Benedictions: The Pope in America

Benedictions: The Pope in America

End of the Catholic “commencement wars”?

Michael Paulson had an in-depth article in yesterday’s Globe about the apparent victory of Catholic bishops and alums and advocacy groups who have been pushing Catholic universities to bar Catholic commencement speakers with questionable public views, usually on the flashpoint issues of abortion or stem cell research or gay marriage. This cause is the raison d’etre of the pugnacious Cardinal Newman Society and its president, Patrick Reilly, and Paulson cites Reilly’s figures. But he also cites a number of bishops and university officials who hail the trend:

“I think that Catholic administrators at Catholic colleges are much more attentive to the selection process than they may have been in the past, and there is a growing awareness that these types of invitations are related to Catholic identity and mission,” said Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, who is chairman of the education committee for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I call it truth in advertising,” McManus said. “Why would you honor a person, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, that has publicly contradicted the positions of the church?”


The tension still seems there, as the presidents of Notre Dame and CUA acknowledge. But one effect seems to be that more bishops are getting invited to speak. On Sunday, the Aberdeen News of South Dakota reported that a state senator, Nancy Turbak Berry, was disinvited from giving the commencement address last Friday, a day before the event. This was due to her views on abortion rights, she said. She was replaced by the bishop, Paul Swain, and no mention was made of the switch.
So what will be the effect on politics and the church? Will grads get to hear better speakers? Will dissed Catholic pols wear the martyr’s mantle? And was there any real benefit to having Catholic pols give commencement addresses anyway?

Comments read comments(5)
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Charles Cosimano

posted May 13, 2008 at 11:50 am

Can anyone even remember a word that their commencement speaker said?

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posted May 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Can anyone even remember who their commencement speaker was?

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posted May 13, 2008 at 1:47 pm

You can make no music on a slack string. No edge is honed from a polished stone. No education is accomplished by mere agreement. This fear of tension will be the undoing of any institution.
I actually do remember some commencement speeches – but I was a guest and not a visitor. In many ways a commencement speech is like a Eulogy – the “guest(s) of honor” cannot be expected to benefit from the great words – they are for the congregation / audience.

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posted May 14, 2008 at 8:57 am

I am not disappointed that I can’t remember who gave the Commencement Address or what was said 64 years ago. What a kinder and gentler nation we lived in then when our public schools still encouraged moral values.

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Phyllis Zagano

posted May 14, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Maybe SNAP will start tracking the bishops who speak at Catholic commencements?

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