Hail Mary: Boston Archdiocese Gives $850,000 Against Legalization

In a last-ditch effort just ten days from Election Day, the Boston Archdiocese donated $850,000 to the effort to defeat a state ballot measure to legalize cannabis. Archdiocese leaders called increased drug use a threat to the Catholic Church’s health and social-service programs.

The large contribution represents about a 50 percent increase over what the anti-legalization Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts has collected so far.

The church’s contribution represents the largest single donation against marijuana legalization in Massachusetts aside from the $1 million check written by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Dorchester native and right-wing political financier.

The anti-legalization campaign has raised more than $2.6 million, including the archdiocese’s contribution, which amounts to less than half the money raised by Question 4 advocates. YES on 4 has raised $6.6 million so far, according to state campaign finance records.

The church’s donation will likely help fund an existing advertising campaign. The church has also sent materials to parishes and schools arguing against the ballot question.

The $850,000 donation was somewhat of a surprise, as it came only a few days after Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said the archdiocese would spend a small amount to oppose the measure.

According to archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon, O’Malley’s thinking “changed within the last few days.” “The more he thought about this and prayed about this, he thought this was the right thing to do because it directly impacts the people we’re trying to help.”

Donilon added that the money comes from a discretionary, unrestricted central ministry fund, not from parish collection baskets or other programs.

This isn’t the first time the church has taken a stand on a state political issue.

9/7/2012Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston66 Brooks DriveBraintreeMA02184$1,057.28The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
12/13/2012Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston66 Brooks DriveBraintreeMA02184$800The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
10/18/2012Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston66 Brooks DriveBraintreeMA02184$25,983.94The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
5/30/2012Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston66 Brooks DriveBraintreeMA02184$50,518.25The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
10/28/2016Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston66 Brooks DrBraintreeMA02184$850,000The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts

In 2012, the church donated to the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide. The donations don’t even make up 10 percent of what the church has just donated to anti-legalization groups, totaling less than $80,000.

Massachusetts voters on Nov. 8 will decide four statewide ballot questions. On Question 4—cannabis legalization—recent polls have shown legalization forces leading. The latest poll released Thursday showed likely voters backing the proposal, 49 percent to 42 percent.

Given the small time frame between the archdiocese’s financial involvement and the election, and with the airwaves crowded with presidential ads, it remains unclear what impact the investment will have.