The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has reported that the Bishop of Worcester (MA), Robert J. McManus, has refused to attend this year’s graduation ceremony at Anna Maria College (AMC).
The problem is that AMC—a small Catholic college in Massachusetts—had invited Victoria Reggie Kennedy to be its 2012 commencement speaker. However, Ms. Kennedy favors legal rights to abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
In an unusual but not unprecedented move, AMC’s academic administrators responded to Bishop McManus’ refusal by recinding the invitation to Ms. Kennedy, saying that AMC “relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the bishop and the larger Catholic community” and, given Bishop McManus’ objection to the choice of Mrs. Kennedy as speaker, the event would “create negative publicity and a difficult situation for both Mrs. Kennedy and AMC.”
Ms. Kennedy issued a statement in which she said:
I have not met Bishop McManus, nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith. Yet by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College, he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the church.
Actually, the opposite may be closer to the truth. This may be a very good day for the Church.
Why AMC academic administrators thought it appropriate to invite Ms. Kennedy—whose views on those three moral issues are well-known—is troubling, it’s not surprising in light of how pervasive this phenomenon has been and continues to be across U.S. Catholic higher education. That lapse is always the origin of this type of kerfuffle.
Yet, AMC’s academic administrators complicated matters by also inviting Bishop McManus to preside at the commencement ceremony, who accepted the invitation. But, when Bishop McManus was informed who the commencement speaker would be, he told AMC academic administrators that he would not preside at the event.
In that Ms. Kennedy’s positions on these three moral issues are well-known, what’s interesting about this story for The Motley Monk is how Ms. Kennedy then turned all of this into a “he didn’t consult with me” story when, in fact, Bishop McManus was simply informing those who invited him that he wouldn’t be coming and why he wouldn’t be coming. Why should he have consulted her?
Ms. Kennedy’s statement is representative of how prominent Catholics who hold moral positions contrary to Church teaching oftentimes react when Church officials don’t “wink and nod.” They paint these officials as if they are uncaring, partriarchal potentates, making their deep personal offense into the subject of the story.
What do they expect Church officials to do? Not to uphold Church teaching?
Yep…that’s exactly what they expect and all too often, academic administrators at Catholic universities and colleges are just as happy when the local bishop declines the invitation to preside. They’d rather have the “headliner” show up for parade.
But, in this instance, AMC’s academic administrators suddenly found themselves pinched between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps if AMC had the benefit of a sizeable endowment, maybe its administrators wouldn’t have to give one hoot what the bishop or larger Catholic community thought.
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