Catholic author Mary Eberstadt, who delivered the commencement address at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., on May 19, said that the Seton Hall administration “stood firm” despite some faculty who opposed the decision to host her at graduation. In her address, Eberstadt discussed the power of pro-life witness, human dignity, and standing up for the truth.
“As it happened, despite the preceding faculty machinations, the event itself went off beautifully and without incident,” Eberstadt told The Cardinal Newman Society in correspondence. “Seton Hall's administration stood firm. I gave the speech, the crowd was wonderful, and there was nary a peep from the disgruntled.”
Eberstadt, who has written extensively about the culture of life, the damage of contraception, and the need for families to focus on raising children, was opposed by some Seton Hall faculty for her writings about the impact of working mothers.
Eberstadt had previously explained that her writing is not meant to make parents feel guilty. “The purpose of these pages is not to ask what any one woman or man has decided to do,” she reportedly said. “It is rather to ask what the accumulation of many millions of such decisions is doing to the children and adolescents of this society.”
In the commencement address, Eberstadt told graduating students that they are “are more important than [they] know” in part because the “most underestimated force on the planet may be the power of example, including your own example.”
Eberstadt’s commencement address, in part, reads:
…The new intolerance insinuates that people who put their faith in a deity are on the wrong side of history. It’s up to you, every one of you, to bear witness to this contrary principle: there is no wrong side of history. There is only the wrong side of truth.
…The ripples of every human action fan out too broadly and in too many directions for our limited mortal eyes to track or map. A priest I know of in Maryland once prayed on his knees in snow outside an abortion clinic — and unbeknownst to him at the time, a woman who was looking out the window that day cancelled her planned appointment, and went on to have a baby a few months later. All because she saw this stranger praying in the snow. That priest, like all of you, mattered more than he knew.
…You can be proud all your lives of the great ethical truths that you have been taught in this great Catholic university. They aren’t arbitrary theological edicts, but universal truths with a claim to every mind and heart. It’s good, not bad, to defend the defenseless — the destitute, the castaways, the throwaways — against the powerful and predatory. It’s true, and not something to be mumbled with apology, to say that human beings have human dignity and that yes, human dignity means that some things are beneath human beings. If we didn’t believe that, we’d have no argument against slavery. It’s positive, not negative, to look backward in time to the Roman Empire, say, and to see that the Church started a moral revolution by saying no to female infanticide and yes to the idea that men and women have equal moral worth.
“In standing up for truths like these, in protesting politely but forcefully on behalf of them, yours are absolutely vital voices in the years ahead.” Eberstadt said in her conclusion. “You are all, if you want it, part of the new moral movement that Pope Francis seems to be calling for between the lines of his speeches.”
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.