Marymount Manhattan College Declared Not Catholic

The Archdiocese of New York has formally declared Marymount Manhattan College — which has been under protest by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) for inviting pro-abortion Sen. Hillary Clinton to give its commencement address and receive an honorary degree on May 20 — no longer a Catholic institution. The College will no longer be listed in The Official Catholic Directory, which identifies institutions, including Marymount Manhattan College, that are formally recognized as Catholic.

This is the fourth time since Pope John Paul II issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, that a bishop has declared a historically Catholic college or university to be not Catholic. The 1990 document gives local bishops the responsibility of determining whether colleges can bear the label “Catholic.” Catholic colleges established prior to 1990 are assumed to be Catholic and to conform sufficiently to the guidelines of Ex Corde Ecclesiae until a bishop declares otherwise.

Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, was declared “no longer Catholic” by Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York in 2003, during a similar protest by Cardinal Newman Society of the college's commencement speaker, pro-abortion New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer. CNS also protested Spitzer as the commencement speaker at Marymount Manhattan College last year, but no public action was taken by the Archdiocese, and the college took no step to end its affiliation with the Catholic Church. Two other historically Catholic colleges in Rochester, New York — Nazareth College and Saint John Fisher College — have been declared no longer Catholic by Bishop Matthew Clark.

“The decision to honor one of Congress' most outspoken and strident advocates of abortion rights was just the latest episode in a long history of secularization at Marymount Manhattan College,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, in a press release. CNS is a national organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at America's 220 — now 219 — Catholic colleges and universities.

“Why the College chose to remain officially Catholic while turning traitor against the Catholic Church, I cannot say,” Reilly continued. “This is a good day for those seeking truth and clarity, but, at the same time, a sad day for Catholics who founded, attended, and funded this college, only to be turned away for the sake of government funding and private ambitions.”

CNS wrote Cardinal Egan on April 14, complaining about Marymount Manhattan College's plans to honor Sen. Clinton, and suggesting “immediate action to prevent scandal in the Archdiocese of New York.” CNS asked Cardinal Egan to consider advising the College privately to withdraw Clinton's invitation, but also acknowledged “that the enforcement of Ex Corde Ecclesiae may require the declaration that an institution is no longer Catholic, and we support such action if Marymount Manhattan College obstinately refuses to acknowledge your pastoral authority as bishop, and to uphold the Church's fundamental teachings.”

According to the Archdiocese of New York, the College's officials agreed with the action. Indeed, College employees had been rebuffing CNS protesters of the Clinton honors by claiming that Marymount Manhattan College has not been Catholic since 1961, when it separated from its parent institution, Marymount College of Tarrytown and its founding women's religious order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. In fact, the College's actions in 1961 were similar to those of most other Catholic institutions throughout the country that incorporated separate from the Church to qualify for state government funding. The vast majority of those colleges continue to claim a Catholic identity, while slowly secularizing, and Marymount Manhattan College is not much different — any apparent trace of its Catholic identity has disappeared over time, even though, until last month, it preserved its official status as Catholic, possibly to avoid alienating its Catholic alumni and donors.

“There is tremendous value to clearly and formally identifying wayward Catholic institutions as no longer Catholic, as Cardinal Egan has done so courageously,” Reilly said. “If Senator Clinton had a similar degree of dignity, she might have declined the College's honor out of respect for faithful Catholics who are appalled by her stridency on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. If the College's trustees and officials had a similar degree of dignity, they might have chosen to respect the College's roots and give their students something young people today are longing for — a moral education rooted in the truth about God and man.”

This update courtesy of the Cardinal Newman Society newsletter. You may contact the Cardinal Newman Society at 207 Park Ave., Suite B-2, Falls Church, VA 22046; Phone (703) 536-9585; Fax (703) 532-3094 Email:; Website:

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