Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why Do Catholic Universities Dishonor Church Teachings?

Part of a special message from the Cardinal Newman Society:

A few Catholic colleges this year are pointedly celebrating Catholics who defied their bishops and supported President Obama's health care overhaul, even without sufficient provisions to protect conscience rights and preclude government-funded abortions. This Sunday, May 22, St. Catherine University will honor its commencement speaker Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, President of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) of the United States and the lobbyist who perhaps did the most to undermine the U.S. bishops and pro-life organizations on health care reform. But St. Kate's students will have to settle for "seconds," since the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, secured Keehan to speak the prior day at its graduate student commencement ceremony.

Could it be pure coincidence? A year to the day before the St. Thomas graduation—on May 21, 2010—leading representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which blamed the CHA for causing "confusion and a wound to Catholic unity." Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester publicly disagreed with the notion put forward by Sr. Keehan that "the divergence between the Catholic Conference and Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Health Association, represents merely a difference of analysis or strategy.

And then Sr. Keehan publicly defended a Phoenix hospital after Bishop Thomas Olmsted revoked the hospital's Catholic standing. Without consulting the bishop, the hospital had decided it was ethical to perform a direct abortion in violation of the U.S. bishops' ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services. Sr. Keehan has said she respects Bishop Olmsted's authority on matters of morality—but has publicly disagreed with him anyhow.

Now that's a role model for America's Catholic college graduates!

Others who undermined the bishops on health care reform include U.S. Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana—members of the Catholics-who-don't-like-abortion-BUT crowd—who addressed graduates at Villanova University on May 15 and Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute today (May 20), respectively. Sen. Landrieu is pro-choice on abortion and urged President George W. Bush to expand federal support for embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Casey has voted against the "Mexico City Policy," thereby allowing the U.S. government to pay for abortions overseas, and against the de-fund Planned Parenthood amendment to the 2011 budget. . . .

No doubt the intentions for recognizing . . . all of the above-cited commencement speakers and honorees—are easily justified by the good that these people do. If a Catholic college chooses to honor someone for their good works, the argument goes, why should we be concerned about other activities that oppose clear moral teachings of the Church?

The answer: Because Catholic colleges have a choice of speakers and honorees. And when they make a choice—especially when selecting someone to serve as a role model for graduation—the choice should be for speakers and honorees who best exemplify the standards of a Catholic college education.

Good people who compromise morality to do bad things—harmful things—deserve our compassion and counsel, but not our honor. We certainly do not want Catholic college graduates following the same path, expecting the future admiration of their mentors.

A Catholic education should mean more than that—if, at these institutions, it still means anything at all.

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