Catholic College Cancels Kennedy

A small Catholic college that invited Victoria Kennedy, wife of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to speak at its spring commencement has rescinded the offer at the request of Bishop Robert McManus, who cited her views as being out of line with Catholic teachings.

Kennedy, however, is still scheduled to speak at Boston College’s law school commencement this year. reports that the bishop told Anna Maria College that on certain issues – particularly abortion and gay rights – Kennedy’s apparent beliefs were not in line with Catholic teachings and made her an unacceptable choice of speaker.

Kennedy was also a public advocate for the enactment of health care reform and stood at President Obama’s side at the White House as he signed the legislation into law in March 2010.

Anna Maria College released a statement today placing the decision at the feet of Bishop Robert McManus, according to

“The College feels strongly that it followed the appropriate process leading to its initial invitation,” the statement said. “The College also maintains its belief in the appropriateness of recognizing Mrs. Kennedy’s many contributions to the societal issues they both share, especially her work with gun control and the safety of children.”

However, it continued, “concerns were expressed about the College being in conflict with the Bishop and hosting an event that could create negative publicity and a difficult situation for both Mrs. Kennedy and AMC. … After hours of discerning and struggling with elements of all sides of this issue, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees decided with deep regret to withdraw its invitation.”

Kennedy, the widow of the late US Senator Edward Kennedy, reportedly published her own statement, saying that “by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the Church I love.”

Diocese spokesman, Ray Delisle, said “the bishops of Worcester have consistently followed a statement by the US Bishops … that Catholic institutions should not be honoring Catholics who take positions publicly which are contrary to the Catholic faith’s most fundamental principles, particularly on the dignity of life from conception and the sanctity of marriage.”

Patrick Whaelen, president of the national Catholic Democrats, said the bishop took sole responsibility for his decision during their conversation concerning this issue.

“I said, ‘I’m sure you must be under a lot of pressure from people in the conservative camp’ — I was trying to express some empathy — and he reacted very sternly to that too,” said Whaelen. “He said, ‘this is my decision and mine alone, and nobody’s pressuring me to do this.’ But then he did add, ‘sometimes it’s lonely at the top.’”

Other Catholics like pro-abortion rights Jim McGovern came to Kennedy’s defense, saying Kennedy is “a terrific person.”

Sister Jane Eisner, president of Emmanuel College, said they gave Kennedy an honorary degree in 2010 and she stood by that decision.

“We think very strongly that a Catholic college should engage in open debate and discussion on the critical social issues of our time. It’s a search for the truth. We’re not afraid of it,” she reportedly said. “I find it hard to believe in Massachusetts, in 2012, that this is happening.”

Steve Krueger, chair of the Catholic Democrats, blasted the bishop’s decision, calling it “an unjust and illegitimate action.”

He also called it ”a subtle form of ex-communication” and then subtly raised the specter of the clergy abuse scandal. “Increasingly, we see more and more bishops playing the role of enforcers of the faith rather than shepherds of souls, because they squandered the trust that they once had and the authority that came with it,” he reportedly said. reported one anonymous source that said the bishop told Anna Maria he would “stanch the college’s funding or boycott commencement himself if Kennedy remained on the schedule.”

Anna Maria issued a press release that stated, “as a small, Catholic college that relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the Bishop and the larger Catholic community, its options are limited.”

Matthew Archbold


Matthew Archbold is a contributing writer to Campus Notes and to National Catholic Register, as well as the co-founder of the popular website, Creative Minority Report.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Wertbrooks

    Does   Ms.  Kennedy have   a problem with being a Catholic?   When  I joined the Church at Easter 1978   I understood I was to obey the Pope..   If she doesnt like the order  from the bishop  maybe she should join a Protestant church.

  • Wertbrooks

    And I might further  add  J.H. Newmans quip about liberal Catholicism,”  Why not be an atheist and do what you what!

  • Lizann

    Goodness…what an overreaction, imo. No one said she wasn’t a worthy Catholic, just an inappropriate speaker for that venue. Way to make it all about you and your apparently fragile sense of self, Mrs. Kennedy.

  • Clement_W

    Recently I read a post somewhere about the “Making of Jesus Christ in OUR IMAGE”. This is what has been happening in our Church’s efforts to be ‘Inclusive’ at all costs with deference to ‘Catholic’ Politicians at all levels especially after Vatican II. The superficiality of the reading of what Vatican II by the Catholic Church in America as ‘Democratic’ reforms is what has led us to the present situation. Jesus Christ as “The WORD” from the begining as the Gospel of John begins, does not appear to be what we have been brought up to believe. We mouth the words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” at the upcoming Holy Week services without grasping what these words REALLY mean. Mrs. Kennedy like the majority of us is in the same boat.

    Let us do the Divine Mercy Novena starting Good Friday and trust to God that he will come to our aid.

  • Joe DeVet

    Hooray for the bishop’s upholding Catholic principles, and shame on those who defended Kennedy, gave her an honorary degree, criticized the bishop, used their political power to thumb noses at the bishops, or wrote an abject regret over having to obey.  It’s ugly.

    I’m very glad that a number of our bishops have shown the way to asserting their roles as moral guides and religious shepherds in the public square, and that others are now following their lead.  Thank you, Chaput.  Thank you, Burke.  Thank you, Carlson.  Thank you, Sheridan.  Thank you, Olmsted.  Thank you, Dolan.

  • Just who is the brainless wonder who initially invited her to speak at A.M.C.?????!
    What’s wrong with these people?  Kennedy was nothing but a decades-long waste in that Senate; he was ONLY there because his brother had been president.
    Stay away from all things Kennedy; unless you like to sully yourself!

  • Adveritas

    If she loves her church…she should certainly take to heart what it says & teaches?  If she finds it difficult…that is where prayer & steadfast faith comes in.  Why does she not take to heart the promise of our Crucified Saviour, that He would LEAD his church until the end of time?

    Thank you Bishop McManus for showing that a few bishops are beginning to show some courage in the face of the secular zeit-geist BEAST!!!

  • A. Ramos

    If we are truly Catholic , we have made the effort to learn and grow in our faith, as we should, and have opened our hearts to God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We would never accept that which is in opposition to our church teachings and guidelines. This is even more significant when we do so having a prominent standing in the public eye. As a catholic and Christian, the truth is only one and that is the one given to us by our God, and transmitted to us through His Word and through His church established by Him that we may be guided in truth. For love of God and trust in His wisdom, we should accept and defend our faith, even when it is not so easy to comprehend at times. Either we are or we are not. We have the responsibility to be an example of Our Lord’s teachings. We represent Him in our words, actions and by our life. I would not doubt that Mrs. Kennedy is in good standing in her community and is a good and caring person. I do understand the bishop’s opposition to her as a speaker in a catholic institution because, as a prominent figure, she has publicly expressed being for moral issues our Church does not condone.

  • Victoria

    I find it hard to understand why people of high intellectual attainment, such as AMC’s  Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and other prominent pro-abortion Catholics quoted here, can be so lacking in moral fiber. The choice of a commencement speaker should be someone held up as a role model for the graduating students. It’s not a forum for debate.

  • Suzanna Kay Carney

    I applaud the Bishop for taking a stance on the worthiness of a speaker at a Catholic school.  God gave all free will.  Mrs. Kennedy is exercising hers in the views she chooses to make public.  The Bishop, in his role as educator on faith and morals for his diocese, is using his free will to give glory to God, by protecting the flock he shepherds.