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Catholic Education Daily


College of St. Mary Cancels Commencement Speaker

The College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, has withdrawn an invitation to leader of the pro-abortion Girls Inc., to deliver the College’s commencement address this Sunday, bowing to local pressure and concerns first reported by the Cardinal Newman Society.

Yesterday the Omaha World-Herald reported that the invitation to Roberta Wilhelm, executive director of Girls Inc. in Omaha, had been withdrawn. President Sr. Maryanne Stevens, R.S.M., said that she had received numerous e-mails, faxes and calls in protest. Rev. Damien Cook, director of the Bishops’ Plan for Pro-Life Activities for the Archdiocese of Omaha, had independently urged local Catholics to complain.

“This cancellation brings the total number of Catholic colleges with problematic commencement speakers and honorees to 12, a significant decline from the 24 we reported last year,” said CNS President Patrick J. Reilly. “We applaud Sister Stevens for ultimately teaching her students a valuable lesson about the primary importance of values and respect for human life.”

On April 27, CNS mailed Sr. Stevens a letter urging her to withdraw her invitation to Wilhelm because of Girls Inc.’s disagreement with Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception. On the national organization’s website, it proclaims that it “supports a woman’s freedom of choice” and “girls need and have a right to… effective methods of contraception.”

Admitting that the College of St. Mary has had a longstanding relationship with Girls Inc., Sr. Stevens told the Omaha World-Herald that the local chapter promotes abstinence and supports a consistent ethic of life. But the chapter’s own website reveals a close relationship with Planned Parenthood—the nation’s largest abortion provider and promoter of contraceptives—including receiving grant funding and Planned Parenthood’s “Educator of the Year Award.”

For nine years CNS research has identified commencement speakers or honorees at Catholic colleges who have taken public positions contrary to Catholic values or teaching. This year, CNS reported problems at 13 colleges, far fewer than the 24 colleges cited in 2006.

In June 2004, the U.S. bishops mandated: “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.”

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