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Pro-Abortion Senator's Lecture at Providence College Fuels Protest

As CNS reported earlier, Providence College’s political science department has invited pro-abortion Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to give a lecture on “An Effective Congress for the 21st Century” in the Smith Center for the Arts at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15. The lecture is preceded by a reception.

Senator Whitehouse's pro-abortion record is unmistakeable. The NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC has endorsed Whitehouse. NARAL gave Whitehouse a 100-percent score in its 2011 Congressional Record on Choice.

“I am pro-choice,” Whitehouse said during the 2006 Rhode Island Senate debate. “I firmly believe that family planning decisions should be private, and that there’s no role for government intrusion in those decisions. Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land by almost any legal standard.”

It's not the senator's first visit to the Catholic college. On October 8, 2008, the senator was on campus to speak about his experiences as a freshman senator.

Whitehouse has a solid pro-abortion voting record. He has frequently voted against legislation supported by National Right to Life, and has repeatedly earned a 0% rating from National Right to Life.

He has voted against cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood, voted against a budget bill that would have cut funding for contraception, voted against overturning the pro-life “Mexico City Policy,” voted against banning funding of organizations that support coercive abortion programs, and voted in favor of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

In their 2004 statement Catholics in Political Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that, “The Catholic community and 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." 

Providence President Fr. Brian Shanley responded with a letter to the campus community on Tuesday, Feb. 12, explaining why the lecture would go on. In it, he wrote:

Does this invitation violate the U.S. bishops’ request that Catholic institutions neither honor nor provide a platform for politicians holding views at odds with the Church? We are not giving Sen. Whitehouse an award. Nor are we giving him a platform to promote views at odds with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore I do not consider this inconsistent with the bishops’ wishes and I see no reason to seek to disinvite him from speaking.

In April 2008, in his address to Catholic university presidents at The Catholic University of America, Pope Benedict XVI warned against false notions of academic freedom.

"...any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it," said the Pope.

Rhode Island Right to Life and Providence alumni have organized a formal protest,asking the president and bishop to say "no." They are asking those concerned to take action through an online automated form letter or by contacting President Fr. Brian Shanley or Bishop Thomas Tobin directly.

It would not be the first time the college has canceled a scheduled speaker. In 2009, the College blocked a presentation by former Congressman Tom Tancredo because his immigration views contradicted the Catholic approach to the issue.

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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