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For Immediate Release
March 30, 2012
Boston, Mass.
Media Contact:
Steve Krueger

Statement by Catholic Democrats in Support of Board Member Victoria Reggie Kennedy

We are Catholics who care deeply about our faith, our Church, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy.

Today, it was reported that the Board of Trustees of Anna Maria College withdrew an invitation extended to Mrs. Kennedy to receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement Address at the college's graduation ceremony on May 19th.  The invitation was withdrawn because of the unsubstantiated "concerns" expressed by Bishop Robert McManus, Bishop of Worcester, MA, in whose diocese Anna Maria College is located.  For more information please read Mrs. Kennedy's statement here.   

We believe that Bishop McManus's judgment is unjust.  We also believe that it is illegitimate and antithetical to our faith.

Mrs. Kennedy is a lifelong Catholic who loves her faith and the Church.  She is a product of Catholic parochial education who has brought the social teaching of the Church into the public square as an advocate for children, women, families, gun control (including as a co-founder of Common Sense about Kids and Guns), and health care for all, among other issues concerning those whose voices need to be heard.

She serves on the Board of Directors of the non-partisan National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, an organization whose mission "is to promote excellence and best practices in the management, finances, and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the U.S. through the greater incorporation of the expertise of the laity."

As a Board member of Catholic Democrats, she has worked to advance the Catholic Social Justice Tradition as a means to address the moral issues of our time. We know from our personal experience the concern that Mrs. Kennedy has for people in need and takes seriously her baptismal responsibilities as a Catholic.

The Board of Anna Maria College understood that Mrs. Kennedy's service to society and the Church deserves to be recognized, as it has been previously by a number of institutions.  Among those is Emmanuel College in Boston.  This year, she will also be giving the Commencement Address at Boston College Law School.

Yet Bishop McManus would not even take the time to discuss with Mrs. Kennedy his reasons for objecting to her appearance at Anna Maria College.  By failing to do so, he undermined the teaching authority on which he is narrowly focusing. Furthermore, given that the invitation was made to Mrs. Kennedy over twelve months ago, his new-found "concerns" cast aspersions on Mrs. Kennedy's good name as a Catholic, to which she has a right within the Code of Canon Law.

Like so many Catholic educational institutions before this, Anna Maria College, founded by the Sisters of St. Anne, has been put in the middle of this lamentable situation by its local bishop.

The mission of Anna Maria College is " be that of fostering in its students intellectual involvement, career preparation, social awareness, dedication to justice and peace, religious and moral sensitivity, and a lifestyle capable of sustaining these within balance."  No one embodies these values more than Mrs. Kennedy.

Too often, decisions such as these are made by the boards of Catholic colleges, not because they are required to, but because they are afraid.  The result is that the school is forced to sacrifice its own values as a Catholic educational institution, with a cost to both those in the college community and the society it serves.

We cannot disassociate Bishop McManus's action from what we witness in the life of the Church today.  A number of bishops remind us often now of their rightful teaching authority.  However, these same bishops all too often overlook the gifts of the laity and theologians, and their role in achieving what the Church calls the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful.   

We see an increasing number of bishops playing the role of enforcers of the faith rather than shepherds of souls.  Having compromised trust, and the influence that came with it, they now seek to assert their authority.  They argue that we, the laity, have been compromised by society through moral relativism. What they overlook is that the Holy Spirit enters into the hearts of the laity, as it does to theirs. And on these grounds, we have a shared responsibility for the future of our Church. It seems clear that this unfortunate incident at Anna Maria College is an example of a bishop seeking to force his authority while failing to recognize the spiritual gifts of a member of the laity.

Bishop McManus's actions are similar to those of a bishop who politicizes the Eucharist or who will not be on the same stage with a Catholic elected official with whom he disagrees.  In doing so, Bishop McManus seeks to distance Mrs. Kennedy from the life of the Church.  However, if her previous journey of faith is any indication of her future one, we know that he cannot.

Moreover, Bishop McManus is creating a gulf between the great tradition of Catholic education and the society it serves. Catholic education is one of Catholicism's enduring legacies to our nation, known for bringing faith and reason to bear on the moral issues facing our lives. This is particularly true for Catholics seeking to find political solutions to moral issues. In doing so, the Church has the right to assert what is right and wrong. But it does not have the right, according to its own teaching, to assert how the laity will find those solutions politically.  That belongs to the realm of our prudential judgment, to be guided by our informed, prayerful conscience.

This unfortunate and needless conflict makes our Church smaller. Still, we have faith that guided by the Holy Spirit, our Church will continue to be a beacon for justice in the world today.

We stand with Mrs. Kennedy, who inspires us in her commitment to living her faith, and look forward to the work before us in advancing the rich Catholic Social Justice Tradition in the public square and within the Democratic Party, to help build a more just society.



About Catholic Democrats

Catholic Democrats represents a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advances a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans. For more information about Catholic Democrats please go to

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