The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The Keillor memorandum

The celebrated humorist and radio host is scheduled to speak at a Catholic gathering next month — and it’s raising a few eyebrows:

image.jpgThe National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) has invited Garrison Keillor, a pro-abortion, pro-gay “marriage” Episcopalian, as a keynote speaker at the group’s annual convention. Keillor, well-known as a humorist and host of A Prairie Home Companion, has repeatedly published his pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” views – and has labeled pro-life, pro-family, and anti-pornography activists “shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards.”


On the issue of abortion, Keillor has been quoted as saying it should be decided “case by case,” and that disabled embryonic children should be destroyed.

“The use of abortion as birth control is one thing, the use of it to end pregnancy caused by incest or rape is another, and then there is the decision to destroy an embryo that shows signs of debilitating disease or severe retardation,” said Keillor in an interview with Nathan Callahan in 2004.

“In the end, it goes against common sense to require a mother to bear a child she does not want, just as you can’t force husband and wife to stay together.”

Keillor also decried “the so-called cultural wars over abortion and prayer in the schools and pornography and gays,” most of which he said was “instigated by shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards” who “did nothing about anything, except elect dullards to office who brought a certain nihilistic approach to governance.”


On same-sex “marriage,” in a January column for the Salt Lake Tribune, Keillor said, “I believe that if voters actually knew gay couples, they would not vote to ban gay marriage. This particular cruelty is the result of social separation, which breeds contempt.”

Keillor is slated to address the NCEA at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7. The NCEA did not return’s request for comment as of press time.

In 2001, the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Penn. and Peoria, Ill. boycotted the NCEA for granting a speaking opportunity to Sr. Joan Chittiser, a Benedictine nun who famously dissents from Catholic teaching on homosexuality and female ordination.

Meantime, that’s clearly not how the NCEA sees things. This is how it announced Keillor’s appearance last fall:

Garrison Keillor, host of the long-running radio show A Prairie Home Companion, will give a keynote address at the 2010 NCEA convention on Wednesday, April 7 at 9 a.m. Keillor is known for the coupling of his shy, introspective persona with a sharp wit and keen sense of humor. His small-town wisdom and warm observations of everyday life have endeared him to millions in the US and around the world.


Keillor is best known for his storytelling, and his weekly yarns about the fictional town of Lake Wobegone have been collected into several recordings. He has also written books set in the town, the most recent being Wobegone Romance. Keillor has put out a gospel album with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet and starred in a major motion picture, 2004’s A Prairie Home Companion. He is an internationally known speaker and a contributor to The New Yorker, the New York Times and The Atlantic Magazine.

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Mark Andrews

posted March 3, 2010 at 7:21 am

I am weary of Catholic organizations that undermine the teaching of the Church. I am wearly of their glorification of secular personalities who hold Catholic social doctrine in contempt. I am weary that they use the money of the faithful to do it. I am weary of the bishops who tacitly and openly endorse their conduct.

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Reaganite in NYC

posted March 3, 2010 at 8:02 am

Are they actually going pay this guy (Keillor) to speak at their meeting? How stupid.
I’m going to inquire with the principal of our parish school (and the pastor) to see if he plans to attend this annual convention and what he thinks about this. In our diocese, we are facing a massive financial crunch (from a collapse in interest income on investment accounts). I’m sure this is being replicated throughout the US and Canada in other dioceses. As the Church, we can’t afford to waste money on this nonsense.
This reminds me of last summer’s annual national meeting of Catholic Charities (held in some expensive hotel in Oregon) which featured keynote speaker David Gergen. When I read about this (in my diocesan paper) I kept scratching my head as to why they would pay money to hire David Gergen to speak at their meeting. Or, for that matter, why they held the convention in an expensive hotel when they could have held it for a lot less money at some Catholic college or seminary facility.

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Grandpa Skip

posted March 3, 2010 at 8:46 am

Do any of you Catholic faithful now understand why many of us are no longer practicing the Faith? On most issues, the Church and many of it’s religious are becoming Marxist activists. Pro-choice nuns, gay priests, and an entrenched beauracracy that rivals that of Washington, D.C. Haven’t been to Mass for over forty years, and it looks like I probably never will. I just hope there are some legitimate priests left to give me the last rites. God help us all.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 9:28 am

Before waiting too long, Grandpa, I hope you obtain docility that you may obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve shed many a tear over the Lord’s House being in ruins; yet I’m not about to gamble with my immortal soul.  The wheels are already in motion to rebuild, regroup, and to reunite under one visible union (ie rebuke the devour 😉 This article was written to those disillusioned by the brunt of the sex abuse scandal, but the message could equally apply to the situation you described as well.  I pray you (and others) don’t allow scandal to allow you to remain severed from Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.  Please consider picking up your cross along with the rest of us and following Him, that we may receive our crown of glory in the life to come.
God bless you,

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posted March 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

Correction:  It was a reprinted homily (not an article).

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Your Name

posted March 3, 2010 at 9:36 am

Grandpa Skip, I invite you to return to the church. I think you will find that it is quite different than it’s portrayed in the news media. In the past forty years the church has made many changes, changes that have altered the hierarchy of church leadership and have brought parishoners into many different roles in the church. As a universal catholic church there will always be those with radical ideas, but you will find that the majority of the Catholic faithful are loving, peaceful people with a great love for Christ, his church, and the world around us.
Please, come back and visit. The Church needs people like you, and we’d love to see you back.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

“Shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards”‘ sounds like he described gay activists and the “shrieking” pro-abortion feminists. For a “Catholic” organization to pay for this guy to speak to Catholic educators, it simply stupefying; But, why am I not surprised?

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posted March 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

During my years of teaching in a Catholic high school, all I ever saw from the NCEA were glossy magazines of nuns and “women of a certain age” giving and receiving awards, shaking hands at meetings and flinging “churchy language” like my young son flings white paste. This “Catholic” group actively curries the favor of bishops across the country; surely more prelates than those in Peoria and Pittsburgh will speak out about NCEA’s obvious downward spiral.
Grandpa – you’re not the Lone Ranger when it comes to watching church leaders make incredibly stupid decisions. They will be certainly judged, as will we all. What can you do to help your own is obvious. “Come back to the Lord and do penance / Be renewed in heart and spirit!”

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posted March 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

Keillor,s radio shows rival syrup of ipecac for inducing vomit. And Catholic educators want him to keynote their convention? I,too, find it simply stupefying; but why am I not surprised?

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Holly Hansen

posted March 3, 2010 at 10:27 am

Thought the guy was a Lutheran. Oh well.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

Any wonder why most “Catholic” schools of nation are in the state they are in with such people in charge? I am guessing that the USCCB can prevent his appearance…yes?

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Joe the Ox

posted March 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

If an Enemy invades your home and holds your Mother hostage, you don’t abandon her in her hour of need. You fight. Go to Mass, pray, offer penance for yourself and for those who are leading others astray. If you saw this happening, and abandoned the Eucharist for forty years, you are killing yourself to spite your enemy. Go to Confession, go to Mass, and pray. There are wonderful orthodox priests out there. We cannot focus on how Catholic others are–we need to be as Catholic, as Faithful, as we can be.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted March 3, 2010 at 11:51 am

No wonder Catholic education is imploding. It is being euthanized by its bureaucracy. It is pathetic to see the hero worship of those regularly trashing basic Catholic moral teachings by people who should be the major upholders of basic Catholic teachings. And why spend thousands of dollars to have your children get the same kind of secularized values they can get for free in the public schools.

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Mark Andrews

posted March 3, 2010 at 11:57 am

Catholics who abandon the faith, such as Grandpa Skip, are worse than the weak-kneed bishops who dilute it. Where are the servants of Christ when His Church most needs them?

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posted March 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Grandpa Skip
Can’t believe you are letting nitwits control whether you practice your faith. The Church is full of sinners. Always has, always will!

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posted March 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Can find it right now, but I recall him speaking very disparagingly (and ignorantly) about the Roman Catholic Church several years ago…in fact, his comments bordered on bigotry. I used to enjoy his radio program, but after that, his quaint observations about life in middle America just seemed hollow, and I no longer listen.
This is disappointing.

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Woe Be Gone

posted March 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Keillor is a very talented nihilist.
Other than entertainment, he has nothing to offer. And he knows it.
Hopefully, the last nun in America with a ruler with give him a good whack. And tell him to trim those damn eyebrows. Sheesh, what rough beast is allowed to slouch toward Minnesota these days!

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Dana MacKenzie

posted March 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

All of his “stands” aside, he’s one of the nastiest people on the planet. Beyond that, I can’t imagine what the Catholic Educators are thinking in hosting him. It’s like grandscale stupidity.

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Brian Sullivan

posted March 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I have been a fan of Garrison Keillor and a Prairie Home Companion for many years. Lately I have been finding the show getting somewhat tiresome whenever he talks about politics. It used to be subtle and amusing. Now it’s flat out adoration of the Blessed President! He jokes about “Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility” Church but he doesn’t understand Catholics like he does Lutherans so the humor falls flat. I don’t know the reason for the NCEA having him speak, but at least they’re not giving him an honorary dregree!

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posted March 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm

“It is being euthanized by its bureaucracy. It is pathetic to see the hero worship of those regularly trashing basic Catholic moral teachings by people who should be the major upholders of basic Catholic teachings.”
Yet the laity continues to tolerate such actions, and even support such actions by continuing to financially support the organization. Why? Your protests, loud though they may be, are negated completely and utterly by the quiet “clink” of your tithe in the collection plate.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Having taught in the Catholic school system I am sad to say I am not a bit surprised. There needs to be a complete reclaiming of the system by solid faithful bishops. The infiltration of the schools by dissenting “progressive” Catholics has robbed at least one generation of the blessings of a truly Catholic education. The fruit of their labors is clear – so many schools are shutting their doors. My elementary school opened in 1928 is now closing. My wife’s high school had over 6,000 students at one time and this is their last year. Catholic schools should be a place where Christ, the Light of the nations shines. We need to take back our schools and kick the infectious parasites out. Catholic schools should be a light and source of Christ to our desparing world. I know good teachers, administrators, parents, and schools exist. But it seems we are losing a costly battle. Faithful Catholics, STAND UP! Feel your spine, don’t take this crap! Hey NCEA if you need suggestions for next year in about three seconds I can think of twenty or more very qualified men and women who would be happy to actually give an intelligent and informative talk, which would really be helpful to Catholic educators. Sts. John Neumann, Katherine Drexel, & Elizabeth Seton PRAY for US!

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Tim H

posted March 3, 2010 at 5:46 pm

>>>The fruit of their labors is clear – so many
>>>schools are shutting their doors.
Not here in the Archdioces of Atlanta. Can’t build them fast enough.
If you want to support Catholic education in general, support the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecila ( and ask your Bishop to get them into your school.
We have four Dominican Sisters at my children’s school ( including the principal.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 6:03 pm

This is a travesty. Yet in light of the corruption rampant in the secularized church today, I’m hardly surprised. I’ll ask my mother-in-law Catholic school principal to not attend.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Tim- I hear ya. I’m from the north east but I taught in the south and had many good experiences. I know the nashville OPs (had some theology classes with some sisters) they’re awesome. We need more like them. Hopefully, the orthodox orders faithful to their founders will continue to grow and spread out from places like nashville.

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Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

posted March 4, 2010 at 7:43 am

Back some time around 2002, Keillor delivered the keynote at the Catholic Press Association convention held in Minneapolis. Since I don’t listen to the man or read his sniveling commentary, I had no clue he was as pro-abortion as he is or I would have protested vehemently.

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posted March 4, 2010 at 8:32 am

Granpa Skip please come back.

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posted March 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm

As a former high school theology teacher who got caught being Catholic, I have seen the atrocities foisted upon children whose parents thought that they were providing a Catholic education for their children. One colleague in the theology department shook with rage at the elevation of Pope Benedict to the papacy. The chair of the theology department had an altar set up in her classroom dedicated to Buddha. She also had a female student’s work prominently posted as exemplary for her “lifestyles” class that described her homosexual first kiss with her girlfriend. God have mercy on those entrusted with the formation of young souls!

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posted March 4, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Please, let’s ALL pray for him, that he will be enlightened by our Good God. (Something on the order of Saul / Paul) :-)

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posted March 5, 2010 at 12:29 am

Who makes these decisions about who to invite to give speeches? Are they only interested in Entertainment as a value, and not some example of practiced Christianity that can be inspiring? We need to pray for our priests and our bishops; and it looks like we should also be praying for those who are entrusted with educating our young people, children and grandchildren.

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posted March 5, 2010 at 2:07 am

Interestingly, the main webpage for the NCEA Convention 2010 doesn’t mention Keillor by name at all, and the link to “Media and Speakers” is not active. Whether that’s due to a change of heart on the part of NCEA, or just because the system’s been overloaded with protesters…who knows?

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Grumpy Old Person

posted March 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Why the need for the scary smarm quotes on the word marriage? It is legal, you know.

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posted March 16, 2010 at 3:56 am

The NCEA was founded in St. Louis whose responsibillity is Archbishop Carlson. Archbishop Nienstedt claims that he’s not capable of stopping this insult from the non-profit humorist, but perhaps Bishop Carlson can and will?
It would also be a good idea to contact the board of directors and trustees.
The website is rather uninspiring too, check that out as well and let them know how you feel. Aren’t there enough organizations like the United Way around already?

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Fr. Joe

posted March 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Until bishops collectively start to discipline their own organizations there is no earthy hope for a coherent message on the Good News. The sisters involved in Catholic Health Care supported President Obama and turned their backs on the bishops who oppossed the legislation. No hope at all until the bishops escape from the Upper Room.e

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