M.I.T. Catholic Chaplain Forced Out Over Email Message About George Floyd

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/06/17/m-i-t-catholic-chaplain-forced-out-over-email-message-about-george-floyd/

[UPDATE, Saturday, June 20, 2020:  See the full text of the email message that got Father Daniel Moloney fired and a fact-checking analysis of it.]


The Catholic chaplain has been forced out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because of an email message he sent Catholic students that questioned whether George Floyd died because of racism and stated that Floyd did not live a virtuous life.

Father Daniel Moloney, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, was asked to resign last week, according to the archdiocese.

“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is a major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that,” Moloney wrote in an email message to the MIT Catholic Community, according to a news story published Tuesday night in The Boston Globe.

Moloney, according to the Globe story of Tuesday, June 16, wrote that Floyd should not have been killed by a police officer in Minnesota, but also stated that Floyd “had not lived a virtuous life” and that police “deal with dangerous and bad people all the time, and that often hardens them.”

Some students complained to university administrators, including the university’s Bias Response Team.

University officials contacted the Archdiocese of Boston, which quickly sought Moloney’s resignation.

Father Moloney could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Attempts to get the full text of Father Moloney’s email message were not immediately successful.

The archdiocese released a statement:

The Archdiocese of Boston asked Rev. Daniel Moloney to resign as Catholic Chaplain at MIT, to which he has agreed, following his June 7, 2020 email to the MIT Catholic community. The personal opinions echoed in his comments regarding the murder of George Floyd do not reflect the positions of the Archdiocese and are not consistent with the positions detailed in the recently issued statement of Cardinal Seán O’Malley (available here). While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.  

In the pastoral letter of June 5, 2020, Cardinal Seán stated, “The Catholic Church is a community of people of all colors, nationalities and ethnicities. Catholic moral teaching is based on the fact that all people – without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or nationality – are created in the image of God. This teaching rejects any form of racism, personal or systemic. Our faith calls us to leadership in breaking down barriers and standing against injustice. To violate human dignity is to dishonor the presence of Christ in each person.”

MIT has a strong Catholic community that is active and strong in faith.  The Archdiocese is committed to providing pastoral care to the community and we welcome the opportunity to promote ongoing dialogue in the spirit of solidarity to reject racism in all its forms.


An university administrator wrote a letter condemning Father Moloney’s email message.

“The message from Father Moloney was deeply disturbing. Those who wrote me and other senior leaders were outraged, and many felt abandoned and alienated by their faith,” wrote Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “By devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character, Father Moloney’s message failed to acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism — especially within the criminal justice system — on African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color. Moreover, his message dismissed the need for urgent action and change in America. Now more than ever, we need people in positions of power and influence to call upon each one of us to examine the ruinous impact of hate and racial violence in America, to strengthen our commitment to healing our relations with others, and to unite in bringing about systemic equity and justice for Black people in every sector of society.”

Father Moloney majored in religious studies at Yale College, graduating in 1994. He earned a PhD. in philosophy at Notre Dame in 2004, according to an online biography.

He is a former associate editor of First Things, an influential journal of religion and public life.

He was ordained a priest in 2010.

In April 2020 he published a book called Mercy:  What Every Catholic Should Know, from Ignatius Press.

Father Moloney published a blog post Sunday, June 7 touching on George Floyd in a different context from the email message, saying that while there’s widespread consensus in the country about the injustice of Floyd’s killing there’s no consensus on what to do about it, in part because the conversation focuses solely on justice.

He said what he described as “justice-only politics” is a mistake because it ignores the mercy that everyone needs and that Jesus commands his followers to practice in Luke 6:36 (“be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful”).

He condemned racism, but suggested that even racists need mercy.

“Racism is a sin, and Jesus conquers sin,” Father Moloney wrote. “It’s a sad fact that most of our thinking about race takes place in a left-wing, Marxist, atheistic context, in which a desire for power and an awareness of otherness crowd out Christian reflections on meekness and solidarity. It didn’t used to be this way. The Civil Rights movement was once led by Christians, most notably the Protestant Pastor Martin Luther King. It appealed to the Gospel to unify people of all races. As in so much of our life, so to with regard to race, it’s a struggle to think in Christian terms. When people only talk about justice, it’s a struggle to cultivate mercy. It’s a struggle to forgive those who have trespassed against us, or people like us. It’s easy to forget what we said above, that mercy is commanded of us.”



Statement from the Archdiocese of Boston about Father Daniel Moloney, the former Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, dated Tuesday, June 9, 2020.



Letter from Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concerning former Catholic chaplain Father Daniel Moloney, dated Friday, June 12, 2020.