Cardinal Newman Society Discusses Commencement Scandals in Three-Part Series in Jesuit America Rag

Cardinal Newman Society Discusses Commencement Scandals in Three-Part Series in Jesuit America Rag

May 12, 2016 | By Adam Cassandra |

Over the past week, the Jesuit-run publication America Magazine ran a three-part series on its website featuring interviews with The Cardinal Newman Society on the topic of scandalous commencement honors.

In part one of the series, the Newman Society discussed its opposition to former President Bill Clinton being honored at Loyola Marymount University’s commencement, and the broader Catholic identity issue of honoring individuals opposed to the Church’s moral teachings.

The Newman Society pointed out during the interview regarding Clinton: “[H]e might say a bunch of wonderful things [at the commencement]. But the University, choosing to honor this person and present this person as a role model, that’s the real issue. It’s going against the mission of the University in many ways to prop up people who are active opponents of Church teaching around the world.”

The Newman Society previously stated: “President Clinton’s record is one of scandal, immorality and support for the destruction of innocent human life. And his Clinton Foundation continues to partner with and fund some of the largest organizations around the world dedicated to snuffing out babies in the womb — such as Planned Parenthood.”

In part two, the Newman Society talked more about these types of scandals, and the Society’s work to push for change on college campuses:

[U]ltimately, we’d like to see college administrators realize when they’re doing these sorts of things, the negative impact that it has, and that they would stop. If we’re talking specifically about inviting scandalous speakers, that they would stop inviting these kinds of people to campus.

And if there are controversial issues that they specifically want to have discussed on campus, if the purpose of bringing in some person whom we would consider scandalous is to talk about a certain controversial issue, then come up with a different way to engage students on those kinds of issues. We’re not opposed to controversial issues that are against Church teaching being discussed on campus, but it’s the way that it’s presented, it’s the way that it’s discussed that we often have a problem with.

So finding ways to talk about these issues in a way that upholds the truth of the faith and doesn’t negate the truth of the faith, doesn’t lead students away from Church teaching. You can foster dialogue on these sorts of things without avoiding the fact that this is what the Church says, this is what we as a Catholic institution that is in line with the Church believes in. There should never be any doubt about that.

And in part three, America interviewed Father Stephen Privett, S.J., former president of the University of San Francisco, to refute some of the Newman Society’s positions made in parts one and two, and talk about his position on commencement honors.

Fr. Privett said he thought it would be “totally misplaced” to use a commencement speech “as a platform to attack Church teaching,” but thought “a countercultural voice” addressing graduates “might be better than a traditional Catholic voice.”

During one exchange, America asked Fr. Privett about a statement made by the Newman Society in the series regarding the choice of commencement honorees faithful to Church teaching on the dignity of human life: “What about the argument that you can find someone just as inspiring as most commencement speakers without having to look to someone who is, for instance, not pro-life?”

Fr. Privett responded: “The assumption to these arguments is that you’re obsessed with abortion like they are. For us, where a possible speaker is on abortion, gay marriage, any of that stuff, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. We look at a person’s overall substance.”

When evaluating “a person’s overall substance,” apparently support for the barbaric killing of innocent babies made in the image and likeness of God is not a significant issue for Fr. Privett. But Fr. Privett later revealed there were some specific issues important to his evaluation: “Almost everyone we looked to was pro-immigrant, pro-education for everybody.”

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