Controversy has become a customary part of commencement season for Catholic colleges in the United States.
This year the controversy surrounds the ill-advised invitation by Paxton, Massachusetts Anna Maria College of Mrs. Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to deliver the commencement address to the graduation class of 2012. Thankfully the invitation was withdrawn by the college’s board of trustees which stated that the withdrawal is “in the best interest of all parties.”
Pressure groups like ‘Catholic Democrats’ and Faithful America, a non-Catholic political group, have taken issue with Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester for asking Anna Maria College to disinvite Mrs. Kennedy from the commencement. Remaining steadfast in his prudent decision and true to his Episcopal motto, “Christ, the Splendor of Truth," Bishop McManus reiterated his concern that the invitation of Mrs. Kennedy, who supports abortion and homosexual marriage, would “undercut the Catholic identity and mission of the school.” The bishop wisely pointed out that Mrs. Kennedy has publicly associated herself with organizations that promote positions that are extremely contrary to the fundamental Catholic teachings on the sanctity of all human life and the sacred institution of marriage.
The splendor of the truth of the Catholic faith is that an unborn child is a human being entitled to the right to life and that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. Clearly having a speaker who presents themselves as Catholic yet does not publically support the clear teaching of the church on such fundamental truths is contrary to the identity and mission of any Catholic institution. Mrs. Kennedy or any other prominent Catholic cannot honestly expect to go to Mass on Sunday then purposely fail to publically follow the teachings of the Catholic faith on Monday and still be held up as a role model for young Catholic adults.
The Kennedy name in Massachusetts seems to still have a certain cachet in many Catholic circles including academia. Sadly, Catholic institutions of higher learning such as Notre Dame and Holy Cross and now apparently Anna Maria College seem more interested in celebrity star power than in “Christ, the Splendor of the Truth,” when choosing their commencement speakers.
Bishop McManus’ strong defense of the faith is a welcome addition to the commencement season where far too many both in and out of the church continue, with mediocrity and mendacity, to undermine the church’s clear mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life. We commend this courageous shepherd for his continued loyalty, even during college commencement season and despite political pressure, to the truth of the Catholic faith. Cleary his wise actions demonstrate that the best commencement speaker remains, “Christ, the Splendor of the Truth.”