Mercy College Disinvites Pro-Abortion, Pro-Gay Marriage Lawmaker at Ohio Bishop’s Request

By Christopher Goins | May 1, 2012 | 8:36pm EDT

Democratic State Rep. Robert Hagan of Ohio (60th district). (AP Photo)

Update, May 3: State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Ohio) contacted and relayed the following: "The bishop's office called and said they wanted to meet with me to discuss the cancellation of the commencement. And they are finding time to coordinate both of our schedules, and I've agreed to do just that. And I look forward to the discussion and hopefully we can respectfully agree to disagree on issues of great importance to the legislature and the church." Rep. Hagan also said he was inspired by Catholic lay activist "Dorothy Day on social justice and hopefully we can get away from discussion of social engineering."

( – An Ohio state lawmaker who supports abortion and homosexual marriage was invited, and then dis-invited from speaking at the commencement of the Mercy College School of Nursing in Youngstown because the Catholic bishop there called out the lawmaker on some of his policies, which are contrary to Catholic moral teaching.

Democratic State Rep. Robert Hagan (60th district), had been invited by the school in February to give Tuesday's commencement speech. But the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic institution, was then instructed in late April by Bishop V. Murry, who heads the Diocese of Youngstown, to rescind its invitation to Hagan.

In an Apr. 27 statement, Bishop George V. Murry, for the Diocese of Youngstown, said: “It recently came to my attention, without any proper review by my office, that the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic institution, invited Representative Robert Hagan to be its commencement speaker at the Cathedral of St. Columba.”

“While I respect and appreciate many of the social justice positions taken by Representative Hagan, it remains a fact that he also has consistently voted for pro-abortion legislation, policies and funding,” said the bishop.

“As Catholics, we must in good conscience oppose Representative Hagan’s position in support of abortion,” said the bishop. “Therefore, I asked the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic sponsored institution, to rescind their invitation to Representative Hagan to speak at the Nursing School graduation.”

Mercy School of Nursing in Youngstown, a Catholic Institution, agreed with the bishop’s instruction last week and dis-invited Hagan. The notification came on Friday, four days before the commencement speech on Tuesday.

Rep. Hagan told that he was invited by the college to speak back in February, and when asked if he was disappointed with the Diocese, he said he was let down “in a couple of ways.”

Bishop George V. Murry, head of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

“First off, I’m disappointed at such a late notice would have gotten to my office,” Hagan said.

“The second part of it is, is that I have nothing against the bishop,” he continued. “He obviously feels very strongly about the directives he’s getting from the Vatican.”

Hagan added that “as a lifelong Catholic” who attended parochial school from first to 12th grade and who has 13 brothers and sisters all raised in a Catholic family, there are some directives that the Catholic Church and the bishop have taken with which he disagrees.

Hagan said that, in his speech, which he only got a chance to prepare notes for and would have completed over the weekend, would have been about public health care, public service and private service.

“I had put down some thoughts and, of course, I quit thinking about it on Friday,” Hagan said. “I didn’t think about the speech any longer. I just thought about dis-invite and what the bishop had said in his statement.” asked Hagan, “What’s in your record that obviously troubled the bishop?”

Hagan said, “He mentioned abortion. But he mentioned other issues.”

“I’ve never really taken public vote on abortion although I believe very strongly in the right of a woman to choose,” said Hagan.  “I believe that, I believe very strongly that—I believe in gay marriage and I’m certain that flies in the face of Catholic dogma.”

“I’m not a genuflecting Catholic any longer,” said Hagan. “I define myself and describe myself as a Catholic. I’ve had problems with the Catholic Church since the Vietnam war. I’m 63 years old and I thought the Church should’ve taken a tougher stance against the war, and the Catholic Church take a less inclined, a less activist position on gay rights and gay marriage.”

A representative from the Diocese of Youngstown said that Bishop Murry usually asks for a preview of the speakers, adding that Mercy College did not go through that process in this instance.

“Generally, we try to give the parameters before anyone is invited,” said Brian Corbin, executive director of Catholic Charities Services & Health Affairs and diocesan director of the Office of Social Action at the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.

“If someone is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Church, there is a level of screening that will be looked at,” Corbin said. “But typically, we are very concerned about issues of people who are actually public authorities that actually vote and they’re elected.”

Corbin pointed to a Church teaching called “Catholics in Political Life” that he said is crucial to understanding where the bishop is coming from.

According to the document, which is available on the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops’ (USCCB) website: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles? They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

“This document is really important to understand the full context of how we’re operating,” Corbin said. “This is not just some willy-nilly decision by a local bishop by himself.”

“And speaking at the cathedral, the cathedral is the seat of the bishop, that’s what the definition of Cathedral means, that’s why you only have one cathedral in  a location—and so it’s the seat of the bishop,” said Corbin. “This was happening at the Seat of the Bishop and, so you can see the complexity.”

When asked if the university had to comply, Corbin said, “they can do what they want,” but added that they risk losing their Catholic identity.

“They can do what they want but the great threat to the bishop is losing their Catholic identity,” Corbin said. “So most catholic universities do somewhat comply.”

In a lengthy Q&A about marriage, the USCCB states. “The word ‘marriage’ isn’t simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships. Instead, ‘marriage’ reflects a deep reality – the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman. Just as oxygen and hydrogen are essential to water, sexual difference is essential to marriage. The attempt to ‘redefine’ marriage to include two persons of the same sex denies the reality of what marriage is. It is as impossible as trying to ‘redefine’ water to include oxygen and nitrogen.”

“Every person has the right to marry, but those who seek to enter same-sex unions seek something other than to marry; instead, they seek to have the civil law force others treat their non-marital relationships as if they were marriage,” states the Catholic Church.  “But the relationships are not the same, either functionally or morally. Defending marriage is not unfair, it’s just respecting reality -- the reality of marriage as the total, fruitful union of man and woman. Real fairness, real equality, depends on truth.”

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