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Anna Maria students to address graduates; Bishop asked to not attend

Posted By May 4, 2012 | 1:01 pm | Featured Article #1
AMCPres2011

CFP FILE PHOTO BY TANYA CONNOR

Anna Maria College President Jack P. Calareso speaks at the 2011 Commencement.

 

PAXTON –  Two students will address fellow graduates at the Anna Maria College commencement and Bishop McManus will not attend, according to a press release from the college.
Following concerns expressed by Bishop McManus about its original choice for commencement speaker, the college announced March 30 that it had withdrawn its invitation to Victoria Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s widow, to be the speaker and to receive an honorary degree.
In light of that, the college Friday said it has decided to “completely focus the attention of its 2012 commencement activities on the achievements and accomplishments of the graduating students by inviting only members of the AMC campus community to participate in the events.”
Sister Yvette Bellerose, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, and Jack P. Calareso, president of Anna Maria College, asked Bishop McManus Thursday to consider not attending. The bishop agreed that he didn’t want anything distracting from the significance of the ceremony for the students, the college said.
According to a press release, “the relationship between the college and the diocese remains strong and the two organizations will continue to work together with respect and collegiality to advance the goals and values of quality Catholic education.”
The commencement exercises, scheduled for May 19 will be held at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester and will feature two of Anna Maria’s graduating students as commencement speakers.
Juliann M. Hartley, a resident of Bow, N.H., will represent the undergraduate class.  A double major in music therapy and psychology and a member the women’s cross country team, she will be graduating with a 3.99 GPA.  Ms. Hartley will receive a bachelor’s degree in music.
Representing graduate students will be Erin De Coste, a resident of Lancaster.  Ms. De Coste majored in special education earning a 4.0 GPA and will receive her master’s degree in education degree.
An honorary doctorate in human services will be bestowed upon Sister Barbara Ann Flynn, SSA, a past member of the college’s Board of Trustees, a former faculty member and a member of the Sisters of Saint Anne.

 

 

Online petition in support of Mrs. Kennedy presented to Diocese; Bishop stands by his concerns

By Tanya Connor

A petition that he “let Vicki Kennedy speak” at Anna Maria College’s graduation May 19 has not changed  Bishop McManus’ position.
The college announced March 30 that it had withdrawn its invitation to Victoria Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s widow, to be commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree, following concerns expressed by Bishop McManus.
Wednesday three people brought to the Chancery the petition, which they said contained 20,000 signatures and many comments, obtained online from around the country.
After holding a press conference on the sidewalk, Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats; Skip Shea, who worked on campaigns for Sen. Kennedy, and Anna Maria alumna Maureen McCullough, gave the petition, which filled three large binders, to Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan spokesman.
Bishop McManus was not in the Chancery Wednesday but responded to the petition Thursday.
“While I recognize that there are those who do not agree with Anna Maria’s decision to disinvite Mrs. Kennedy as its commencement speaker, I continue to stand behind the concerns which I shared with Dr. Jack Calareso, the college’s president, last March,” Bishop McManus said in a statement.
Mr. Kruger said the organization Faithful America initiated the online petition and asked if Catholic Democrats would deliver it. Catholic Democrats describes itself as a not-for-profit national organization “representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and a voice for the Democratic Party in the Catholic community.”
The website faithfulamerica.org says it is “an online community of thousands of citizens” from diverse faith traditions, committed to “restore community and uphold the common good in America and across the globe.” The petition there showed 14,387 signatures Wednesday. SignOn.org, which also hosts the petition, was showing 6,224 signatures. SignOn.org is an online organizing tool launched by MoveOn.org Civic Action as part of its “longstanding commitment to people-powered progressive politics,” according to its website.
The petition reads: “Vicki Kennedy is a faithful Catholic and an important public voice who deserves the opportunity to speak at Anna Maria College. Catholic universities shouldn’t be a battleground for partisan witch-hunts and censorship.”
At the press conference Mr. Krueger said he and those with him came to show solidarity with Mrs. Kennedy and to ask Bishop McManus to allow her to speak at Anna Maria.
In an interview for the April 6 edition of The Catholic Free Press, Bishop McManus said he told Anna Maria President Jack Calareso that if Mrs. Kennedy was the speaker he would not attend the graduation. He said that is consistent with the stance of not honoring Catholics who stand in public opposition to some of the Church’s teachings and that she has publicly associated with organizations that promote activities and views contrary to those teachings.
Mr. Krueger called this “guilt by association” and unjust.
“Jesus hung out with a pretty racy crowd and I think he did a pretty good job of advancing our faith,” said Mr. Krueger, a member of St. Ignatius Parish in Newton.
Mr. Krueger said Mrs. Kennedy introduced a gay rights activist to raise money for scholarship fund for gay students, but that the Church does not prohibit that. He was speaking about a Point Foundation scholarship which is  for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and marginalized due to their sexual orientation. Mrs. Kennedy, in a speech at the Point Foundation, available for viewing on YouTube, praises David Mixner’s activism to earn equality for the gay community, including the right to marry and raise a family. The Church opposes gay marriage. When questioned, Mr. Krueger said he did not know Mrs. Kennedy’s position on gay marriage.
Asked about her position on abortion, Mr. Kruger said all he knows is she supports Catholic Democrats, which supports policies to reduce abortions. He said she is on the organization’s board.
He said Mrs. Kennedy has not discussed abortion publicly; the only public mention he knew of was a 2004 op-ed piece she wrote in the Washington Post calling on bishops not to deny Communion to “pro-choice Catholic politicians.”
When was asked if he and his supporters have tried to talk with the college, Mr. Krueger changed the subject to point out that Bishop McManus has not met with Mrs. Kennedy or her pastor. Informed that the college, not the bishop, made the decision to uninvite Mrs. Kennedy, Mr. Krueger said factually that is correct. But asking Anna Maria not to allow her to speak put the small college in an untenable position, he said.
Bishop McManus said in the interview with The Catholic Free Press that his difficulty was not primarily with Mrs. Kennedy, but with the college choosing to honor her with the degree and as commencement speaker. He said he feared this would undercut the college’s Catholic identity and mission and thus hurt the unity between it and the local church.
“I believe that a liberal arts college should foster an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and openness,” Ms. McCullough said. She said Mrs. Kennedy is not an elected official and that the focus should be her humanitarian work.
“The college, I’m sure, is very disheartened,” Ms. McCullough told reporters. However, she said she had not spoken with other alumni about this.

 

Bishop concerned about college’s Catholic identity

By Margaret M. Russell

There was no wealthy conservative Catholic pressuring Bishop McManus to object to Victoria Kennedy as the commencement speaker at Anna Maria College.
There was no threat by the diocese to cut off financial support for the college. The diocese does not fund the college in any way.
But, Bishop McManus did tell Anna Maria President Jack Calareso that if Mrs. Kennedy were to be the commencement speaker that he would not attend the May 19 ceremony. That is consistent with the stance of not honoring Catholics who stand in public opposition to some of the teachings of the church, the bishop said.
And contrary to at least one published report, Bishop McManus had not known for a year that Mrs. Kennedy was to be the speaker. He learned of it only a month ago and had a frank conversation about it with President Calareso a few days later.
As a result, the college said in a press release Friday that it had officially notified Mrs. Kennedy that the executive committee of the board of trustees decided “with deep regret to withdraw its invitation to her to serve as Anna Maria College’s 2012 Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.”
As Bishop McManus sat down with The Catholic Free Press Tuesday to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding Anna Maria College’s decision to withdraw its invitation to Mrs. Kennedy, another call of support came in to his office. He has heard from both supporters and detractors. Yet, unlike a politician who can be swayed by public opinion, Bishop McManus said that his decision to object to the college’s choice of speaker was informed by two church documents: “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” (“From the Heart of the Church”) and “Catholics in Political Life.” He said his duty is to protect the Catholic identity of the college.
“My focus of concern is with the college,” Bishop McManus said.
“Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” an apostolic constitution written by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to address a crisis in Catholic higher education, was meant “to send out a clarion call to our Catholic colleges about refocusing on their Catholic identity and mission,” Bishop McManus explained.
“It also said that the life and mission and identity of the Catholic college and university cannot be seen in separation from the local and universal Church,” he said. That makes it the business of a local bishop to step in when he sees things that could compromise a clear Catholic identity.
So the bishop had to ask himself: “Is this situation going to prove to undermine or fracture the communion that should exist between the college and the local church?” The answer was “yes.”
“My difficulty is not primarily with Mrs. Kennedy. My difficulty is with the college choosing her to be honored by allowing her to be commencement speaker and giving her an honorary degree,” he said.
Bishop McManus said he met with President Calareso and told him he found the selection of Mrs. Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, “objectionable.”
“My concern basically was that to give this type of honor to Mrs. Kennedy would in fact undercut the Catholic identity and mission of the school. And that in so far as  that happens, the ‘communio’ or the unity that exists between the local church and the local Catholic college is strained and hurt,” he said.
“That’s my major concern that in our ongoing attempt to implement ‘Ex Corde Ecclesiae’ that the Catholic colleges realize that this is a partnership between the local bishop and between their leadership and administration,” he explained.
“The second point I work from is the 2004 document ‘Catholics in Political Life,’” the bishop said.
“She is a very public person. She has publicly associated with political and social organizations that promote activities and points of view that are contrary to fundamental church teachings. In this particular situation, my concern is that to allow her to have received a degree from a Catholic college would have given the impression that someone can hold a position that is contrary to the Church’s teaching (and still be honored). That can’t be allowed,” he said.
Bishop McManus also addressed the criticism he has received by those who say Mrs. Kennedy is not a public figure, or an elected member of Congress.
“Why do you think Anna Maria invited her? Or she is going to go to Boston College Law School or Emmanuel College? Obviously, she is a public person. And they (the colleges) feel that somehow having a person of this public stature will sort of raise the awareness of people about the existence of their particular college,” he said.
The bishop said there seems to be a basic misunderstanding of Catholic social teaching amongst some of those who make recommendations for commencement speakers at Catholic colleges.
One of Mrs. Kennedy’s endeavors is an organization, Common Sense about Kids and Guns, which works to protect children from gun deaths and injuries and is a very laudable mission, the bishop said.
“But, I think what people don’t understand is that the fundamental social justice issue in the teaching of the church is the right to life. Because if that right is not respected, there is no possibility of enjoying other rights. So that trumps everything – but they don’t understand that and then they get upset when a bishop or a Catholic institution says a particular person is not suitable to be honored,” he said.
Compounding the problem is that the secular press sees everything through a political lens, he said.
“My saying to the president of the college that I do not think Mrs. Kennedy should be honored by the college; my objecting on the basis of a theological point of view, which is to say it contradicts ‘Ex Corde Ecclesiae’ and ‘Catholics in the Political Life,’ … they (the media) see that as a political stance.
“I am a bishop with the primary responsibility of being a teacher of the faith. … so I am working out of the framework of being a teaching bishop, not as a politician,” he said.
“As a bishop of the universal church with three Catholic colleges in my diocese, I have a responsibility to the church … to see that ‘Ex Corde Ecclesiae’ is continually being implemented in these colleges in my diocese. And also as a bishop of the United States Conference I have responsibilities to my brother bishops and to myself that I implement what we have asked to be done.”
Bishop McManus said Catholic bishops have never presumed to tell people what to do. He paraphrased a recent comment made by Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George: “We are teachers of the faith, of the apostolic faith. And when we teach the authentic faith, people who have the authentic faith gather around us. The people that don’t, disperse. That’s the job of a bishop,” he said.