Kennedy widow to speak at Catholic commencement


The widow of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy will be giving a spring commencement speech at a Roman Catholic college in Massachusetts after all.

Boston College Law School announced Friday that Victoria Kennedy will give the keynote address at its May 25 commencement.

Kennedy had been scheduled to deliver this year’s commencement speech at Anna Maria College in Paxton. But last month, the college withdrew the invitation under pressure from Bishop Robert McManus of the Diocese of Worcester (WUS’-tur).

McManus objected to Kennedy’s public support for abortion rights and gay marriage, which are against church teachings.

On Friday, BC law Dean Vincent Rougeau said Kennedy has been a “powerful advocate for the powerless” on issues including gun control and education.

He said he was pleased Kennedy, a lifelong Catholic, agreed to offer her perspective to graduates.



  1. That’s two “folded like a gas station road map” stories in a row. Should we go for the trifecta?

  2. Maybe it’s time for the hierarchy and Temple Police to ignore commencement speakers. It draws a lot of attention, but it doesn’t seem to further the Gospel. If 3,000 atheists lined up to hear Peter–I mean the local bishop on the following Sunday after a successful disinvite, I’d be inclined to think they were on to something. What if the hierarchy just praised the people they considered “good” speakers instead. Not sexy, nor conducive to 100-comment blogoposts, but …

  3. Richard M says:

    So the bishop doesn’t attend, but the pro-abortion advocate does.

    But I think we all knew that the Catholic identity of Boston College had sunk past the point of detection.

  4. Richard M says:

    Hello Todd,

    I suppose I’m left to wonder what the Todd Flowerdays of the Church really think Catholic identity consists of.

    Is there any speaker that would be off-limits for such a college? Any speaker that would give scandal to the faithful? Let us say, hypothetically, that the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt had invited Reinhard Heydrich (a baptized Catholic) to give a commencement speech to its graduates in 1937? Would this be cause for Catholic laity – i.e., the Temple Police – to be scandalized? Would it be cause for a bishop to speak up and say, “No offense, gentlemen, but I think this is a bad idea?”

    A commencement speech is symbolic if it is nothing else. It’s fair to ask why a Catholic college would want to promote a high visibility symbolism that completely undermines the Catholic faith.

  5. Dale Price says:

    Todd believes the hierarchy (when he’s not using his newly-beloved snark “Temple Police” is supposed to “foster reconciliation.” Which is peculiarly odd, given that it’s the progressives in the American Church who most closely resemble the Sadducees in their limited approach to revelation and willingness to accommodate the desires of Caesar, but no matter.

    Evidently, the reconciliation plan involves an endless stream of soothing pastoral sentiment directed towards people who no longer share agreement on what the Nicene Creed requires, let alone on contentious political issues.

    Think of Kevin Bacon’s Chip Diller from the end of Animal House, only in a mitre.

  6. Someone will always find a reason to be “scandalized.” Scandal to the faithful is too often the lowest common denominator of narrow mindedness. The whole concept of “scandal” is too tilted about what is imagined or thought in the minds and hearts of those who claim to be scandalized, rather than what is really going on in the mind and heart of the person allegedly causing scandal. It often is what those supposedly scandalized want to put in the minds and hearts of others. It’s a crazy standard that promotes “shunning”, like the Amish used to be famous for, and assists in building a Catholic ghetto impermeable to the world, including the good in the world.

  7. ron chandonia says:

    No doubt she was selected for her many outstanding achievements in the field of law.

  8. Dale Price says:

    “The Temple Police comparison is peculiarly odd, given”

    Perils of hasty editing.

  9. Dale Price says:

    Your argument might work if we were talking about a non-Catholic speaker, and then only if no honors were being conferred. No, this is a pretty clear issue of Catholic identity, and again the progressives keep insisting that we should be of the world, instead of merely in it.

  10. Dale Price says:

    Indeed. The place of honor would have been conferred if she’d been Mrs. Marty Dipthong. Being Mrs. Teddy Kennedy had bupkis to do with it.

  11. And the “Land-O-Lakes” Statement takes another scalp with its ongoing mission to destroy its Catholic Higher-Ed tradition and to pummel the Bishops into the ground. Come on, get up and throw some punches good men.

  12. I think I can speak for myself, thanks; I don’t need interpreters. It’s my suggestion that the disinvite tactic doesn’t appear to be making any headway, other than gaining the prerequisite media attention and the dozens of comments in the blog boxes. As for controversial speakers, why not let the university communities themselves do the protesting, policing, and/or pontificating?

    And as for reconciliation, I fail to see the need for it. One speaker, one commencement, and 30% of those graduates are still going to be scrapping for jobs on the next Monday.

  13. Dale Price says:

    Perhaps a translator, then? Because you are becoming increasingly difficult to understand these days.

    As to letting the academics decide for themselves, it makes a hash of that “One Body” idea. Then again, that is probably for the best, given that it’s largely a polite fiction in 2012 Catholic America.

    It is a salutary lesson for the grads in this respect: Boston College -is- a respecter of persons. AMDG and all that.

  14. “Because you are becoming increasingly difficult to understand these days.”


    Of possibly, it is because the tenor of the discussion has reached such a pitch that an alternative loyal voice is not read or heard.

    I find the hermeneutic of subtraction to be a dangerous idea, if not precedent. An eye for an eye leaving the whole world blind: stuff like that.

  15. This progressive is only suggesting the same: that we need not approach every speaker situation as if the conservative notion of firing someone (like Karl Rove, Deal Hudson, et. al.) is the only or best way of handling it.

    I think there’s something to be said for Catholic identity and its cultivation. Sorry, but I don’t see it happening in internet outrage.

  16. pagansister says:

    One word: EXCELLENT decision. Well played. :o)

  17. Bill McGeveran says:

    I agree the choice of a commemcement speaker may be symbolic, and in this case I would endorse the symbolism. After Anna Maria College was, I would say, bullied into retracting their invitation, this step by Boston College conveys a timely message. It is proper for a Catholic college or university to honor and give a platform to prominent Catholics who do good and stand for the basic values of their faith. This doesn’t and shouldn’t have to imply agreement with their positions on controversial social issues. But it does suggest that Catholics deserve respect and may be worth listening to when they disagree with officlal church positions on some of these issues, and whether they are talking about the issues or not.

  18. Irish Spectre says:

    Dear Bill,

    I don’t think that you meant it this way, but your moral equivalency perspective, which has ALWAYS been strongly rejected by the Church, is quite precisely illustative of the confusion, scandal and just flat-out wrongheadedness that attends to the invitation of heterodox (aka “Cafeteria”) Catholics to speak at Catholic universities. (Hopefully Mr. Flowerday is still paying attention.)

  19. Wonderful to see how she is a powerful advocate for the powerless on issues such as gun control and education. If only she were such an advocate for the powerless in the womb. I guess choosing who we regard as worthy of our respect and advocacy and, therefore, worthy of life, is now part and parcel of Catholic social advocacy. It’s so important that children receive an excellant education, though not nearly so important that they are recognized as humans with an inalienable right to life. Well, if nothing else, I suppose killing all those kids in the womb at least relieves us of the responsibility of educating them. Killing them by surgical knife, poisen or suction also ensures that they’ll never suffer the horrible fate of dying by gunshot.

    Boston College has sullied itself. Not the first time, I’m willing to bet.

  20. What’s her claim to fame? That she married Ted Kennedy? What makes her so worthy to be a commencement speaker? I can only conclude that the college is trying to make a political point. Boston College has sullied itself here.

  21. Bill McGeveran says:

    These points can be argued forever without any mind being changed But for myself I would just say: I dont maintain that abortion is moral and I don’t know that Victoria Kennedy ever did either. I’m not espousing relativism or some kind of moral equivalence. I did not even say that I am “pro-choice.” Nor is Boston College itself taking a pro-choice position. But it’s another thing to say that people who happen to be pro-choice, or disagree with any social position taken by a local bishop or the hierarchy, cannot be considered Catholic, or (going further) that no college or university that allows such a person to speak on that subject, or any other, or to be honored in any way, can maintain its Catholic identity. I think that’s too narrow an interpretation of Catholic identity and the role of a university. And I think it makes the church look bad to outsiders without actually accomplishing anything.

  22. Elaine S. says:

    “that’s too narrow an interpretation of Catholic identity and the role of a university.”

    Well, let’s consider a few other scenarios. If an historically black university invited someone like, say, David Duke to be the commencement speaker and was going to give them an HONORARY degree, and later disinvited him due to outraged protests by alumni, donors, etc., would you argue that they were taking “too narrow an interpretation” of their African-American identity? Or if a Jewish college invited a public figure well known for anti-Semitic statements, opposition to the existence of Israel or denying the Holocaust (e.g. Mel Gibson, Pat Buchanan) with the same results — would you consider that to be taking “too narrow an interpretation of their Jewish identity and the role of a university”?

  23. “A powerful advocate for the powerless” “It is proper for a Catholic college or university to honor and give a platform to prominent Catholics who do good and stand for the basic values of their faith” I didn’t know that someone who is an advocate of abortion is a powerful advocate for the most powerless in this Nation – the children who are being murdered in their mother’s womb! But, of course, let’s ignore that. After, all it’s a Kennedy! Is Cardinal O’Malley going to intercede? I sure hope so!

  24. Always paying attention, still disagreeing.

    The last time I looked, the matter of inviting a speaker is not a matter addressed in the Creed or even the Catechism.

    The matter of disinvitation, however, frequently fails to achieve the intended end, that is, a stronger catholic identity. It frequently is a lightning rod for chirpy Catholics, an occasion of the sin of detraction, and on this thread, is an occasion for the name-calling and insults one often find on the Right these days. Much of the latter is safely anonymous, I note. It’s rather easy to lob into the discussion with a pseudonym–hardly likely you’ll be judged worthy of a disinvite.

    I’m still saying the strategy is a questionable one. I’ve stated my reasons here and on my own site many times in the past. I don’t plan to back down, as I have yet to be presented with an ironclad witness in favor of the invite-then-cancel method of public relations. If we get to the point where a bishop is disinvited for predator cover-up, I would lament it just as strongly.

  25. Bill Kelly says:

    The Kennedy clans are true hypocrites and have been for years. Ted Kennedy was a disgrace in his support of abortion and gay marriages. The Bishop’s should start to pay attention and publically “call” people who say they are Catholic but act otherwise. The Biden’s and Kennedy types are a disgrace to the entire Catholic Church.

  26. Yea! The culture of death wins. They get to preen and prounce at a formerly Catholic college.

    But do really expect class from a Kennedy?

  27. Chris Mac says:

    @todd flowerday

    Perhaps you could explain at what point the Catechism of the Catholic Church goes off the rails in its discussion of scandal. I’d classify Mrs. Kennedy as a manipulator of public opinion, but there may be other views:

    2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

    2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”85 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.86

    2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

    Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.”87 This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,88 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

    2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”89

  28. Bill McGeveran says:

    I don’t know that she is an advocate of abortion. And disagreement with the hierarchy over what should be prohibited by law, whether right or wrong, is not the same as vilifying or expressing hatred of Catholicism.

  29. “They get to preen and prounce at a formerly Catholic college.”

    At least we’re spared the preening of the Temple Police over a disinvite.

  30. Richard M says:

    She has defended the right to abortion, in print, most prominently in the Washington Post. She is a advocate of abortion. Full stop.

    This is pointless semantics, Bill. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. It takes an innocent life. And Ms.Kennedy is defending the right to commit such an act. This is not the minimum wage or vouchers we’re talking about here. It is one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance.

  31. Richard M says:

    And since you saw fit to evade my question, Todd, I’ll ask it again: Is there any point at which a bishop has a duty to intervene when a Catholic school in his jurisdiction decides to honor an advocate of a great evil – any point at all?

    I picked the example of Heydrich because it’s an extreme example designed to elicit a response from you that would determine where your line in the sand is, if there’s one at all. Would even Heydrich be bad enough to require action by a bishop?

  32. Midwestlady says:

    Cultivating Catholic identity is low on everyone’s priority, when we get right down to it, we might as well be honest.

  33. Midwestlady says:

    I think there’s something to be said about “truth in advertizing” here. If this is who Boston College picks as a speaker, then people who care about orthodoxy ought certainly to take note and adjust their affiliations & purchases accordingly. Same for ND, Georgetown, etc etc etc.

    The Catholic Church is having a huge amount of trouble right now with its apostolates that aren’t really its apostolates, and haven’t been its apostolates for a few decades now. Perhaps they’d ought to be realistic & upfront and just say so. As in, “Hey, these wankers don’t really represent us anymore no matter what their signs say. Buyer beware.”

    But then they’d also have to be honest about the consequences of that in terms of footprint shrinkage. Giving up an outpost like a college hurts if you think that’s still an integral part of preaching the Gospel. And that seems to be the real hangup although I doubt anybody’s going to admit that.

  34. Midwestlady says:

    I’ll believe this when I see honors go to a Mrs. Marty Dipthong. The fact that her last name is Kennedy and this is Boston has *everything* to do with it.

  35. Midwestlady says:

    Yup. Last name fame.

  36. Midwestlady says:

    This happens every spring. I guess what I don’t understand is why we keep hammering them when they obviously are on another planet from a theological point of view. I think we’d ought to make that our first statement of Catholic identity and get on with life. These people don’t represent us. They are renegades.

  37. Chris Mac says:

    For anyone interested in protesting Mrs. Kennedy’s invitation, you can write BC at:
    William P. Leahy, S.J., President,
    Boston College
    140 Commonwealth Ave,
    Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 02467

    And then there’s the New England Provincial: Rev. Myles Sheehan, SJ.,
    New England Province of Jesuits
    P.O. Box 9199
    Watertown, MA 02471-9199
    617-607-2800 |

  38. I don’t think I evaded. I think Heydrich and many others would be worth a direct confrontation from the bishop, not just a press release. I believe in free speech, protest, and the direct engagement of evil. Good enough?

  39. Bill McGeveran says:

    Richard M, I don’t think it’s just a matter of wording. There’s a real difference between advocating abortion and opposing laws that prevent a woman from having an abortion, regardless of her conscience and the circumstances. More generally, it is not necessarily right to pass laws requiring people to act on beliefs that they, and society in general, do not share. I do agree that abortion is wrong, and I can envision a society where this would be generally accepted. We don’t live it that society. I do think that even so we should have laws that severely restrict and perhaps totally bar abortion. But I don’t think that a Catholic college needs to uphold that view. Or even if so, I don’t think that any person, Catholic or not, who disagrees should be therefore barred from speaking there or being honored.. (Even less do I think that if a Catholic college that reaches the decision to invite such a speaker should be pressured by a bishop to rescind the invitation.) And in general I would argue that dialogue and respect for an opponent is more effective than denunciation and exclusion..


  40. Don from NH says:

    When will the Bishops Stand up for all of the teachings of the church and complain when republican speakers who support the Ryan Budget (which strips the life from the poor) speak at Catholic colleges.

  41. pagansister says:

    Well said, Bill McG.

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