The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Kennedy Commencment Brouhaha

Victoria & Ted Kennedy
Okay, I'll admit that, even though I spent a good hunk of my adult life in Massachusetts, I've never been a fan of the Kennedys. And I've certainly never voted for one. Ted Kennedy in particular always seemed to disappoint me. In 1971 he wrote, “Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized - the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” But then, as liberal Massachusetts voters increasingly embraced the opposite position, the Senator did a complete about face and became the darling of the "pro-choice" crowd and the radical feminists.

Senator Kennedy's personal conflict with established Church teaching wasn't restricted to abortion, but also included such issues as homosexual marriage and contraception. Scandalously, as he flaunted his hostility to the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church, he publicly claimed to be a believing, practicing Catholic. How many did he lead astray? As one woman complained to me after a Mass at which I had preached a pro-life homily, "I agree with Senator Kennedy. The girls should have a choice." How nice that she takes her moral direction from a politician rather than the Church.

I mention this because of the dis-inviting of Senator Kennedy's widow, Victoria, who had been scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Anna Maria College, a small Catholic college in Paxton, Massachusetts. It seems that after the college invited her to speak and receive an honorary degree, the local bishop, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, urged the college not to honor Mrs. Kennedy, telling the college administration that she was not a good choice because of her public support for both abortion and homosexual marriage.

According to a diocesan spokesman, “Bishop McManus feels that, consistent with what the U.S. bishops have been saying since 2004 as a group, Catholic institutions should be honoring Catholics who are taking at least public positions that are consistent with the teachings of the Church.”

Three cheers for Bishop McManus, who is merely, but courageously, reiterating the U. S. Bishops' 2004 statement that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” since such honors would obviously “suggest support for their actions.” Mrs. Kennedy would certainly fall into this category since she has written op-ed pieces in defense of the right to an abortion and has also spoken publicly in support of homosexual marriage.

The college's administration, in rescinding its invitation, seemed less concerned about Mrs. Kennedy's rejection of Church teaching than about the bad publicity that might arise if it ignored their bishop's request. They were worried that any "conflict with the bishop" might "create negative publicity and a difficult situation” for the college, as well as for Mrs. Kennedy. In their statement, the college said, “As a small, Catholic college that relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the Bishop and the larger Catholic community, its options are limited...While the (Board of Trustees) believes that this is the necessary decision, it will continue to advocate for increased opportunities to practice its Catholic values of hospitality, compassion, reconciliation, respect for all people and understanding."

And so another Catholic college loses its way...I suppose I should be pleased that did what they did, and actually listened to their bishop.

If you'd like to read  the Washington Post's remarkably one-sided coverage of this story, click here.

Pray for our bishops, for our Catholic educational institutions, and for our Catholic politicians, that they will always place God's will first.

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