Update: Victoria Kennedy named BCC's commencement speaker


Wednesday April 25, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- After a Catholic college cancelled her as its commencement speaker, Victoria Kennedy, the attorney, advocate and wife of the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, was named Berkshire Community College's keynote speaker at graduation on Wednesday.

Late last month, Anna Maria College in Paxton bowed to Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus and cancelled Victoria Kennedy's scheduled graduation speech there.

McManus said her support for gays and abortion rights made her unsuitable as a speaker at the Catholic college.

Victoria Kennedy, a Catholic, called it a disheartening decision that passed judgment upon her "worthiness as a Catholic," according to USA Today.

But BCC is welcoming her with open arms.

"On behalf of the college, I am so pleased that Victoria Kennedy accepted our invitation to be the featured speaker at our 52nd commencement," said Ellen Kennedy, BCC's interim president (no relation to Victoria). "Mrs. Kennedy has spent a lifetime raising awareness of issues that affect the lives of women, children and families, including advocating for education and health care."

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Meanwhile, two national religious organizations are asking the Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester to reconsider his position on having the widow of former U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy speak at a small Massachusetts Catholic college's commencement.

The Telegram & Gazette (http://bit.ly/K9FQYZ) reports representatives of Catholic Democrats are expected to deliver a petition to the chancery Wednesday asking the bishop to reverse his decision. The petition has about 20,000 online signatures.

The petition drive was organized by Faithful America, an online interfaith organization.

A diocese spokesman said he had not seen the petition so could not comment.

The college has not announced a replacement speaker.

BCC's 52nd commencement is June 1 at 4:30 p.m. at Tanglewood in Lenox.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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