On Thursday, December 11, 2008 the University of San Francisco, a Catholic institution, bestowed an honorary degree upon Irish President Mary McAleese, despite her public dissent from a fundamental Church teaching on the all-malepriesthood.
In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, declaring that the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women. Then in 1995, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the doctrine and stated that “This teaching requires definitive assent.”
During a 1995 seminar on women’s ordination in Dublin entitled Women Sharing Fully, President McAleese delivered a speech in response to the Vatican declarations, stating: “They say the debate is closed. I think they had better turn up their hearing aids.”
She continued: “If I truly believed that Christ was the authority for the proposition that women are to be excluded from priesthood by virtue simply of their gender, I would have to say emphatically that this is a Christ in whose divinity I do not and will not and cannot believe.”
President McAleese again, in 1997, sharply criticized the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, comparing "defenders of the Vatican line" on an all-male priesthood to "Communist Party apparatchiks hawking redundant cliches” in an article for The Tablet.
In addition to her support for the ordination of women, McAleese is also the founding legal advisor to the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform. This Irish group motivated the Irish parliament in 1993 to pass a law legalizing same-sex activity.
The bishops of the United States in 2004 declared that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Cardinal Newman Society spokesman Adam Wilson commented that “USF’s choice of McAleese to receive an honorary degree clearly violates the bishops’ speakers policy.”
“It is quite sad, though unfortunately not surprising, that a historically Catholic institution like the University of San Francisco would honor someone who has compared faithful Catholic leaders in Rome to ‘Communist Party apparatchiks.’”
Founded in 1993, The Cardinal Newman Society works to promote the renewal of Catholic higher education.
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