MANASSAS, VA, May 7, 2007 ( – The number of scandalous commencement speakers and honorees on Catholic campuses this spring appears to have declined dramatically compared to previous years, the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) announced today.

  For the past nine years CNS research has identified invited commencement speakers or honorees at Catholic colleges who have taken public positions contrary to Catholic values or teaching.

  In 2006, CNS research uncovered problems at 24 colleges with speakers or honorees who publicly advocated for abortion rights, embryonic stem-cell research, physician-assisted suicide, homosexual marriage, women’s ordination or other issues contrary to Catholic values.

  By contrast, this year CNS has so far only had to alert the presidents of 11 Catholic colleges to problems with 12 commencement speakers or honorees.  CNS also commended 14 colleges for honoring Vatican leaders, bishops and leading Catholic thinkers including University of Notre Dame philosopher Ralph McInerny and Rev. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things.

  CNS is urging the presidents of the 11 colleges to withdraw the invitations their schools have extended to honorees who have publicly advocated positions contrary to Catholic values.  Already Bishop Salvatore Matano of Burlington, Vermont, has assured CNS that he will not attend commencement ceremonies at nearby St. Michael’s College, which will honor journalist Cokie Roberts and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas on May 17.

  The CNS research department has identified the speakers and honorees at most U.S. Catholic colleges, and CNS researchers are confident the final tally of problematic invitations will be significantly reduced from previous years as most of the colleges that have not yet announced speakers and honorees have not had problems in the past.

“This is a very hopeful sign that more Catholic college leaders are embracing Pope John Paul II’s vision for faithful Catholic higher education,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society. “What a fitting legacy for this likely saint!”

  The Cardinal Newman Society has been working for 14 years toward the renewal of Catholic colleges and universities according to Ex corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 Catholic higher education guidelines issued by the late Pope John Paul II.

  In June 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” which mandated: “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.”

  In 2005, CNS identified 19 problematic commencement speakers and honorees, including two contenders for U.S. President in 2008.  The protest led Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, which hosted Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as its commencement speaker and honoree, to declare itself no longer Catholic.  It also prompted Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore to refuse to attend Loyola College’s commencement ceremony featuring former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

  2007 Colleges and Problematic Commencement Speakers/Honorees (to date)

  College of Mount Saint Joseph (Ohio): Hamilton County Coroner O’Dell Owens (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 12
  Owens is a pioneer and nationally known expert of in vitro fertilization, a practice opposed by Catholic teaching.  Owens established an infertility program at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he achieved Cincinnati’s first pregnancy from a frozen embryo and first conception and delivery through in vitro fertilization.

  College of Saint Mary (Nebraska): Roberta Wilhelm, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Omaha (commencement speaker), May 20
  Girls Inc. supports “a woman’s freedom of choice” and opposes “restrictions of reproductive choice.”  As part of its “health and sexuality’ core education program for girls, the organization argues that “girls need and have a right to…effective methods of contraception.”

  Loyola University New Orleans (Louisiana): NAACP Chairman Julian Bond (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 12
  In 2004, when the Catholic University of America rejected a campus NAACP affiliate because of the national organization’s support for abortion rights, Bond declared: “[W]e are pleased to join those insisting on a woman’s right to control her own body.”  On behalf of Planned Parenthood, Bond has deplored efforts “to deny Americans their constitutional right to freedom of choice.”  He marched in a 2004 abortion-rights demonstration in Washington, D.C., declaring that the NAACP has supported the pro-choice movement since 1968.

  Marian Court College (Massachusetts): U.S. Rep. John Tierney (commencement speaker), May 12
  Tierney has received a 100 percent rating from NARAL, indicating a consistent pro-abortion voting record.  He opposed a ban on homosexual “marriages.”

  Marquette University (Wisconsin): Former Wisconsin Secretary of State Vel Phillips (honorary degree), May 20
  Last year Phillips was a leading opponent of a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent recognition of homosexual “marriage.”  She chaired the 2004 campaign of pro-abortion U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and helped her secure substantial funding from EMILY’s List, which supports pro-abortion female candidates.

  Ohio Dominican University (Ohio): Boston College theology professor Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J. (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 12
  Hollenbach has acted shamefully as a Catholic theology professor, publicly opposing the U.S. bishops’ implementation of the mandatum, a Canon Law requirement that theologians pledge to teach authentic Catholic doctrine.  Hollenbach has publicly questioned Catholic teaching that abortion is always sinful, wrongly comparing judgments about abortion to prudential judgments about war and the death penalty.  Last year he rejected concerns about Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s pro-abortion views while leading a protest against her Boston College commencement speech because of her support for the Iraq War.  In 1991, Hollenbach defended Georgetown University’s official support for a student pro-abortion club, despite vocal opposition by Cardinal James Hickey of Washington.

  Regis College (Massachusetts): Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 20
  Coakley publicly supports homosexual “marriage” and abortion rights.  An advocate of embryonic stem cell research, she has opposed a state regulation barring the creation of embryos solely for research.

  Saint Michael’s College (Vermont): Journalist Cokie Roberts (commencement speaker & honorary degree), Vermont Governor Jim Douglas (honorary degree), May 17
  Cokie Roberts, political commentator for ABC News and National Public Radio, has publicly attacked Pope Benedict XVI as “really lacking in the theological virtue of charity,” “an extremely controversial choice” and “the most conservative voice of Catholicism.”  In her syndicated column with husband Steve Roberts, she has espoused abortion rights and ridiculed pro-lifers as “extremists.”  The Robertses characterized the federal ban on partial-birth abortion as “off the track” and “cynical games-playing” by pro-life activists.  They have argued that the authority of the Catholic bishops has been significantly weakened, in part because of their teaching on homosexuality and contraception: “It’s as if they are asking to be ignored.”

  Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas campaigned in all three elections for abortion rights.  In March 2006 he signed a law allowing drug stores to sell the “emergency contraception” Plan B pill to minors without a prescription or parental notification.

  The Graduate School, University of Notre Dame, (Indiana): Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 19
  Coleman has been a vocal advocate for embryonic stem cell research.  She launched the University of Michigan’s center for stem cell research, called on Michigan’s state legislature to reconsider a ban on cloning and argued that creating stem cell lines from unwanted embryos is “highly ethical.”  She refused to cancel a course at the university teaching students “How to Be Gay” despite protests and efforts of the state legislature to cut university funding.

  Villanova University (Pennsylvania): Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball With Chris Matthews (commencement speaker & honorary degree), May 20
  In his television commentary and newspaper columns, Matthews has publicly
  supported abortion rights, even suggesting the validity of partial-birth abortion for severely handicapped babies.

  Walsh University (Ohio): Rabbi John Spitzer (commencement speaker), April 29
  Rabbi Spitzer, who is Director of Walsh University’s Jewish-Catholic Institute, publicly announced support for homosexual unions and has made himself available to perform homosexual “commitment” ceremonies until such marriages are legal.

  2007 Commended Colleges & Commencement Speakers/Honorees (to date)

  Assumption College (Massachusetts): Ralph McInerny, Philosopher, University of Notre Dame
  Ave Maria University (Florida): Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor, First Things
  Canisius College (New York): Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo
  Christendom College (Virginia): Rev. George Rutler, author & lecturer
  Fordham University (New York): Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio to United Nations
  Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio): Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee
  Mount St. Mary’s University (Maryland): Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to United States
  St. Ambrose University (Ohio): Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport
  St. Mary’s College of California: retired Bishop John Cummins of Oakland
  Seton Hall University (New Jersey): Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
  Spring Hill College (Alabama): Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile
  Thomas Aquinas College (California): Archbishop Albert Ranjith, Congregation for Divine Worship
  Univ. of Portland (Oregon): Archbishop John Foley, Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  University of St. Francis (Indiana): Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend