While two national religious organizations are hoping to persuade the bishop of Worcester to reconsider his opposition to Victoria Kennedy speaking at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Berkshire Community College has achieved a coup in its naming of the wife of former Senator Edward Kennedy as its commencement speaker. An articulate lawyer well-versed in a variety of domestic issues, Mrs. Kennedy should have much of significance to say to any college fortunate enough to have her appear before students and faculty.
Mrs. Kennedy ran afoul of Bishop Robert J. McManus because of her perceived stances on abortion and gay rights. She has apparently not taken any public stance on either issue, although it has been speculated that her warm introduction of a gay rights advocate at a gala two years ago has rendered her guilty of the crime of being kind to homosexuals. After the bishop made his unhappiness known, Anna Maria withdrew its invitation with what appears to have been considerable reluctance.
Mrs. Kennedy is a vocal advocate for health care reform and has worked on a number of causes involving women and chil dren, including the nonprofit Com mon Sense about Kids and Guns that she co-founded which is seeking ways of reducing gun deaths and injuries to children. Pre sumably these would be causes affecting millions that the bishop would support if he could look beyond issues like abortion and gay rights that impact far fewer.
It is unhealthy for any organization, religious or otherwise, to apply litmus tests that cause it to reject those who support it on a broader range of tests. Organizations that won’t tolerate or listen to a variety of views risk atrophying from the inside. The group Catholic Democrats has presented Bishop McManus with a petition containing 20,000 signatures in the hope he will reconsider. Anna Maria has not chosen a replacement speaker as it apparently hopes for a reprieve.
Mrs. Kennedy observed after her rejection last month that the bishop never talked with her or her pastor, but nonetheless "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." It is a glad day, however, for Berkshire Community College.