Catholic Commencement Scandals


The Cardinal Newman Society has identified a handful of Catholic colleges and universities honoring those who do not support Catholic teaching on issues of life or marriage.

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As commencement season rolls on, there appear to be fewer scandals than in past years with Catholic colleges giving places of honor or inviting speakers who oppose Catholic teaching. Still, The Cardinal Newman Society has identified a handful of speakers of concern. They include:

The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law has chosen 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.

The University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions is honoring 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 will honor 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.

Previously reported by The Cardinal Newman Society, Boston College is awarding an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who will deliver the College’s commencement address on May 20.

Kenny has supported “Protection of Maternal Health” legislation to loosen abortion restrictions in Ireland, legislation that Ireland’s bishops have condemned and described as “morally unacceptable.”

“It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person,” the Irish bishops wrote.

In addition, St. Mary’s College of California is featuring its 7th annual Lavender Grad Celebration in De La Salle Hall’s Hagerty Lounge on Thursday, May 16 for what it describes as the College’s LGBTQIA community.

"The American bishops have clearly opposed Catholic honors for pro-abortion politicians in their 2004 statement 'Catholics in Political Life' and their very public criticism of Notre Dame's honors to President Barack Obama in 2009," said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. 

Cardinal Francis George explained to the National Catholic Register in 1999 that such speakers are inappropriate at any Catholic college.

“Commencement speakers with pro-choice views are totally inappropriate at any college or university that claims to be Catholic, or to function in the Catholic tradition,” said Cardinal George.

“Inviting someone as a commencement speaker is a clear sign of approval. Abortion is literally a life or death issue, so to honor someone who supports it risks compromising that institution's public witness to the Gospel.”