One decade after the U.S. Catholic bishops prohibited Catholic honors and honorary speaking platforms for public opponents of Catholic teaching at Catholic institutions, The Cardinal Newman Society has identified at least 20 Catholic colleges and universities that are hosting scandalous speakers and honorees at commencement ceremonies in 2014.
That represents nearly 10 percent of America’s Catholic colleges and a sudden increase in the number of commencement scandals beyond the six reported by The Cardinal Newman Society last year. The Society’s concerns peaked in 2006 with 24 Catholic colleges.
While this year’s count may yet set a record—several colleges have not yet announced their commencement plans—it already exceeds the 19 colleges cited by the Newman Society in 2004, when the U.S. bishops issued Catholics in Political Life. That document echoed many diocesan policies by proclaiming, “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.”
In 2009, Catholics in Political Life was cited by most of the 83 American bishops who opposed the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Barack Obama, because of his support for abortion. More than 367,000 signers joined The Cardinal Newman Society’s petition urging Notre Dame to rescind the invitation.
“These colleges are still trapped in the dissent and political correctness of the prior half-century, while the rest of Catholic education is making difficult but genuine progress toward strengthening Catholic identity,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Church should be alarmed by this sudden return to commencement scandals. We need renewed attention and obedience to the bishops’ sensible policies and Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican constitution on Catholic higher education.”
Last week, Pope Francis announced a Vatican commission of cardinals to resolve a longstanding dispute with the former Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, instructing the cardinals to find a solution “within the framework of the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae.”
And while 20 colleges have chosen to offend faithful Catholics by their commencement plans, several other colleges—many of them fully committed to Ex corde Ecclesiae—have chosen excellent speakers and honorees that highlight their Catholic identity. These include a number of bishops, leading theologians, and notable faithful Catholics.
The Cardinal Newman Society reports the following:
- Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., will present Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., of the Sisters of Life as its commencement speaker and Bishop David Choby of Nashville will celebrate the Baccalaureate Mass. In addition, the College will confer its first master’s degrees.
- Benedictine Collegein Atchison, Kan., will present Vatican consultor and George Mason University law school professor Helen Alvaré as its commencement speaker.
- The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., will honor its commencement speaker Philip Rivers, a Pro Bowl quarterback for the San Diego Chargers and publicly pro-life Catholic, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines.
- Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., will honor Father Terence Henry, TOR, chancellor and former president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and commencement speaker and renowned Catholic philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft.
- The College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., presented Dan Burke, executive director of the National Catholic Register, as commencement speaker.
- DeSales University in Center Valley, Penn., will honor Flaminia Giovanelli, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and “the highest-ranking laywoman in the Roman Curia.”
- Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio will honor Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Steubenville Diocese, and commencement speaker Michael Warsaw, chief executive officer of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
- Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., will honor its commencement speaker Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.
- Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., will present Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who served as a professor and then rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary from 1995-2004, as its commencement speaker.
- Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, will present Father Wilson Miscamble, CSC, of the University of Notre Dame as its commencement speaker. He has been a defender of Catholic identity at Notre Dame since joining the University in 1988.
- Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., will honor its commencement speaker Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
- University of Dallas in Texas will present Catholic writer and theologian George Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and biographer of Pope St. John Paul II, as its commencement speaker.
- Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, honored Maryann Cusimano Love, Ph.D, a tenuredinternational relations professor at the Catholic University of America, memberof the U.S. Catholic Bishops' International Justice and Peace Committee, and New York Times best-selling author as its commencement speaker.
- Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., will present Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln as its commencement speaker.
In stark contrast, The Cardinal Newman Society has identified the following scandalous commencement speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges in 2014:
Boston College will bestow an honorary Doctor of Laws on its commencement speaker, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is a Boston College Law School graduate and former senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, according to the Boston College Chronicle. Kerry supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and he compiled an abysmal record on issues of life during the nearly three decades he served as a senator. In a 2004 debate versus President George W. Bush, Kerry reportedly said of the Catholic bishops’ teaching on abortion: “I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. That's why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.”
Boston College Law School will present Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, as its commencement speaker, according to the College’s website. In 2011, Malloy issued a press release celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade: “I’ve been a lifelong advocate and strong supporter of a woman's right to choose.” On same-sex marriage, Malloy reportedly said, "Historically, two people get married. We're not changing history. We might be changing the sex of individuals or the concept that they're both of the same sex, but we're not changing anything. A registration is a registration is a registration."
Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Penn., will honor President Barack Obama’s former Surgeon General of the United States, Regina Benjamin, MD, with an honorary doctorate and present her as the commencement speaker, according to the University’s website. White House spokesman Reid Cherlin confirmed that Benjamin “supports the president’s position on reproductive health issues,” according to LifeNews.com. Planned Parenthood also listed Benjamin as a “Champion of Reproductive Rights” on its website. Benjamin reportedly served on the board of Physicians for Human Rights. The organization called on President Bush not to expand the Mexico City Policy, which prevented taxpayer money from going to groups that promote and perform abortions around the world, and lauded President Obama for overturning the policy.
The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., will honor its commencement speaker Jon Favreau, former director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama, with an honorary degree. Favreau compared a recent law in Kansas that protected the religious freedom of business owners to Jim Crow laws. On Twitter, he wrote, “A tragically sad day in the history of Kansas, where the House just went Jim Crow on gay couples.” And late last year, after an Ohio judge rejected Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage, he retweeted a tweet that expressed pride in the decision and wrote, “Me too!”
Dominican University of California will honor its commencement speaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, with an honorary Doctorate of Humanities, according to the University’s website. Siebel headlined a Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas fundraiser in February, which raised more than $230,000 for the abortion giant. In 2010, Siebel Newsom reportedly emceed NARAL Pro-Choice California‘s FORUM for CHOICE along with Jerry Brown.
Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy in Washington, D.C., will honor its commencement speaker U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew with an honorary degree, according to the Jesuit University’s website. “We have set out our policy,” Lew reportedly said on Meet the Press last year regarding the HHS mandate. “We are going to finalize it in the final rules, but I think what the president announced on Friday is a balanced approach that meets the concerns raised both in terms of access to health care and in terms of protecting religious liberties, and we think that’s the right approach.” Lew continued, “We didn’t expect to get the support of the bishops or all Catholics. We think it is a very good resolution of the problem. It’s gotten the support of a wide range of organizations from Catholic charities and the Catholic Health Association to Planned Parenthood.”
Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Wash., invited Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen to be the keynote speaker at the Law School commencement, according to the University. Madsen was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington for her 2010 run for the state Supreme Court, according to LifePac. And The Seattle Times reported in a piece about the endorsement, “In response to a reporter's inquiries, Madsen said in a written statement that she was pleased to be listed in NARAL's voter pamphlet as pro-choice.”
Loyola University of Chicago’s Graduate School and Institute of Pastoral Studies has invited Father Thomas Reese, S.J., to speak at its commencement ceremony, according to the Jesuit University’s website. Fr. Reese is a senior analyst for the heterodox National Catholic Reporter. His controversial statements include mocking the bishops as “only 200 votes” in the 2012 presidential election and saying the bishops should accept the HHS mandate because “contraception is a lot cheaper than live births, especially if the live births are problematic.” He reportedly wrote, “Some argue that gay marriage is a threat to marriage as a heterosexual institution. I have never understood this argument.” He said, “I would prefer to reserve the word ‘marriage’ to heterosexuals, but I don’t think it is worth fighting over.”
Loyola University of Maryland in Baltimore will honor its commencement speaker Mark Shriver, who is pro-abortion rights, with the University’s President’s Medal. While a 2002 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, Shriver stated in a Washington Post interview, “Women’s issues are critically important and I will continue to fight for a women’s right to choose, family planning funds, maternal and child health funding and education for girls both here and abroad.”
Loyola University of New Orleans in Louisiana will honor its commencement speaker David Gergen, a former presidential advisor and CNN political analyst who supports abortion rights, with an honorary degree, according to the Jesuit University’s website. The Los Angeles Times reported that Gergen was “a moderate, pro-abortion rights centrist who warns against the dangers of partisanship, extremism and ambition in Washington.”
Saint Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, N.Y., will, according to its website, honor its commencement speaker Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell with an honorary degree. Campbell served as the first ordained woman appointed as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. She once reportedly signed a letter “honoring and celebrating” the life of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller. The letter reportedly cited Tiller’s “life and his many contributions to women's well-being.” Orthodoxy Today reported: “Orthodox presence in the NCC has thwarted an attempt to proclaim a pro-abortion position officially, but its ‘witness’ has not been sufficient to preclude then General Secretary Dr. Joan Brown Campbell's having gone on record for the NCC in support of a national health care reform proposal which included abortion coverage as an integral part, in 1993.”
Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., plans to honor its commencement speaker, former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Kathleen Blatz, with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Blatz reportedly publicly backed Lawyers United for All Families, a group opposed to the proposed amendment which would have defined marriage as a heterosexual union in the Minnesota constitution. In an opinion piece that appeared on TwinCities.com, Blatz wrote: “What troubles me is that there are many churches that want to celebrate marriages between same-sex couples but will be constitutionally prohibited from marrying gays if the amendment is adopted. This is wrong.”
Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Penn., plans to honor Boston College theologian Father David Hollenbach, S.J. with an honorary degree and will present him as commencement speaker to its graduate students, according to the University. According to previous reporting by The Cardinal Newman Society, Fr. Hollenbach has publicly opposed the U.S. bishops’ implementation of the mandatum, a Canon Law requirement that theologians pledge to teach authentic Catholic doctrine. He has also publicly questioned Catholic teaching that abortion is always sinful, comparing judgments about abortion to prudential judgments about war and the death penalty. In 2009, Fr. Hollenbach signed a letter by Catholics United in support of President Barack Obama’s choice of pro-abortion rights Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.
Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind., recently announced it will honor its commencement speaker Judith Mayotte, an author and professor, with an honorary doctor of humanities degree, according to the College’s website. She serves on the Women’s Refugee Commission which advocated for the reversal of the pro-life Mexico City Policy. Mayotte is also a director emerita of Refugees International, which advocates for access to “reproductive healthcare,” even calling it a “vital service” for refugees. Also, on the organization’s website, board member Roya Hakakian decries the loss of abortion rights in Iran as part of a “war on women.” Mayotte is currently serving on the host committee of an event called 25 Years of Leading Change which states, “Refugees need reproductive health care, too.” Co-founder Susan Martin describes “ensuring access to reproductive health” including “birth control” as one of the “most important accomplishments” of the organization.
Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, Calif., has invited Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, for the honor of commencement speaker. Panetta has a pro-abortion rights voting record from his time serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. He co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act which sought to eliminate any and all state laws limiting abortion in any way. It was strongly and successfully opposed by the U.S. bishops.
Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., plans to honor its commencement speaker Steven Fulop, mayor of Jersey City, at its commencement ceremony. Fulop supports same-sex marriage and officiated same-sex marriages soon after they were made legal in New Jersey last year.
Santa Clara University in California will host liberation theologian Father Jon Sobrino, S.J., whose work was criticized by the Vatican as containing “erroneous and dangerous propositions” concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ, to deliver the commencement address to the Jesuit School of Theology graduates, according to the University’s website. After the Vatican’s notification, Archbishop Fernando Sanez Lacalle, then archbishop of San Salvador, reportedly barred Fr. Sobrino from teaching theology in any Catholic center “until he revises his conclusions on a basic point of our faith: the divinity of Jesus Christ who is truly the Son of God made man.”
St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., recently announced that its commencement speaker Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Poverty Project and a strong proponent of birth control as a means of erasing poverty, will be honored with a doctor of laws degrees at commencement ceremonies next month, according to the Queens Chronicle. Evans’ support for birth control has been a major aspect of his work and he once reportedly said that a lack of access to contraception is a human rights violation. St. John’s University Interim President Rev. Joseph Levesque reportedly called Evans a “role model.”
The University of San Diego School of Law in California is hosting former Congresswoman Shelley Berkley as commencement speaker. Berkley, according to OntheIssues.com, voted against making it a crime to harm an unborn child during another crime, voted against banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life, and voted against forbidding human cloning for reproduction and medical research. The University’s website refers to Berkley as a “champion” of human rights.
The University of San Francisco in California announced that it will give an honorary degree to its commencement speaker Norman Mineta, a past U.S. transportation secretary, congressman and cosponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which declared that “a state may not restrict the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy … at any time, if such termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”
The University of San Francisco School of Law in California has announced its plans to honor its commencement speaker The Honorable John Roos, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan and a public supporter of same-sex marriage, with an honorary degree. Roos signed a public letter urging Californians to vote against Proposition 8, the voter referendum that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Villanova University in Pennsylvania announced that Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and a Villanova alumna, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree on Friday, May 16. Biden, a pro-abortion rights Catholic, told ABC News how important she believed preserving Roe v. Wade was. "I think it's very important personally," Biden told ABC News' Claire Shipman. "But I am of that generation of women who fought for Roe v. Wade, and I can't imagine the Supreme Court overturning it. I think women have to remember that." In a campaign stop in 2012, Biden reportedly said, "We've fought so hard for Roe v. Wade for access to contraception and equal rights. We don't want our daughters and granddaughters to fight those battles we fought, so long ago. We've come so far,but we have to keep moving forward."
The Cardinal Newman Society will continue to monitor commencements speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges as they are announced.
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