Saturday May 26, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- The widow of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy called on Boston College Law School graduates Friday to use training from their Catholic education to work for justice.

In a keynote commencement speech, Victoria Reggie Kenn edy also urged graduates to make progress by finding common ground with people as she said her late husband did.

The Catholic attorney previously had been scheduled to deliver this year's commencement speech at Anna Maria College in Paxton. That Catholic college rescinded the invitation under pressure from Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, however.

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

Kennedy will also be speaking at Berkshire Community College's commencement on June 1 at Tanglewood in Lenox.

Kennedy told the Boston College law graduates it would be impossible for her to unravel her faith from the rest of her life. She said lawyers must keep fighting for equal rights, civil rights, and human rights "for all of God's children."

Seven protesters picketed outside, with a sign picturing an aborted fetus and others that said: "BC Honors Abor tion Defender."

"What rational person could reasonably be expected to take seriously Catholic opposition to abortion when a Catholic institution honors someone who is defender of abortion?" said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.

"It conveys the message that either abortion is not that wrong or we're not that Catholic," Operation Rescue Boston president Bill Cotter said.

School officials said it isn't their practice to give honorary degrees to speakers, and they didn't award one to Kennedy. In a prepared statement, they said Kennedy shares graduates' interests in public policy and is committed to social justice.

The law school's dean, Vincent Rougeau, said in a statement that Kennedy is "a powerful advocate for the powerless" on issues including gun control and education.

Kennedy graduated from Tulane University Law School and practiced law in the private sector for about two decades.