This time it is Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans who has said he will boycott graduation at Xavier University because they are giving an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, the veteran Democratic political strategist and Catholic and New Orleans native who supports abortion rights. Brazile is also African-American, and Xavier is of course the preeminent historically black Catholic university in the United States.
The Times-Picayune has the story, including the RSVP letter from Hughes to Xavier President Norman Francis. In the letter, Hughes recognizes Brazile’s work on behalf of the poor, and African-Americans in particular, but said her stands are not in keeping with Catholic teaching. “She has also relativized the importance of the fundamental life issues on national television suggesting that there are more important things for the American people to discuss than abortion.”
Brazile responded in an email to the newspaper:
“As life long devoted Catholic, I am sorry the archbishop will boycott this celebration of the class of 2009,” Brazile said by email. “I will remain faithful to the Catholic Church and my Christian faith which keeps me grounded.”
Hughes will also miss meeting Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, who will receive an honorary degree. In fact, three years ago Hughes was in attendance when Xavier awarded an honorary degree to another African-American, a fellow known as Barack Obama. Francis said Obama apparently “flew under the radar” of the archdiocese; he was off most folks screens back then. Francis told the Times-Picayune that Hughes’ decision regarding Brazile still “surprised me a little.”
“I make the best decisions possible. I think we’ve been as Christian and Catholic as we can be,” he said. Francis makes the selection of speakers off a list of preferences prepared by student leaders.
Hughes is color-blind in his policies, as in 2005 he boycotted Loyola’s commencement when they honored the Landrieu family, one of Louisiana’s leading political clans, because some of the pols in the family support abortion rights.
Still, I wonder if the hierarchy realizes the collective damage that this application of principle–and the blistering rhetoric against Obama et al–is doing to the church’s standing in the black community. The Notre Dame uproar combined with the boycott of Brazile and Xavier–it’s worth thinking for a moment at least how this registers in the minds of African-Americans, and whether they will want to listen to Archbishop Hughes in the future.
Hat tip: CWNews