The effects of secularism at the Marathon’s finish line

20130427-103256.jpgThis morning the parish priest where I am staying in Cambridge pointed out a piece in the Boston Globe (Friday 26 April).

At the finish line of the Boston Marathon, clergy were not allowed to reach the victims of the bombing.

On the one hand, in such a case, you can understand that first responders would want to keep the chaos down by limiting the number of people in the area.

On the other hand, there was a time when first responders knew who priests were, what we did, and why.  Priests were allowed in any where.

Many are the times when, while driving, I have stopped near to the emergency vehicles and asked if there was need for a priest.  Most of the time the young guys stare blankly for a few moments.  Shortly, the light bulb will click on over the head of one of them and either tell me that things were okay or, possibly, yes, there was need.

I have heard stories of chaplains for emergency or law enforcement entities being told that they shouldn’t mention God.

In regard to the Boston bombings I have written about the prayer of Catholics through the centuries that God preserve us from “unprovided” sudden death, that is, death without the chance to repent or to receive the last sacraments.

Preventing priests from reaching the victims is not good.  Even if the victims are not Catholic or Christian, it is not good.

In any event, I bring this to the attention of the readership.

You should be able to click the image below for a larger, more readable version.



The text at WJS:

Faith at the Finish Line in Boston

Barred from the chaotic scene of the bombing, priests nonetheless found ways to provide solace.

Comments (54)

The heart-wrenching photographs taken in the moments after the Boston Marathon bombings show the blue-and-yellow jackets of volunteers, police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, even a three-foot-high blue M&M. Conspicuously absent are any clerical collars or images of pastoral care.

This was not for lack of proximity. Close to the bombing site are Trinity Episcopal Church, Old South Church and St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, all on Boylston Street. When the priests at St. Clement’s, three blocks away, heard the explosions, they gathered sacramental oils and hurried to the scene in hopes of anointing the injured and, if necessary, administering last rites, the final of seven Catholic sacraments. But the priests, who belong to the order Oblates of the Virgin Mary, weren’t allowed at the scene.

The Rev. John Wykes, director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston’s soaring Prudential Center, and the Rev. Tom Carzon, rector of Our Lady of Grace Seminary, were among the priests who were turned away right after the bombings. It was jarring for Father Wykes, who, as a hospital chaplain in Illinois a decade ago, was never denied access to crime or accident scenes.

“I was allowed to go anywhere. In Boston, I don’t have that access,” he says.

But Father Wykes says he has noticed a shift in the societal role of clergy over the past few decades: “In the Bing Crosby era—in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s—a priest with a collar could get in anywhere. That’s changed. Priests are no longer considered to be emergency responders.”

The Rev. Mychal Judge is a memorable exception. The New York City priest died on 9/11, when the South Tower collapsed and its debris flew into the North Tower lobby, where Father Judge was praying after giving last rites to victims lying outside. The image of the priest’s body being carried from the rubble was one of the most vivid images to emerge from 9/11.

But Father Judge had been the city’s fire chaplain for nine years, knew the mayor, and was beloved by the firefighting force.

For police officers securing a crime scene, and trying to prevent further injuries and loss of life, the decision to admit clergy to a bombing site is fraught with risk. Anyone can buy a clerical collar for just $10, and a modestly talented seventh-grader with a computer and printer can produce official-looking credentials.

Father Carzon, the seminary rector, said he was “disappointed” when he wasn’t allowed at the scene of the bombing, but he understood the reasoning and left without protest. “Once it was clear we couldn’t get inside, we came back here to St. Clement’s, set up a table with water and oranges and bananas to serve people, and helped people however we could.”

By that point, spectators and runners who had been unable to finish the marathon were wandering around, “frightened, disoriented, confused and cold,” he said. Father Carzon was able to minister to a runner who wasn’t injured but had assisted a bystander with catastrophic injuries. Two hours later, the runner, a Protestant, was still walking around the area in shock and disbelief.

“He came over, and said, ‘You’re a priest, I need to talk to someone, I need to talk,’ and he was able to pour out some of the story of what had happened,” Father Carzon said. “Then there was an off-duty firefighter who was there as a spectator, and he, too, got pushed out of the perimeter, and he ended up here to pray. There was a feeling of helplessness we had when we couldn’t get close. But doing the little that we could—putting out a table with water and fruit, being there—I realize how much that ‘little’ was able to do.”

In light of the devastation in Boston, the denial of access to clergy is a trifling thing, and it might even have been an individual’s error. (The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on its policy regarding clergy at the scenes of emergencies.)

But it is a poignant irony that Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street, was a Catholic who had received his first Communion just last year. As Martin lay dying, priests were only yards away, beyond the police tape, unable to reach him to administer last rites—a sacrament that, to Catholics, bears enormous significance.

As the Rev. Richard Cannon, a priest in Hopkinton, Mass., where the marathon begins, said in a homily on the Sunday after the bombings, “When the world can seem very dark and confusing, the presence of a priest is a presence of hope.”

Ms. Graham, a former religion reporter, is a writer and editor in Boston.

A version of this article appeared April 26, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Faith at the Finish Line in Boston.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Four Last Things, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jenniphd says:

    This issue is close to my heart, as one of my sons is a paramedic. While he’s perfectly clear on the importance of priests, I doubt many of the students he described in his program would be. This makes me think I should contact the director of the paramedic program and just ask him if they would possibly discuss this. Seeing to people’s spiritual welfare is actually more important than our physical welfare, as important as what first responders do is.

  2. BaedaBenedictus says:

    If there is concern about people up to no good buying a Roman collar and pretending to be priests, then perhaps dioceses can come up with some sort of ID/badge system. Honestly, it’s sad because 3 of the 4 people killed in Boston were Catholics.

  3. raitchi2 says:

    This was certainly a disaster and an emergency. With all the unknown that surrounds events like this, having a bunch of clergy rush in is not the safest nor the most efficient. While I’m sympathetic to spiritual needs, the safety of the victims and the safety of the rescuers needs to be considered.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    A bit disturbing, and a little odd. Particularly since two of the bombing fatalities and the MIT police officer killed later in the week were Catholics.

    I know one or two local priests here in Boston who have been police or fire chaplains, and there are still a lot of Catholics on both forces. If I get an appropriate opportunity, I’ll ask them.

    I’m hoping it was simply a case of adrenalized caution (keep “extra” people out of the blast zone, they didn’t know if more explosions were coming, and some possessed of foresight may have been thinking “preserve the crime scene”) temporarily overwhelming judgment.

    What would lack any justification is if we find out that priests were also excluded from the medical tent (just a few dozen yards from the finish line) that was such a key element in the survival of many of the victims.

  5. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    “the safety of the victims and the safety of the rescuers needs to be considered.”

    This reminds me very much of the argument in favor of prohibiting Communion on the Tongue during flu season. It runs something like this: if you are ill, you could pass on your germs, and therefore your receiving communion could become hazardous to the health of others.

    To which I answer: if you’re receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace, and then dying, you go to heaven — even if you need a stop-over in purgatory; if you’re receiving Holy Communion not in a state of grace, and know it, it matters not whether you receive in the hand or on the tongue: you’ve got problems bigger than flu symptoms.

    Sure, the immediate physical needs of those injured by the blast matter. In perspective, though, the spiritual needs are more important: we need to allow priests in so that people can die a sudden, provided death or, if it be the will of God, to recover health of body. For the injured, a priest can provide valuable reminders to offer up the present suffering for the salvation of souls, and other proper forms of spiritual counsel.

  6. John of Chicago says:

    Limiting access to authorized responders at the scene of an emergency that is potentially still hazardous or part of an ongoing attack is standard and essential. Recall that, in the past, ambulances have been rigged with explosives and driven to the scene of an emergency and detonated among the rescuers. Some guy should not be given access simply because he’s wearing a clergy shirt. In part, that’s why fire, police and hospitals have their own chaplains. They are known, trusted and trained.

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    The Globe isn’t very accessible online unless you pay to subscribe. Here’s a link to Graham’s original article in the Wall Street Journal.

  8. drea916 says:

    Keep a card in your wallet/put a message on your ICE contacts in your cell phone “I’m a Catholic. In case of emergency summon a priest.” (Include the number to your parish/priest.)

  9. John of Chicago says:

    I know a priest who carries a card that say: “I am a priest, in case of emergency summon an ambulance.”

  10. Carpe Jvgvlvm says:

    It’s really the penitents’ and families’ responsibility, as morbid as it sounds, to have a bracelet or other “emergency; pay attention to this!” amulet or card that clearly says, ‘in the event of an emergency, call a priest’.

    But even then, there is in these days a likelihood (especially in Martin’s case) that the person has been blown apart, and any such identifying bracelet lost or destroyed. Or we might even be mortally wounded yet able to beg for a priest, but in a terrorist attack, we have to follow the state (the law of the land) and trust in the mercy of God.

    The state might (or eventually will) have to suspect everyone not in state uniform. To have random religious clerics (not just Catholic priests, as seen at that “interfaith service” at the Holy Cross) demanding to be at “ground zero” would be allowing potential jihadists into “ground zero”. —The jihad extremists love nothing more than seeing state personnel getting destroyed in trying to aid the victims after such an attack. (I read a quote that the towers falling on the firemen on 9/11 was even better than the initial attacks, something they believe was ‘an act of God’, not just a “cherry on top” — that’s how jihadists think!) So I’m afraid the state has a point in this case, unless the Church would submit to the state, which we do NOT want.

    Go to Mass before attending events such as this; try to stay out of mortal sin at least; if the worst happens, your home priest will have you covered, and people will pray for your soul. —Unless your particular priest believes everybody goes to Heaven, in which case, you’re in more trouble than the jihadists could EVER devise against you.

  11. Perhaps what is needed is a three-pronged approach: First, make sure that emergency personnel are aware of what religious people believe about their sacraments, especially what Catholics believe about a last confession. Second, make sure that priests are trained about how to deport themselves in an emergency situation so as not to make matters worse. Third, emergency personnel should be familiar with as many of the clergy in their area as possible so they might have a chance of recognizing them when they are needed. The last point may seem difficult, but no one said that being a police officer, firefighter, or ambulance driver was easy. Considering what we believe about confession and anointing of the sick, it is not dismissed lightly.

    For the public record, if I am ever in danger of death, I want the priest allowed through before the doctor. The priest has much more potential to do permanent good and far less potential to do permanent harm than the doctor. (Sorry, doctors in the house, but you can’t forgive sins, and medicine is lots more complicated than a deathbed confession.)

  12. BigRed says:

    I will remind raitchi2 of Father Kapaun and Father Capodonno, each a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, as two examples of priests and other military chaplains who serve and die in the front lines of combat. Were the souls of those killed and maimed in Boston any less in jeopardy than the souls of soldiers at the point of death in combat?

    All this PC crap on the part of public authorities is really too much to be borne. As a western, Christian culture we are forced to become so twisted and misshapen in living our public lives as to resemble Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Quasimodo.

  13. Maltese says:

    Well, Andrew, at least the priest won’t take your heart for transplant at the slightest sign of complication!

  14. Maltese says:

    Wear a duly blessed scapular; it’s really the only true protection in this crazy Modernistic age!

  15. Maltese says:

    I also wear an original Miraculous Medal, blessed by three priests. I’ve dodged death more than I can say, and I believe in our Sacraments, and sacraments–use ’em!

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    The excuse – after the fact – that “anybody can put on a clerical collar” is nonsense.
    “Anybody” can go to a uniform store or beg, borrow, or steal a police, fire, EMT uniform. Somebody intent on doing harm is far more likely to do that than try to dress up as a priest. Like one of Kipling’s characters said, it’s like trying to dress up as a Freemason. You couldn’t possibly pull it off.
    All this is, is secularism run wild. The people in charge have no spiritual dimension at all, thanks to the incessant secularization of government and especially the public schools.
    Priests and Catholic fire/police/EMT in Boston need to organize to nip this nonsense in the bud. Train the personnel, identify the churches in each precinct, get involved.

  17. Gail F says:

    I read this at the WSJ online and another site yesterday — both secular sites — some of the reader comments are truly disheartening. Of course, reader comments are usually dismal. But at both places, as well as the stupid atheist posts (along the lines of, why should their stupid belief in a fake god concern anyone else?) there were numerous remarks about clergy wanting to “butt in” to keep their jobs. At the WSJ site I wrote that people who did not believe in God had no excuse for not realizing and accepting that other people do and, in the case of Catholics, receiving the last rites is very important. I am so tired of intolerance (just got a lot of it from an old friend insisting that Christians are JUST AS BAD as Muslims when it comes to spreading violence and hate — which demonstrated by examples of things that have happened over centuries vs. suicide bombings now happening every day). I don’t believe that circumcision has anything to do with salvation. I understand perfectly well that Jews do and I don’t go around ridiculing their “stupid belief in a fake god” and ridiculing moyels for promoting circumcision so they can stay employed. Why do people have to be so mean?

  18. Supertradmum says:

    I think there is a naivete among some priests. Many hospitals do not have anything but “ecumenical chaplains”, who are not priests, but Protestant ministers, attached to them and many people in these areas do not have access to the last sacrament unless their families can locate a priest. I know one case where a man wanted to come into the Church at the end of his life and receive Confession. He was gravely ill in the hospital but of clear mind. His family and some friends phoned all the priests in a large metro area and none could come out to bring him in. The family and friends worked on this phoning for three days and the man died a Methodist.

    To pretend that the secularizations of hospitals will not affect Catholics is just plain blindness. And, that the immediate responders are not open to priests is another indication of the growing harassment of Catholics.

  19. New Sister says:

    Same thing in the military — Medevac procedures include nothing about checking a Soldier’s/Marine’s dog tags for his religion and calling it in. I have tried [w/o success] to raise complaints about this. If a helo were landing a gravely wounded Catholic into an aid station, with only enough time to choose between a doctor or a Priest, most of us would choose the latter.

    A remedy is to plaster all your ID [or bib number] with “CATHOLIC. If calling for a Medic, PLEASE ALSO CALL FOR A PRIEST!”

  20. New Sister says:

    Supertradmum – exactly! When I do raise this with medical commanders [military] their answer is, “oh we’ll make sure a chaplain comes to see them [afterward].” They look mystified when I try to explain it must be a Catholic Priest – and *simultaneous* to medical aid. [other problems is Episcopalian chaplains sometimes refer to themselves as “priests”]

  21. New Sister says:

    One beautiful story I heard of in Afghanistan – a Spanish Guardia Civil sergeant was going through RCIA while deployed; got mortally wounded by a roadside bomb, but held on to life long enough for the Priest to baptize him before his death – Deo gratias!

  22. As an emergency services worker for over 20 years, I am well aware of the need to have the minimum number of personnel present so that people aren’t tripping over each other. I’m also aware, in today’s society, of the need to ensure that personnel coming onto a scene are authorized to be there. Nevertheless, the advance of secularism in our society has placed an undue burden on the members and clergy of religious organizations. It is time that action be taken so that no member of our society, regardless of religious belief, should be denied access to the leaders of his religion at the time of his death. Certainly the proper vetting of religious leaders and the issuance of appropriate credentials can be handled in such a way that this never happens again. We can no longer stand aside and watch our religious liberty be taken away piece by piece. Now is the time for action.
    The rest of my comments and suggestions for action can be seen at under “My Ponderings”.

  23. OrthodoxChick says:

    The pastor of my N.O. parish is a marathoner. He has run the Boston marathon in the past, as he attended seminary in Boston. For some reason, he did not run it this year but was at the finish line as a spectator to cheer on a friend who was running. I was told that he was standing only 50 yards from the second bomb when it went off. He escaped injury. He has seemed to want to keep what he experienced private so far, so I don’t know if he was able to identify himself as a priest or was allowed to assist in any way. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe he was wearing his blacks and collar since it was a day off for him. He usually wears his street clothes during his time off because we’ve bumped into him at local stores and such.

    Which leads me to wonder, were all of the priests on scene even dressed as priests? If they were, then this is, of course, a shame. But if they weren’t, then how would those trying to secure the scene have been able to positively I.D. them as legitimate clergy?

  24. Indulgentiam says:

    “To pretend that the secularizations of hospitals will not affect Catholics is just plain blindness. And, that the immediate responders are not open to priests is another indication of the growing harassment of Catholics.”

    How right you are. Worked trauma bay for years. The only thing they look for is ID. The unit clerks are directed to find drivers lisc., anything with a name or phone number, period. Anything else they may find is inconsequential to them as they are just looking to input your stats so admissions knows where you are and all departments can start billing your ID number. If the find a card that says;” if unconscious call this number ASAP for IMPORTANT medical information!” Then they will try to stabilize you as someone indeed calls that number. There are medic alert bracelets, necklaces (dog tag style) that ALL medical personnel take dead serious. Just make sure you keep close tabs on your Parish Priest. Make him aware that he is one of your emergency contacts and to tell you when their phone number changes.

  25. Indulgentiam says:

    Sorry forgot to mention. Those medic alert ID’s can be permanently engraved with any message. Space is limited so I have found that ” in case of emergency please call # for IMPORTANT medical information, works best. Medic alert jewelry is relatively inexpensive, depending on how fancy you want to get. Available online, I think amazon still carries them.

  26. Jason Keener says:

    Last summer, I happened upon a fatal motorcycle accident involving two people in front of a rectory. The priest was standing outside on his front lawn but did not offer his priestly services, from what I could tell. I was going to ask him if he was going to go offer his assistance to the two people dying, but I didn’t think it was my place. Perhaps the priest didn’t want to get in the way of the emergency workers. I don’t know. It just bothered me. If I were in a massive crash, I would definitiely want a priest with me just as much as a paramedic. I would suppose a priest could do his work while the paramedics do their work.

  27. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    “the safety of the victims and the safety of the rescuers needs to be considered.”

    This reminds me very much of the argument in favor of prohibiting Communion on the Tongue during flu season. It runs something like this: if you are ill, you could pass on your germs, and therefore your receiving communion could become hazardous to the health of others.

    To which I answer: if you’re receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace, and then dying, you go to heaven — even if you need a stop-over in purgatory; if you’re receiving Holy Communion not in a state of grace, and know it, it matters not whether you receive in the hand or on the tongue: you’ve got problems bigger than flu symptoms.

    Sure, the immediate physical needs of those injured by the blast matter. In perspective, though, the spiritual needs are more important: we need to allow priests in so that people can die a sudden, provided death or, if it be the will of God, to recover health of body. For the injured, a priest can provide valuable reminders to offer up the present suffering for the salvation of souls, and other proper forms of spiritual counsel.

    Before I forget: surely the Boston first responders know the priests of the area — so there should be little risk of fake credentials admitting unsuitable persons.

  28. Jeannie_C says:

    My husband is a diabetic. He wears the MedicAlert disc with information on the reverse on a chain around his neck. He also wears a blessed crucifix with it, hoping if the one is not successful in extremis the other will be. I also wear a crucifix and encourage everybody to do so, as well as echo Fr. Z’s many reminders – go to confession. We carry our church’s business cards in our wallets with “I am a Catholic – in case of emergency call a Priest” hand printed on the front next to our medical insurance cards. I don’t know what else we can do.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    The health and security professionals may no longer believe in the soul or the afterlife, sadly

  30. Montenegro says:

    I read about this yesterday. Card. O’Malley should be furious. Boston is his territory and he should complain to race organizers. I lived in Boston for 13 years. It is not easy being Catholic there. We are on the back foot due to the abuse scandals under Card. Law. I still know someone who works in the Chancery and plan to send him this article.

  31. New Sister says:

    @Supertradmum – medical professionals I’ve spoken to about this are shockingly ignorant about religion or belief in the immortal soul and are puzzled by the concerns being raised in this thread. For them it’s all about “brain activity” and one’s psychological state. Their point to me is that the patient will be able to “talk w/ a chaplain” after surgery, so what’s my concern? Why in the world would he need one when unconscious? Try to explain the Sacraments to them & their “keep religion out of the office” alarm bells go off and quickly dismiss you as a nutty.

  32. gambletrainman says:

    A question just came to mind. I just came out of a hospital/nursing home where I was for 6 weeks. Even as my stay has nothing to do with the effects of the Boston bombings, still, I was given the last rites AND Apostolic Blessing. If any clergy were to be denied access as was the case in Boston, could the priest, standing at the “outer limits” allowed by the first responders give a valid Apostolic Blessing in general and be valid, or does he have to be physically at the person in danger?

  33. Kathleen10 says:

    Good question gambletrainman. about 8 years ago, outside our house a motorcyclist did not make the curve and ended up practically in the woods. he died. long story short i did not know about it until we saw the police commotion. the young man was alone, so i stayed out on my lawn and prayed for him. i told the officer i didn’t want to leave him alone. i lit a holy candle near him and let it burn. i was about 30 or 40 feet away, but i like to think i helped him on his journey a bit. if my poor prayer for his intention could do anything, and i felt like it could, imagine how much more a priest’s can do, even from a distance?

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oh, this just singes my feathers. Whoever is in charge of the emergency responders in Boston, I hope the Ghost of Marathons Future visits him. Idiots. Their excuses are moronic. Priests are supposed to be in the front lines, even more than police and firefighters. As Fr. Mulcahy from Mash once said when BJ Hunnicutt tried to block him from getting to a dying patient to give him the Last rites (wish I could find the quote – its something like this):

    “BJ, let me go. When you fail, you lose a life; when I fail, I lose a soul.”

    Proper identification? Heck a terrorist can just as easily impersonate police or firefighters, so, let’s ban them, too. Idiot, all.

    I don’t care a whit about anything these stupid people can say. If I were bishop of Boston, I would have gotten a megaphone, walked to the blast site and said, “If my priests are not allowed to administer Last Rite, in five minutes, I will pronounce the words of excommunication to any Catholic within the sound of my voice.” I know of a bishop who didn’t have his church quite up to fire standards and the firemen came to lock the church. He walked into the church as they were locking and boarding the doors and said exactly that. This was in the 1930’s. Most of the firemen were Irish. The doors were unlocked minutes later.

    Doctors? I have a Catholic friend who teaches medical ethics at a large university and she tells me that most doctors she teaches are ethical idiots. This isn’t just about secularism, because most of the people will claim to believe in God. No, this is about the very definition of salvation and how it is achieved. This is about the poorly catechized Catholics in the pews who think all you need to be to get to Heaven is to be a, “good person.” This is about a Church unwilling to stand up for what She professes, to make the secular powers quake from their steadfast Faith.

    Oh, this singes my feathers.

    The Chicken

  35. Charivari Rob says:

    gambletrainman, about your question…

    I don’t know how disruptive physical separation is to the efficacy of some Sacraments. It would interfere some with the matter, wouldn’t it – when it came to anointing or Communion?

    Your question, though, reminded me of an article I read a few years ago. A slightly different case. Regardless of whether anyone tried to keep him out, for the priest to have approached in search of victims he knew were present would have meant almost certain death for him and little to no expectation of finding the victims in time. The article must’ve been about the 50th anniversary of the destruction by fire of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral and rectory in Trenton. The rector and two housekeepers were killed in the conflagration. The article said one of the other priests did, umm… general absolution, I guess it would’ve been – for those trapped inside whom he could not reach.

  36. Elizabeth M says:

    Father Carzon, the seminary rector, said he was “disappointed” when he wasn’t allowed at the scene of the bombing, but he understood the reasoning and left without protest.

    He left without protest? I pray I’m not in a life or death situation in Boston.

  37. BLB Oregon says:

    I can see why officials wouldn’t want a Roman collar that can be bought out of a catalog to be carte blanche to wander around a crime scene, but there needs to be a way for legitimate members of the clergy to identify themselves along with other legitimate first responders at scenes where there could be mortal or near-mortal injuries in need of pastoral care. The Catholics can’t be the only ones who want this!

  38. Giuseppe says:

    I am reminded of the beautifully sad story of Father Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain, who ran toward the WTC to care for souls.

  39. AA Cunningham says:

    Father Carzon is the former pastor at Holy Ghost in Denver. He is a very devout Priest.

    Responding in the negative to his reaction without knowing what actually happened and without knowing what his superiors have told him regarding how to respond to these types of actions by civil authorities is to deny him the benefit of the doubt. I wonder how ElizabethM would respond if strangers denied her the benefit of the doubt based on only what they read in a newspaper.

  40. mpolo says:

    Maybe the solution would be to work with police and fire departments to create an ID that would be acceptable to give access to priests in these circumstances. Maybe you’d have to do a seminar on keeping out of the way of the medical personell or something.

    I am told that this is the case in parts of Germany. One of our priests was prevented from attending to accident victims (the policeman actually said “He’s going to die anyway, don’t worry about him.”), but hung around until the police were finished with their work to ask how he might be able to help in the future, and was told that there was a group of priests who were approved for access to accident sites. I believe our priest did a training course, and now has his ID.

  41. Navarricano says:

    This is distressing, to say the least, especially when I think of young Martin Richard. When my time comes, whenever it comes, the last person I want to see before my soul is judged is a priest. I want the last rites of the Church. I am taking your advice about praying for deliverance from a sudden and unprovided death more seriously all the time, Father, and it is now a request I make for myself daily when I pray.

    I agree with some of the comments above, though. Perhaps priests could be issued some sort of Emergency Responder I.D. by the city or state after undergoing a training program so that they know what to do and can cooperate more efficiently with the EMS responders.

  42. StWinefride says:

    New Sister says: a Spanish Guardia Civil sergeant was going through RCIA while deployed; got mortally wounded by a roadside bomb, but held on to life long enough for the Priest to baptize him before his death – Deo gratias!

    Nice story! and I just want to add that someone who enters RCIA is known as a Catechumen. There are three types of Baptism. Baptism of water, Baptism of blood and Baptism of desire.

    God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His Sacraments. (CCC 1257)

    From the Catechism:

    1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

    And just to quote the Catechism on the Baptism of blood:

    1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

    Because God is not bound by His Sacraments, it’s one of the reasons we have hope for the salvation of infants, or those in the womb, who die before Baptism.

    Yes, Deo Gratias!

  43. VexillaRegis says:

    Did Martin Richards survive the explosion or was he dead when they found him in the street?

  44. tioedong says:

    I just treated a sick lady on an airplane, and no one asked for my credentials, probably because I seemed to know what I was doing. (she was okay: just a low blood sugar in a diabetic).
    This is not the first emergency I’ve helped with, but my question is if I responded to the emergency, would they have left me in? What about other doctors and nurses running to help, including those who are Filipino/Pakistani/Indian, where terrorists might originate, but countries that also have many honorable medical personnel working in Boston Hospitals, at least when I trained there many years ago.
    Presumably 60 year old chubby Irish guys dressed in black are on the terrorist profile list? But I do wonder why none of the cops recognized any of the priests.

  45. netokor says:

    In “Lord of the World” by Msgr Benson there is an aerial accident in which many are fatally hurt. Along with the first responders come the “euthanizers” whose task is to end the suffering of the injured quickly. No clergy there either. This end-of-times novel was published in the early 20th Century. It is eerily prophetic. We are chillingly close the having our own euthanasia brigades.

  46. Charivari Rob says:

    The more I think about it the more I am sure that we need to sit back, take a breath, wait a moment and then ask calmly and appropriately what procedures & expectations police/fire/EMS and priests are operating under in these circumstances. Also, as AA Cunningham said above, understanding what the particular circumstances were here.

    Navarricano, I like the idea in the sense of educating priests and police/fire/EMS about the different aspects of need in these situations and how to not work against each other. I am leery, though, of something that would come anywhere to close to a government-issued “clergy ID card”
    At one end of the spectrum, I don’t think we should have to submit our priests to tests of “being in good standing” with the state. At the other end of the spectrum, I see lots of specious “clergy” (the old back-of-magazine divinity degrees) obtaining such credentials as a matter of rights and abusing them.

    VexillaRegis, I can’t answer your question (about Martin Richard) with complete certainty, but here’s one article that says something about it from someone who was there:

    He was 50 feet from one of the explosions. The OMV priests came from about a half-mile away.

  47. Soporatus says:

    Yesterday, my wife and I were having dinner with an elderly friend. The Boston bombings came up with mention of “Islamic terrorism”. Our friend, a retired university social scientist, protested the mention of Islam, stating that Christians are doing the same, it is just that we don’t hear about it, it is not put on the news. My request for examples produced some mumbling about hold-ups and muggings. [Polite lapse into silence.] But it shows the “thinking”.

    Someone claiming to be a Catholic priest is probably a suicide bomber.

    Perhaps a female Catholic priest would have been admitted.

  48. etm says:

    This boils down to a lack of sensitivity and training. In the course of my 22 years as a cop I have attended many training sessions on how to deal with various minorities and religious groups. Catholic needs in this scenario are minimal compared to Ultra Orthodox Jews. Hopefully the Authorities in Boston will learn from this.

  49. Rachel says:

    Father, I just wanted to say thank you for stopping and offering help when you see emergency situations. Though you get blank stares, those same people will probably be quicker to welcome a priest to the scene next time, now that you’ve introduced them to the concept.

  50. pmullane says:

    It takes a particularly bitter form of Anti-Catholicicsm to deny a dying man the last rites of the Church. I know that no ‘first responder’ has the right to deprive me of a priest and, in danger of death, I want a priest before I want a doctor, policeman, or fireman.

    Being ‘understanding’ is all well and good, but I cant come away from the conclusion that these priests should have proceeded to the victims and offered the last sacraments, and if the ‘first responders’ can either allow them in or arrest them. Fr Judge went into the World Trade Centre not because he was a good guy or because he had been the fire chaplain for many years or because he knew the mayor, he went in because he was a Catholic Priest and his responsibility was to tend to the souls in peril in those buildings, and he bore that same responsibility whether he had been the fire chaplain for 100 years or whether he had just gotten off a plane from Outer Mongolia.

  51. MarylandBill says:

    The part of the article that bothered me the most was the following phrase, “the denial of access to clergy is a trifling thing”. As far as I am concerned, once you utter that line, there is no qualification that lessen its impact. People should never, by human agent, be denied access to the ministers and priests of their faith. When my Dad died last month, one of the greatest consolations I had was the knowledge that he had received last rites from my brother just a couple of hours before his death (well that and the fact that my Dad, who was from Ireland, died on Saint Patrick’s day).

    What I did find frustrating though was that when my Dad first went into the Hospital (a week earlier), when he was in the Emergency Room, we asked for the Chaplin (it was a Catholic Hospital) and even after he was diagnosed with a brain bleed the Chaplin never came before my Dad was transferred to another (secular) Hospital. In fairness I am sure that Hospital Chaplins work very hard and probably have an impossible task. But the fact that one might wait several hours, in an emergency room, in a Catholic Hospital, with a life threatening condition and still not see a priest is very disturbing to me.

  52. Pingback: Death and Secularism | Whiskey Catholic

  53. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Like netokor, I also thought of R. H. Benson’s Lord of the World, and now have looked up the online version at Project Gutenberg (I noticed has it read aloud, but have not tried it yet!). There is, in fact, a priest at the crash site, and that, as well as the first sight of someone dying, gets the wife of a high government figure to start thinking. When she asks her husband, he hastens to tell her there is nothing to Christianity: “Why, you know in your heart that the euthanatisers are the real priests.”

    In Benson’s 1907 sketch of the possible future, a priest at the site of the crash is not prevented from acting, though very soon “Down the steps of the great hospital on her [the witness’s] right came figures running now …. She knew what those men were, and her heart leaped in relief. They were the ministers of euthanasia.”

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