Program #0448 for Monday, January 14, 2013: Priest Profile: Fr. Daniel P. Moloney

January 14, 2013

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Fr. Daniel P. Moloney

Fr. Daniel P. Moloney

Summary of today’s show: Fr. Daniel Moloney was ordained in 2010 for the Archdiocese of Boston, after what was already an impressive intellectual career spanning Yale, Notre Dame, Princeton, and Rome. Scot Landry sits down with Fr. Moloney at his parish in Brighton to see how he came to be a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston as well as the history of St. Columbkille Parish and the remarkable talk to be given later in the evening at the parish by noted Catholic intellectual and author George Weigel.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Daniel P. Moloney, parochial vicar, St. Columbkille Parish, Brighton

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Today’s topics: Priest Profile: Fr. Daniel Moloney

1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show, broadcasting live form St. Columbkille in Brighton. He said we are doing our first webcast live on location at St. Columbkille which was established in 1871. It’s a landmark in Brighton and today joining us is Fr. Fr. Daniel Moloney, parochial vicar at the parish. He was ordained in 2010 and has been in the parish since then. In June he will be re-assigned in the normal course of priestly assignments.

Scot said he learned today that St. Columbkille had originally purchased land for a cemetery in town, but Bishop Williams told the pastor at the time that he wanted a seminary instead, which became St. John’s Seminary.

Fr. Dan said he came to Boston to become a priest. He was born in South Bend, Indiana, when his father was a professor at Notre Dame. He went to college at Yale, studying computers, but after reading Cardinal Newman, he decided to switch majors to religious philosophy. After graduation, he entered the doctoral program at Notre Dame.

Scot asked Fr. Dan what in Newman made him change his major. Fr. Dan said one day in the dining hall, a guy he knew from back home came up to Fr. Dan and his friends and told them they should be doing community service. Another guy, a philosophy major, said the community he was serving was Western Civilization. He began to think about the idea of approaching the big problems of the day. Meanwhile, he was reading Newman, who had been writing to both intellectuals and regular people about how to avoid the problems that society was facing. Fr. Dan decided it was much more fun than staying up lately debugging computer programs.

Fr. Dan said what grabbed him was Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, (An Apology for My Life), which was Newman’s autobiography. He said many people were grabbed by Newman’s homilies, particularly those about faith and reason.

Fr. Dan said he had had in the back of his mind since his early days at Yale about becoming a priest. He felt Notre Dame would be a better place to explore that idea, whether he was called to the priesthood or becoming a Catholic intellectual, it would be the place to be. Scot said he’s been to Notre Dame once and was very moved to see how many students made it a point during their day to stop for prayer. Fr. Dan said in his time at Notre Dame there was a renaissance in the practice of the faith among students, which was just after Pope John Paul’s visit to the US for World Youth Day. Fr. Dan said one of his professors described Notre Dame as a state school in a Catholic neighborhood. The students are very pious but there’s disagreement often in how to balance Catholicism and student academic life.

About 1998, Fr. Dan and some friends got the university to allow perpetual adoration in a chapel and that continues to today.

Fr. Dan studied Medieval philosophy. He was particularly interested in St. Anselm of Canterbury, one of the first Scholastics, who died 1109. He was a Benedictine monk who was interested in the interiority of the faith. He developed the common term that theology is faith seeking understanding. A true person of faith uses his intellect as well.

Fr. Dan was first interested in Anselm while he was at Yale, and when he got to Notre Dame, he decided to study him for his dissertation. He could have studied Aquinas as the more well-known Medieval philosopher, but he felt that was too common.

When he got to Notre Dame, he and others founded a newspaper called Right Reason, which was about calling the university back to its Catholic roots. After about one-and-a-half-years of that, he got an opportunity to go to work at First Things as the associate editor (about 1998). He worked there for about 3-1/2 years under Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

In June 2001, he returned to his doctoral studies at Notre Dame. At age 26, he realized he didn’t think he could be editor of First Things itself, he decided to go back. He thought he might be happy as a university intellectual. He graduated in 2004. He dissertation changed focus a little in the meantime. He’d gotten interested in applications of theology and politics and started contrasting the notion of mercy in St. Anselm and the notion of tolerance in John Rolfe, a contemporary philosopher at Harvard. He was the one of the big architects of the idea that politics must be secular and that religion should be private.

Liberal philosophers didn’t contrasts mercy and justice, but instead formulated it as tolerance and justice.

Fr. Dan said after graduating, he was able to go teach on a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton and at the nearby Witherspoon Institute. He was teaching and doing research. Living at Princeton and being a Catholic intellectual reminded him that academia is often not hospitable to Catholic people of faith. A study he read showed that 80 to 90 percent of the top philosophy professors in the country are themselves atheist. So he had an opportunity to study theology in Rome where he could get a doctorate in theology. He decided that he didn’t like being a student in Rome, with the difficulty with his classes in the Italian language and not having the comforts of home. Plus they didn’t accept his theology credits from the US so he had to get another bachelor’s in theology over two years. So he cut his losses and came home, settling in DC. He got a job at the Heritage Foundation. They work to develop position papers on legislation on Capitol Hill. His two big areas of focus were AIDS legislation, in which pro-choice advocates were trying to attach abortion funding to AIDS funding for Africa, and healthcare. At the time, no one in the pro-life side were paying attention to the nitty gritty details about how the federal government was funding contraception and he ended up writing position papers to alert pro-lifers to religious liberty issues related to healthcare reform and contraception.

Scot asked Fr. Dan if he was still surprised by the contraception mandate from the Obama administration last year. Fr. Dan said he wasn’t surprised because those talking points had been in place since the early 70s. That they tried to impose it on everybody was a change. Scot asked if he meant that the mandate would exist but that there would be a generous exemption.

Scot asked what led him from DC to Boston. He said many priests without natural homebases tend to look where they could serve the Church the best. Fr. Dan said in Rome he was around a lot of guys studying for the diocesan priesthood and heard how excited they were to serve in parishes. Because of his intellectual background, Fr. Dan had always thought about priesthood in a religious order, but this made him think differently about it. Coming back from Rome, he asked God to give him a great job so that if he decided to become a priest, it wouldn’t be settling, but an upgrade. His job at Heritage was great, including meetings at the White House and a bright career future, but the idea of priesthood didn’t go away.

He had once met Cardinal Sean when was bishop of Fall River and was impressed by his holiness. Fr. Dan hadn’t lived in Columbus since 1990, where his family lived, so he didn’t feel attached there. He also realized he didn’t have many opportunities to pick his own boss. He wanted to go someplace that needed priests. And because Boston had many universities, he felt like God was calling him to Boston.

2nd segment: Scot asked Fr. Dan about St. Columbkille Parish. He said this has seemed to be one of the more historic parishes, among the first. It was first a mission of St. Mary in Brookline or in Waltham. He thinks it was first a mission of Waltham and then of Brookline.

Fr. Dan said there was a significant number if Irish living in Brighton and the first Mass was celebrated in someone’s home. They began to gather money to build this beautiful church. It’s a huge church and could have been a cathedral and some people had wanted it to be the cathedral when the chancery moved out here. All the stained glass windows are based on the Book of Kells.

The parish has had few pastors. One was here for 40 years. They built a school and has had many, many alumni.

The church now has a shrine to San Donato, an Italian bishop, when Italians began to move here and later one of the first Spanish communities in Boston was Cuban immigrants, who built a shrine to Our Lady of El Cobre.

The lower church is as big as the upper church, seating 1,100 people and even has its own pipe organ. Through much of the 20th century, they had packed Masses upstairs and downstairs every Sunday, along with the other two parishes in Brighton. It gave the property that became St. John Seminary and the property for Mt St. Joseph’s School. Brighton has been significant in the history of the Archdiocese.

Scot said the church cost $80,000 back when it was built. That would be $1,454,000 today.

He noted that the patron saint is St. Columba and Columbkille means Columba of the Churches. Fr. Dan said Columba is a Latin word that means “the dove”. It was probably a religious name and he was one of the three patron saints of Ireland, including St. Patrick and St. Brigid.

Fr. Dan said St. Columbkille was responsible for the death of 1,000 soldiers. He copied an illuminated manuscript and the abbott took it from him when he was done and St. Columbkille said it was his own property. His clan fought the abbott’s clan. After the battle, he realizes he was an idiot. He was exiled from Ireland and vowed to convert as many pagans as had died in the battle. So he went to the island of Iona in Scotland to form a monastery. From there, the monks spread out into Europe and converted the continent.

Scot said George Weigel is speaking here tonight. He asked Fr. Dan what makes Weigel a great Catholic intellectual. Fr. Dan said Weigel is a wonderful writer. His first biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, is one of the great books of the 20th century. It’s almost a history of everything in the last half of the 20th century, but as long as it is it never runs out of steam. Weigel has also written extensively on just war theory and politics. He also has a very engaging speaking style.

Scot said his columns in the Pilot are always very engaging. He defends the Church as strongly as any layman in the Church. Fr. Dan said he also strongly believes the Catholic faith is true and not just for Catholics. The Church has something to offer everyone and not just Catholics.

Scot said Weigel has a new book coming out in February that connects to tonight’s topic on Evangelical Catholicism. Fr. Dan said Weigel has been developing this theme for a long time, especially from the writings of John Paul II. At the beginning of John Paul’s pontificate people had begun to sour on Vatican II, but JP II has given a new look at Vatican II to bring to the fore the idea that all Catholics are to bring the Gospel to the world in a new and vigorous way.

Scot read from the beginning of Weigel’s new book. Weigel says the Catholicism of the 21st century will be a culture-forming counterculture. Fr. Dan said Weigel wrote in First Things in the 1990s on John Paul II and the evangelization of culture. He wrote that you can evangelize people by staying in the Catholic shell. You have to show people that you can be a full-fledged Catholic and be part of the culture. You can talk about what people read and watch on TV and the like, speaking to those things from a Catholic perspective. If the culture doesn’t create inspiring works, then you have to create a counterculture. If it becomes big enough it becomes the culture. You present an attractive way of living your life that isn’t just going to church on Sunday.

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