Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley said on his blog that the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which he leads, is ponying up $850,000 to oppose the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in the state of Massachusetts. Voters in the Bay State will vote on Massachusetts ballot Question 4 and thus free up the use of cannibis. "The contribution is a reflection of how seriously we consider this issue, understanding that, if passed, this proposed law would have a significant detrimental impact on our parishes and our social outreach and support ministries," wrote Cardinal O'Malley on October 28.
According to The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, if voters were to pass Question 4, "it would not only allow individuals to legally possess, smoke, and grow limited quantities of marijuana in Massachusetts, but it would also invite the commercialization of the drug."
Speaking for the archdiocese was Terrence Donilon, who said the funds will go to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Its website descrbies itself as "a growing coalition of families, workers, businesses, health care and community leaders, anti-addiction advocates, educators, and first responders who are opposing the legalization of the commercial marijuana industry in Massachusetts."
Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh are both opposed to Question 4, as are all of the district attorneys and sheriffs in the state.
Cardinal O'Malley said he has seen "firsthand" the effects marijuana has had on society. "Whether it was his time in Washington as a young priest, his time in the West Indies -- he's seen the effects of what this has done in his priestly ministry," said Donilon. He said that the money does not come from parish collections or resources for parishes. These are "unrestricted funds," said the archbishop. According to Donilon, the funds are used for these purposes "rarely, but when there's such a threat to our social service programs and to our people, then we have to fall on the resources that we have available to us."
Donilon said that the archdiocese has used such funds to oppose the Death with Dignity initiative on the 2012 ballot. Cardinal O'Malley and three other bishops started the campaign against Question 4 when they issued a statement urging voters to vote against Question 4 on October 4. Calls for opposing the initiative were heightened later in the month when O'Malley hosted a meeting of about 40 faith leaders from around the Boston area. On his blog, O'Malley stated, "As an archdiocese, we are particularly concerned about the serious risks to youth that would follow the enactment of this proposed law."
The cardinal blogged, "We educate more than 40,000 students in our schools and have a presence in 144 cities and towns through our 289 parishes. We hold our responsibility for the safety and well-being of children and families as paramount in all that we do."
"Numerous highly credentialed research studies have established the very serious damage to the physical, intellectual and emotional health of youth that is caused by marijuana use. We hold as an important obligation to do all that we can to prevent this from occurring," he continued.