By Justin Petrisek, Kimberly Scharfenberger, Adam Cassandra
Research conducted by The Cardinal Newman Society reveals that at least 10 Catholic colleges will be honoring individuals at their 2016 commencement ceremonies who have publicly opposed Church teaching in their statements and actions.
By honoring those who disregard Catholic teaching, and holding them up as role models for students, administrators at these Catholic colleges send a dangerous message to students, betray the religious mission of their institutions and disregard the guidance of the U.S. bishops.
“Families who choose a Catholic education deserve much better than this,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “By passing over the opportunity to present good role models for students — people who embrace not only a call to leadership but God’s call to virtue and faith — a Catholic college falsely honors those who oppose moral truths and dishonors its graduating students.”
A number of Catholic colleges have not yet made announcements on commencement speakers, honorary degrees and awards, but the Newman Society’s initial findings show that several Catholic colleges are all too willing to send their graduates off with the lesson that the Catholic faith takes a backseat to worldly success.
In 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released “Catholics in Political Life,” which requires Catholic institutions to withhold honors and platforms from public opponents of Church teaching — and a commencement address certainly is both a prominent platform and a coveted honor, especially when paired with an honorary degree. The document states in part:
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.
The faithful Catholic colleges recognized in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College are committed to this policy and more — they strive to honor excellent speakers and honorees who highlight their Catholic identity. (See our separate roundup here.)
These include: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York at Benedictine College; Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and philosopher Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand at Christendom College; Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M., Cap., of Boston at Ave Maria University and Franciscan University of Steubenville; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco at Thomas Aquinas College; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, D.D., of Louisville at DeSales University; Bishop Emeritus Victor Galeone of Saint Augustine, Fla., at Belmont Abbey College; author and pastor Father George Rutler at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts; and Sister Regina Marie Gorman, OCD, Vicar General of the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, at Wyoming Catholic College.
In contrast to these choices, the Newman Society has identified the following scandalous commencement speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges in 2016:
DePaul University, Chicago, Ill. (May 15) plans to honor Marty Castro, who was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) by President Barack Obama in January 2011. Castro and the USCCR, under his leadership, have been major proponents of same-sex marriage. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage last summer, Castro stated: “With this ruling, we celebrate the equality of all Americans before our Constitution. While this ruling is historic and sweeping for our nation, its most profound impact will be on those individual acts of union of two people whose love will now, finally, be treated equally before the law.” Castro and the USCCR also opposed recent religious freedom legislation in Mississippi and North Carolina that is necessary to protect the rights of Catholic institutions to uphold Catholic teaching on sexuality. In attacking the bills, Castro embraced the “gender ideology” condemned by Pope Francis by claiming the legislation “perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, [and] marginalizes the transgender and gay community.”
Gonzaga University Law School (May 7) will honor Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, who joined fellow attorneys general in 2014 to push for the Supreme Court to recognize same-sex marriages. “We’ve been fighting every step of the way for marriage equality here in Washington and across the country,” Ferguson reportedly said in his request to the Court. “Until same-sex marriages are recognized nationwide, we’ll continue to stand up for the rights of those who cannot marry the person they love.” Additionally, his views may have influenced religious freedom cases, as he filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a floral shop for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The case resulted in a protracted religious freedom battle and will be heard before the Washington Supreme Court.
Last July when a court of appeals upheld a Washington state law requiring pharmacies to provide emergency contraception regardless of religious objection, Ferguson applauded the decision. “This unanimous decision is a major victory for the people of Washington. Decisions regarding medical care — including reproductive rights —are appropriately between a patient and his or her medical professionals,” he said. In October, he filed an amicus brief in an effort to strike down a Texas state law that limited access to abortions. Ferguson was also endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest during his 2012 election campaign.
La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Penn. (May 7) will host Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, as commencement speaker. His organization promotes contraception and is reportedly linked with Planned Parenthood. As the Newman Society reported previously, Shriver was regarded as a pro-abortion rights politician when he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland. During his brief stint in politics, Shriver garnered a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. In a 2002 Washington Post interview, Shriver stated, “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.” Shriver will also receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from La Roche College.
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Calif. (May 7), plans to host former President Bill Clinton as the 2016 commencement speaker, a decision which has been criticized by The Cardinal Newman Society due to Clinton’s pro-abortion history, advocacy for same-sex marriage and poor moral example to the University’s students. Clinton has publicly defended Roe v. Wade, stating: “Everyone knows life begins biologically at conception. No one knows when biology turns into humanity […] I thought then [in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision] and still believe that the Court reached the right conclusion.” Clinton also pushed the contraceptive drug RU-486, vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortions, signed legislation allowing fetal tissue research on aborted babies and rescinded the “Mexico City Policy,” which prevented overseas organizations from using U.S. funds to provide abortions or information about abortions.
Clinton has also retracted his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, and he now fully supports same-sex marriage. He called on the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act which he signed into law in 1996. “I changed my position,” he said, according to Politico. “I am no longer opposed to [same-sex marriage]. I think if people want to make commitments that last a lifetime, they ought to be able to do it.”
Merrimack College, Andover, Mass. (May 20, 22), will present pro-abortion and same-sex marriage supporter Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts, as its commencement speaker. “I will work to ensure that Massachusetts employers continue to offer comprehensive health insurance coverage, including contraception, to their employees,” he reportedly stated after the Hobby Lobby decision in 2014. “I'm Pro-Choice. I support a woman's right to choose,” he also reportedly said. He also marched in the 2010 Boston Gay Pride Parade and publicly praised the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision last summer.
Regis College, Weston, Mass. (May 7), will honor Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S., as its commencement speaker and present her with an honorary doctorate of law. Sr. Campbell publicly dissents from Catholic teaching with her advocacy for “women-priests” and has claimed that the Vatican “doesn’t know how to deal with strong women.” “I’m optimistic that women will be able to serve as priests one day. But it will happen through practice. First we need to change the system,” she wrote for Time last September. Even though female ordination is not a changeable teaching in the Church, Sr. Campbell encouraged women to dissent and continue to challenge Church teaching. “Pope Francis said that the ‘door is closed’ on the issue of women’s ordination to the priesthood […] Women need to keep knocking on this closed door and eventually the change will come,” she wrote in another Time article. Sr. Campbell is the executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby organization that was part of a Vatican review in 2010 and lobbied to undermine the U.S. bishops’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act because of abortion funding.
The College will also award an honorary doctorate of science to Dr. Paul Farmer, chief strategist and founding director of Partners in Health, a poverty health care group that endorses and promotes contraception as a substantial part of its operations. “In Haiti, all our clinics have a nurse trained in sex education and reproductive health counseling. Staff members have offered free condoms and contraception for more than 15 years,” the PIH website touts. In Rwanda, the organization also encouraged “all women of childbearing age to consider contraceptive methods.” The website describes a condom-education program in which “[m]others and their infant babies, well-dressed older men, and young women in veils stared at the plastic models of penises in front of them.” Under “priority programs,” PIH’s website declares that “family planning is one proven method for safeguarding women’s health” and declares, “Staff members have offered free condoms and contraception for more than 15 years.”
Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, Calif. (May 21), will host superintendent of California’s public school system Tom Torlakson as a commencement speaker. In his role as superintendent, Torlakson has been a public proponent of same-sex marriage, opposing the Proposition 8 effort to protect marriage between one man and one woman in California and applauding the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling over social media. “Same sex marriage is now a universal right, rules #SCOTUS. Congratulations to all on this historic victory! #LoveWins,” he stated on Twitter. He has received 100 percent ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice California, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights League, as well as public endorsements from Equality California and Planned Parenthood. Torlakson also supported legislation in California which required students to study the contributions of LGBT Americans as “role models” and mandated that “children as young as kindergarten must be taught to admire persons who engage in homosexuality.”
Seattle University, Seattle, Wash. (June 12), will present Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, as commencement speaker. His organization promotes contraception and is reportedly linked with Planned Parenthood. As the Newman Society reported previously, Shriver was regarded as a pro-abortion rights politician when he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland. During his brief stint in politics, Shriver garnered a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. In a 2002 Washington Post interview, Shriver stated, “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.”
University of Notre Dame in Indiana (May 15), will honor pro-abortion and same-sex marriage advocate Vice President Joe Biden during its commencement ceremony with the Laetare Medal, the “oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.” Biden has applauded the Supreme Court’s pro-abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, received a zero rating from the National Right to Life Committee during his time as a U.S. Senator, supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, voted against a ban on human cloning and supports the HHS mandate, which requires Catholic colleges and organizations to violate their moral beliefs. Biden has also publicly supported same-sex marriage. “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” he said in a May 2012 interview on “Meet the Press.” “And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
The Cardinal Newman Society called on the University to rescind the honor, noting the scandal caused by publicly honoring someone who willingly violates Catholic moral teaching as an exemplary Catholic. The honor has also been condemned by Notre Dame students, faculty, Cardinal Raymond Burke and Ft. Wayne-South Bend’s Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who said that the award could give scandal by suggesting “that one can be ‘a good Catholic’ while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.”
Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans (May 7), will host Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative, as commencement speaker. Gayle served as the president and CEO of CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) from April 2006 to July 2015 and “appeared before a Senate committee to urge the funding of abortions abroad by overturning the Mexico City Policy” in 2009, according to LifeSiteNews. The article also reports, “CARE also heavily distributes contraceptives, including the abortifacient ‘emergency contraception,’ as part of its development efforts. Moreover, it partners with the illegal-abortion practitioner Marie Stopes International.” Gayle will also receive an honorary degree.
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"Originally published by Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society."