Catholic Group Protesting 17 Commencement Speakers, Honorees at Catholic Schools

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - A Catholic group that called on a Catholic school not to award Sen. Hillary Clinton an honorary degree for her pro-abortion views is protesting 17 commencement speakers and honorees for running counter to the Catholic Church's teachings.

Loyola University of Chicago, Loyola Marymount University and Cardinal Stritch University have been added to the list of schools that invited controversial speakers compiled by the Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at the nation's 219 Catholic colleges and universities.

"We are blowing the whistle on any Catholic college or university that blatantly disrespects the bishops by defying their clear command and teaching," said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society.

"After decades of scandal at secularizing colleges, last June the bishops drew a line in the sand. No college that crosses that line deserves the label 'Catholic' or the support of the faithful - most especially monetary support," Reilly said.

The Graduate School at Loyola University of Chicago invited a Leroy Hood, a biotech researcher who is a leading advocate of a Washington state law that would allow embryonic stem cell research, to deliver the school's commencement address and receive an honorary degree on May 19.

Hood, who is also president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Wash., co-signed a 1999 letter published in "Science" magazine calling on Congress to approve federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The Loyola Marymount University law school in Los Angeles, invited California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to deliver its commencement address on May 15.

Lockyer is suing the federal government to block a federal law that would cut off about $49 billion in federal funds if California punishes health care providers and insurance companies that refuse to provide, cover or give referrals for abortions.

The attorney general called the law "an unacceptable attack on women's rights and state sovereignty, and a backdoor attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Also during his first days in office, Lockyer reversed state policy and ordered public school districts in the state that they cannot require officials to notify a parent when a student leaves school to obtain an abortion or get care related to reproductive health.

In addition, Lockyer has spoken publicly about his support for homosexual "marriage," and said that he only defended the state's one man, one woman marriage law because it is his duty.

Author and syndicated newspaper columnist who publicly advocated abortion rights will deliver the commencement address at Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin on May 15.

In a 2003 column about Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman in Florida whose feeding tube was later removed which led to her starving to death, Jacquelyn Mitchard, wrote: "I don't believe every life is sacred. I think some brains are so damaged that their owners can't truly use them as intended..."

Mitchard added that despite the posters that "say abortion stops a beating heard, a beating heart stopped before (long before) a conceptus becomes an unborn child is better than a heart stopped later by a beating...And so though every abortion is a tragedy, even tot eh woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy, there's a reason abortion exists."

Helen Thomas, Cicely Tyson, Richard Riordan among disputed speakers, honorees

There are 14 other disputed commencement speakers and honorees cited by the Cardinal Newman Society.

White House journalist Helen Thomas, who in her columns has defended the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree on May 15 at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania. Thomas has criticized President Bush for stopping aid for foreign abortion facilities.

Actress Cicely Tyson, an advocate for Planned Parenthood and its contraceptive and abortion services, will receive an honorary degree on May 26 at the College of New Rochelle in New York. During a 2002 Planned Parenthood fundraiser, she said, "Sex is a part of life. It's just like eating or drinking, and it shouldn't be treated any differently."

Former Los Angeles mayor and current California Education Secretary Richard Riordan, who will be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree on May 14 at the Dominican University of California, campaigned as "pro-choice" candidate and advocated state-funded abortions.

Riordan opposed Proposition 22, a statewide initiative defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He also said he was "open to discussion" of civil unions and advocated expanding benefits under the state's domestic partners law.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Paul Higginbotham will deliver the commencement address on May 15 at Edgewood College in Wisconsin.

Higginbotham campaigned for a seat of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2003 and reportedly "said he believes in abortion rights, and would do what he could to deal with limitations placed on abortion by the Legislature." The pro-abortion group National Organization for Woman backed his candidacy.

Former New York Times reporter Peter Steinfels and former Commonweal editor Margaret O'Brien Steinfels will deliver the commencement address and receive honorary degrees from Le Moyne College in New York on May 22. They are both defenders of dissent within the Catholic Church.

Rudy Giuliani, Cokie Roberts, Gary Locke also expected to speak

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has publicly expressed his support for abortion rights and special rights for homosexuals, has been invited by Loyola College in Maryland to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree on May 20. "I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights," he said in a 1999 interview on CNN.

Former New Orleans mayor and current Housing and Urban Development Secretary Maurice "Moon" Landrieu, his daughter Sen. Mary Landrieu, and her son Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitchell Landrieu will all receive an honorary degree from Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law on May 13.

Although she voted for the partial-birth abortion ban, Sen. Landrieu supported amendments to the measure that would have provided the "morning-after pill" and would have affirmed Roe v. Wade. Mitchell Landrieu voted against a law banning abortion except in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

Journalist Cokie Roberts, who recently criticized Pope Benedict XVI for being "an extremely controversial choice" and "the most conservative voice of Catholicism," will deliver the commencement address on May 22 and receive an honorary degree from Marquette University in Wisconsin.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, chairwoman of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree on May 15 at Regis College in Massachusetts.

The MacArthur Foundation's Population and Reproductive Health grant program is a leading contributor to international groups advocating abortion, contraception and population control, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council and the UN Population Fund.

Former U.S. congressman Amory Houghton, who voted against making it a crime to harm an unborn baby during another crime and opposed a ban on human cloning for reproduction and medical research, will receive an honorary degree on May 15 at St. Bonaventure University in New York.

Houghton was also an advocate for embryonic stem cell research, requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage for women, and homosexual civil unions. When he retired in 2004, Houghton was praised for his "consistent vote for choice" by the Republican Majority for Choice.

Theologian Sr. Margaret Farley, an outspoken dissenter from Catholic teaching on sexual morality and human life, plans to deliver the commencement address on May 21 at Saint Xavier University in Illinois.

Farley argued for the cloning and embryonic stem cell research. She also signed a 1984 "Catholics for a Free Choice" statement, which was published in the New York Times, defending Catholics who support abortion rights.

Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, who opposed legislation banning partial-birth abortion and a measure requiring that parents be notified before girls can get an abortion, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree on June 13 at Seattle University in Washington.

Ireland President Mary McAleese, an advocate for homosexual rights and women preists, will be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree on May 22 at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

And Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a distinguished professor of theology at Fordham University who argued against the church's teaching on male-only priesthood, will receive an honorary degree on May 22 at Villanova University.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.