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Group Protests Catholic College Commencement Speakers Who Flout Church Teachings

by Jim Brown and Jenni Parker
May 26, 2005

(AgapePress) - A slew of commencement speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges are under fire for actively opposing fundamental teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cardinal Newman Society has launched a protest of 17 colleges and universities that have invited graduation speakers who openly defy the church's teachings on a number of moral issues.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) is a national intercollegiate organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities across the United States. In the interest of encouraging campuses to preserve their Catholic character and witness, CNS has mounted formal opposition to some of the prominent speakers invited to address the schools' communities.

For instance, Marymount Manhattan College in New York was reproached by CNS for having recently invited pro-abortion politician Senator Hillary Clinton to deliver a commencement address and receive an honorary degree. The group has also denounced Loyola College of Maryland's selection of another "pro-choice" political figure, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as a commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. In protest, CNS demonstrated along with Maryland Defend Life outside the graduation ceremony in Baltimore on Friday, May 20.

Among the other speakers who have drawn objections are liberal politicians, pundits, and celebrities who support abortion, homosexuality, and embryonic stem-cell research. The Society is calling on the educational institutions that have invited these speakers to "refrain from honoring or giving platforms to public dissidents from fundamental Catholic teaching."

CNS president Patrick Reilly says many historically Catholic schools are becoming increasingly indifferent to their church affiliation. Naturally, he asserts, "We believe that if an institution wants to carry a Catholic label that in its actions -- and certainly when it selects people to honor and hold up as role models for its students -- it would do so in accordance with Catholic belief."

But, according to Reilly, the schools that invite these kinds of liberal speakers who defy church tradition and doctrine are Catholic in name only. "These individuals that we have singled out have been very public opponents of Catholic teachings on abortion, stem-cell research, women in the priesthood, and a variety of issues that the church has very clear teachings on," he says.

Last year, the Cardinal Newman Society protested commencement speakers at 25 Catholic colleges and universities. Reilly says many of the schools that invite speakers to whom the Society objects do so because they want commencement speakers who are popular in the community and likely to generate media coverage.

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