Anna Marie College decided they no longer want Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy, to deliver a commencement speech in the spring.
Bishop Robert McManus put pressure on the college to withdraw the offer to Kennedy because of disagreements with her views on political issues. Anna Marie released a statement saying they still felt Kennedy was an appropriate pick, but their hands were tied.
"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," the statement read.
The U.S. Conference of Bishops said in 2004 that "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." The AP pointed out Kennedy supports full reproductive rights, including access to abortion, and gay marriage. Both stances are opposed by the Catholic church, and they were positions that diocese spokesman Ray Delisle pointed out as problematic.
Patrick Whelan, president of the national Catholic Democrats, told The Boston Globe when he spoke with McManus, the Bishop "invoked what he believed were Kennedy’s positions on divisive social issues, including abortion, gay rights, and health coverage for contraception."
Anna Marie, a small private college in Paxton, Mass., west of Worcester, made the decision last week. They informed Kennedy on March 29.
In a statement, Kennedy said she was disheartened by their choice.
"[McManus] has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith," Kennedy said. "Yet 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."
Kennedy criticized the church in a 2004 op-ed, "The Altar is Not a Battlefield," for threatening to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
Kennedy was defended by Steve Krueger, national director for Catholic Democrats, who said "we see more and more bishops playing the role of enforcers of the faith rather than shepherds of souls."
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) told The Boston Globe it was unfortunate Kennedy's speech was canceled.
"Vicki is a terrific person and she’s done a lot of great work,” said McGovern, a Catholic whose district includes Worcester. "I feel bad for her and for Anna Maria College for being put in this position. And I’m really puzzled by it. Vicki is not an elected official. She’s not a member of Congress."
Kennedy also said in her statement that she has "great respect and admiration for Anna Maria College and the Class of 2012," and wouldn't want her presence to distract from the graduates' special day.
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