Once again Boston College has openly defied Church teaching by honoring the radically pro-abortion Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the annual commencement ceremony. Cardinal O’Malley is quoted as saying that he was “sure that the invitation was made in good faith, long before” Kenny’s legislative action “came to the attention of the leadership of Boston College.”
With all due respect to Cardinal O’Malley, who is a holy man and deeply devoted to the pro-life cause, I am clearly perplexed as to why he would allow the administration at Boston College to honor Enda Kenny, despite his strong objections. In all fairness, Cardinal O’Malley is not the only prelate who has been in this unenviable position in recent years. Each year many purportedly Catholic institutions honor individuals at commencement ceremonies whose ideologies are in complete contradistinction to Catholic teaching. It is quite evident that the mere absence of a bishop or cardinal at a commencement exercise honoring persons with anti-Catholic positions is not very effective. The person is still honored, and all the graduates and their families are present for the event, giving credence to the honoree.
There must be some disciplinary action taken to prevent these scandalous situations from taking place in the future. I question who is directly responsible for inviting speakers and honorees to graduations in Catholic institutions of higher learning. Why do they not submit a request for approval in a timely fashion to the bishop or cardinal?
As a public school teacher for 29 years, I always had to submit a request for a guest speaker in my classroom. I needed to include reasons why my students would benefit educationally, culturally, and ethically from their encounter with the prospective guest. First, I would submit my request to my principal for approval. Then, the principal would submit it to the superintendent. If either the principal or superintendent disapproved, then the guest speaker was canceled. If I was insubordinate and continued to invite the guest speaker to my classroom, there would be sufficient grounds for my termination, and rightly so. I can’t help but wonder why a Catholic educational institution would not also have a similar policy, especially when one’s eternal salvation is at risk and serious moral scandal is given to the entire community.
Blessed John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae (a.k.a. “On Catholic Universities”) clearly states the following:
Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character. If problems should arise concerning this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See.
There is also a footnote regarding the “established procedures”, which reads as follows:
[T]hese procedures are to be established in the university statutes approved by the competent ecclesiastical Authority; for other Catholic Universities, they are to be determined by Episcopal Conferences or other Assemblies of Catholic Hierarchy.
How closely does the Catholic university administration ally itself and communicate with its local bishop? Is there sufficient supervision of the local Catholic colleges and universities provided by the local bishops throughout our dioceses? Obviously, Blessed John Paul II expressed very serious concern about the present state of affairs.
This is my ultimate question. Are there clearly delineated “established procedures” for disciplinary action when a university official ignores a bishop’s plea to prevent a certain speaker from addressing students for valid moral reasons? Perhaps college and university presidents who claim to promote Catholic teaching, but whose actions belie that claim, need to be swiftly terminated and replaced before any more of these public scandals occur again.
We need to pray that our bishops and cardinals will summon the courage to not simply withdraw their presence from these ceremonies, but also take positive action to prevent individuals from being “honored” for their anti-Catholic beliefs and actions. Let us pray hard for our Church leaders and for our universities that a true Catholic identity will once again return to all our institutions of higher learning.