Catholic chaplain resigns over email responding to Floyd killing

Moloney failed to ‘acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism’

Rev. Daniel Moloney, MIT’s Catholic chaplain, resigned June 9, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Boston. The Archdiocese asked the chaplain to resign after Moloney sent an email to the Tech Catholic Community (TCC) in response to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests.

Moloney wrote in the email that while Floyd should not have been killed by a police officer, Floyd’s killing was not necessarily “an act of racism.” Moloney added that “people have claimed that racism” is a “major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.” He wrote that the police officer had “acted wrongly” and that “it is right that he has been arrested and will be prosecuted.”

Moloney also wrote that Floyd “had not lived a virtuous life,” stating that Floyd had committed sins, “but we do not kill such people” and instead “root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel.”

“Our solidarity with one another is deeply frayed now,” Moloney wrote, describing tension surrounding protests in the Boston area. He wrote that he had spoken to people who wanted the protests to stop “because they are afraid of more riots and looting” and people who wanted to join the protests but were “uneasy about having police present.”

The Archdiocese wrote in its statement that Moloney’s “comments regarding the murder of George Floyd do not reflect the positions of the Archdiocese.” By resigning, Moloney “accepts the hurt” his comments “have caused.”

Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life, wrote in an email to student and faculty leaders June 12 that MIT senior leaders and the Bias Response Team had received reports about Moloney’s email. Nelson wrote that Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing.”

Nelson added that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color.”

According to Nelson’s email, all MIT chaplains sign the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life’s “Relationship with Affiliated Organizations and Representatives” agreement, which states that chaplains should demonstrate “respect for the dignity and worth of all people and a sensitivity to the beliefs and cultural commitments of others” and that “actions or statements that diminish the value of individuals or groups of people are prohibited.” Nelson wrote that Moloney’s email did not “live up to these expectations.”

Gustavo Burkett, senior associate dean for diversity and community involvement, and Nelson spoke with the TCC Advisory Board and the Archdiocese of Boston about Moloney’s email. Moloney was asked to resign following these discussions.

Burkett wrote in an email to The Tech that the Institute Community and Equity Office (ICEO) will begin working on a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for MIT “very soon.” He wrote that the Division of Student Life (DSL) will partner with the ICEO to address diversity and inclusion in the student experience.

“Ideas such as diversity training for staff and affiliates will be an essential component of DSL’s work on the plan,” Burkett wrote.

In addition, the Archdiocese will work with the Institute to nominate a Catholic chaplain whose views are “consistent” with Institute values of “inclusion, respect, and dignity for all community members as well as the values proclaimed by the Church’s leadership,” Nelson wrote. 

Mariana Avila ’22, TCC president, wrote in an email to The Tech that “many people in the TCC feel very hurt and angry” after reading Moloney’s email and “are frustrated that Fr. Moloney did not show compassion toward the Black community and acknowledge the suffering they endure due to racism.” She also wrote that “some are shocked by his resignation” due to his “positive impact” on the TCC during his five years as chaplain.

Avila wrote that the TCC Council held a forum attended by over 60 people June 9 “to discuss people’s reactions and opinions to Fr. Moloney’s email.” The council is “determined to continue fostering unity and support” in the TCC.

Update 6/18/2020: The article was updated to reflect that Moloney’s email said that he was not certain that Floyd’s killing was “an act of racism,” not that he denied that it was.