ovation for telling the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that there could be no peace as long as a mother could kill the child in her womb, Clinton leaned back and started whispering in Hillary's ear. Gore's face was as blank, flat and white as a sheet of paper. Behind them another abortion "rights" supporter, Rudy Giuliani, began to applaud, albeit weakly, and stood. And lest they be the only ones left seated, the Clintons and Gores lamely stood up but refrained from applauding.
It was not Cardinal Law's intent to embarrass anyone. He was merely doing his job and honoring his friend. The vehement applause came from the people.
When the applause subsided, Law quipped, "I see he hasn't left the pulpit." Even a news commentator said it was as if O'Connor himself had spoken "from beyond the grave." Even through the TV screen you could feel the presence of that humble but larger than life churchman fill St. Patrick's Cathedral one last time, driving home the message he lived.
The leaders of the free world are currently the hierarchy of the culture of death and it is difficult to know what those poll-conscious politicians took away from that anointed moment, but I have some suggestions.
Perhaps they can no longer smugly snicker up their sleeves, take the Catholic vote for granted and play us for suckers. They can no longer ridicule other Christians and pro-lifers while claiming to be "compassionate" and "for the children" as they condone scissors being driven into infants' skulls, their brains sucked out and the unborn chopped into pieces and sucked out of their mothers with industrial strength vacuum machines. They are on the wrong side of history. In no small part thanks to John O'Connor, the future belongs to life.
Well done, Cardinal O'Connor. Requiéscat in pacem.

Catholic Exchange - -
Thank You, Cardinal O’Connor
Posted By Fr. Frank Pavone On May 3, 2010 @ 12:00 am In Fr. Frank Pavone
It has been ten years since the death of New York’s archbishop, Cardinal John O’Connor. He died of a brain tumor on May 3, 2000, but had he not become ill, his sister Mary Ward has her own conviction of when and how he would have died.
“He would have died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, along with Fr. Mychal Judge,” Mary said to me. Fr. Judge was the first officially recorded victim of the September 11 terrorist attack, killed as he ministered to people in the lobby of the World Trade Center north tower after the initial attack. Cardinal O’Connor would have rushed to the scene as soon as he heard of the attack.
The Cardinal was an exemplary priest and bishop, teacher and leader. Catholics rightly take pride in how he gave witness to the Faith and to what the Church is all about. Priests and bishops drew strength for their ministry by following his example.
But his appeal, much like that of his friends Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, reaches far beyond the Catholic world. He was a witness to humanity, to its meaning and its dignity. His ecclesiastical motto was “There can be no love without justice,” and he was committed to promoting both.
He eased racial tensions, helped resolve labor disputes, held starving children in Ethiopia, intervened in crises in Cuba and Central America, and much more. Yet his motivations were not secular; they were rooted in Christ. That accounts for what the world sees as the paradox of a man whose compassion was as strong as his orthodoxy.
He taught unapologetically, for instance, that homosexual activity was contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the Church. Yet he opened New York State’s first AIDS-only unit, at St. Clare’s Hospital, and gave thousands of hours of personal volunteer service to the AIDS patients, emptying their bedpans and tending to their other needs.
He was loud and clear about the immorality of abortion. Yet from his first moment in New York, he issued an urgent invitation to any woman anywhere who felt tempted to abort her child. “Come to me,” he said. “The resources of the Archdiocese of New York will be at your service to assist you and your child.” It was a promise he repeated continually.
Along with founding the Sisters of Life, he was instrumental in starting Priests for Life. After ordaining me and letting me do parish work for several years, he gave me permission to head Priests for Life on a full-time basis. “I know of no effort more noble, more timely or important than the recruitment of our clergy in the cause for life,” he later wrote to me. “I remain convinced that the Priests for Life, by their Masses, prayers and example, will cause this great country to one day again follow God’s Will for Life.”
Thank you, Cardinal O’Connor, for being a mentor to me and so many others!

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