Colleges Lobby Bishops on Abortion Speakers

In the wake of the University of Notre Dame scandal and the Cardinal Newman Society report naming 10 Catholic universities that actually promote abortion by recommending student internships at pro-abortion organizations, comes the story that Catholic college leaders are lobbying the U.S. bishops to withdraw their 2004 policy banning pro-abortion speakers.

In the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities’ summer 2009 newsletter, it’s reported that association’s board of directors concluded that it would be desirable for the policy “Catholics in Political Life” to be withdrawn. The ACCU made its recommendation during its June 11-12 board of director’s meeting at the University of San Diego.

“Catholics in Political Life” states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Lifesite News reports that allowing for the possibility that the bishops might not agree to simply eliminate the 2004 ban, but might instead draft a new policy concerning Catholic honors and platforms, the ACCU’s directors proposed that the policy “should acknowledge more clearly the differing roles of campus authorities and bishops.”

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said that this phrase appears to be an attempt to get bishops to refrain from commenting on internal decisions at lay-controlled Catholic institutions.

In May, ACCU President Richard Yanikoski told the South Bend Tribune that he saw a “degree of ambiguity” in the bishops’ 2004 policy. He claimed that the Church’s canon lawyers disagree whether the policy applies to speakers or honorees who are not Catholic, regardless of whether those individuals oppose Catholic teaching. Several bishops strongly rejected that same argument when it was made by Notre Dame president, Father John Jenkins, to defend his decision to honor President Obama.

More than 367,000 individuals signed the Cardinal Newman Society’s online petition criticizing the Univesity of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama. At least three dozen U.S. bishops released public statements or sent letters to the university criticizing the decision.

The ACCU board of directors includes: Board Chair Mary Lyons of the University of San Diego; Vice-Chair Linda Bevilacqua, OP, of Barry University; Secretary Stephen Sweeny, College of New Rochelle; Treasurer Thomas Curran, OSFS, Rockhurst University; and President Richard Yanikoski, ACCU. Members include: Richard Artman, Viterbo University; Margaret Carney, OSF, STD, St. Bonaventure University; Anhony Cernera (ex-officio), Sacred Heart University; James E. Collins, Loras College; Jacqueline Powers Doud, Mount St. Mary’s College; James Gaffney, FSC Lewis University; Michael W. Higgins (ex-officio), St. Thomas University, Canada; Dennis H. Holtscheider, CM, DePaul University; John I. Jenkins, CSC, University of Notre Dame; Andrea J. Lee, IHM, College of St. Catherine; George E. Martin, St. Edward’s University; Mary J. Meehan, Alverno College; Carol Ann Mooney, Saint Mary’s College; Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, Holy Names University; Karen M. Ristau (ex-officio), National Catholic Educational Association; Michael J. Sheeran, SJ, Regis University; and Steven V. Sundborg, SJ, Seattle University.

The ACCU leadership suggested “that juridical expressions of bishops’ or universities’ responsibilities should be kept to a minimum” in order to maintain a good relationship between the bishops and educators.

“It is sadly all too clear that the many secularized Catholic colleges and universities are more concerned with doing away with the rules than ending the scandals,” said Reilly. “Lobbying the bishops to back off a perfectly reasonable policy would be a shameful action by the Catholic higher education establishment, and hardly an appropriate response to Notre Dame’s betrayal of the nation’s bishops and the university’s own Catholic mission.


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