Commencement 2013 at Catholic colleges and universities included many of the Church's leaders, a handful of inappropriate speakers, and a scandal that resulted in a Cardinal's withdrawal at Boston College.
The Cardinal Newman Society counted at least nine bishops and Cardinals who delivered or are delivering the commencement addresses at Catholic colleges. They included Cardinal Donald Wuerl at Duquesne University; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo at Thomas Aquinas College; Cardinal Sean O’Malley at Regis College of Weston; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the University of Notre Dame. In addition, Bishop Edward Slattery spoke at Wyoming Catholic College; Archbishop Jose Gomez spoke at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Archbishop Charles Brown spoke at Christendom College; Archbishop William Lori spoke at Mount St. Mary’s; and Archbishop Peter Sartain spoke at Saint Martin University.
Other good news was that despite pressure from homosexual activists, including a Cincinnati City Councilman to rescind its invitation, Xavier University remained committed to its pro-family commencement speaker, NFL Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Bengal, Anthony Munoz. Council member Chris Seelbach objected to Munoz’s ties to Citizens for Community Values, an organization that supports traditional marriage.
"Anthony Munoz was selected as this year’s commencement speaker because of his tremendous service to our community through the Anthony Munoz Foundation and his remarkable reputation for charitable work,” XU spokeswoman Kelly Leon said.
Compared with previous years, there were fewer problematic commencement speakers. In 2006, there were 24 problematic speakers. That declined to 14 in 2011. Last year saw 11 problematic speakers, and another two which were halted by bishops before they could occur. This year, The Cardinal Newman Society was able to identify six commencement speakers that were inappropriate.
To identify scandals, we use the 2004 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Catholics in Political Life” as a guide. It reads: “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.” The Cardinal Newman Society, therefore, identifies scandals by those speakers and honorees who have publicly and clearly opposed Catholic moral teaching.
This year’s problematic speakers included:
The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law chose political activist Debbie Dingell as its Friday, May 10 commencement speaker. Dingell, wife of U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.) has publicly supported Planned Parenthood. In March 2011, Dingell spoke at a Planned Parenthood rally opposing proposed Congressional cuts for the organization’s services.
St. Edward’s University’s 2013 Commencement featured Maria Otero, former Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights as commencement speaker on Saturday, May 11. Otero served for the U.S.Department of State under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Otero has been a leader in promoting access to reproductive services, including contraception and abortion.
The University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions honored lesbian San Francisco director of San Francisco Department of Health Barbara Garcia as its Friday, May 17 commencement speaker. Garcia oversaw the implementation of taxpayer funding for sex-change operations.
Santa Clara University's School of Law chose Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, a 1985 undergraduate alumnus of Santa Clara University, as the speaker for its commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 25 at 9:30 a.m. in the Mission Gardens. Drummond was among a group of Silicon Valley leaders who publicly supported homosexual marriage. Drummond joined more than 45 of his colleagues in signing an October, 2008 full-page advertisement in the San Jose Mercury news urging people to vote "No" on Proposition 8.
Santa Clara University honor is honoring former U.S. Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta as its commencement speaker on June 15. A graduate of Santa Clara, Panetta had a strong pro-abortion voting record while he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was a co-sponsor of the federal Freedom of Choice Act, and as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, defended Clinton’s veto of a bill that would have banned partial birth abortion. Santa Clara University will be presenting both Panetta and his wife with honorary degrees.
As far as scandals, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s commencement address and honorary degree at Boston College was the most egregious. The scandal forced Cardinal Sean O’Malley to withdraw. Historically, Cardinal O’Malley would lead the closing benediction. The choice of Kenny drew the ire of faithful Catholics and pro-life groups for Kenny’s decision to support legislation loosening abortion restrictions in Ireland. The choice of Kenny as speaker received praise from Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts.
“The Irish Bishops have responded to that development by affirming the Church’s teaching that ‘the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of life is always morally wrong’ and expressed serious concern that the proposed legislation ‘represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law,’ said Cardinal O’Malley in a release.
Continued the statement:
“Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach (prime minister) has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation. It is my ardent hope that Boston College will work to redress the confusion, disappointment and harm caused by not adhering to the Bishops’ directives.”
The commencement went on as planned, with the College defending its decision.
"Boston College invited Prime Minister Kenny a year ago to speak at our commencement to celebrate its heritage and relationship with Ireland and our desire to recognize and celebrate our heritage," Boston College Spokesman Jack Dunn told the Boston Globe. "Our invitation is independent of the proposed bill that will be debated in the Irish parliament this summer."
About 40 people protested Kenny's presence in a demonstration outside the Boston College gates.
"If Boston College won't stand for the pre-born at its graduation ceremonies, we will," said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life in America, in a statement.
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