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Vicki Kennedy denied honorary degree from Catholic college.

Looks like it's RNS day at dotCommonweal.David Gibson reports: "A small Catholic college in Massachusetts has been pressured by the local bishop into cancelling an invitation to Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow to deliver the school's commencement address because of her support of abortion rights and gay marriage." Bishop Robert McManus also told officials at Anna Maria College not to give Vicki Kennedy an honorary degree.In a statement, Kennedy said that she was "disheartened" by the decision:

I am a lifelongCatholic and my faith is very important to me. I am not a public official. I hold no publicoffice nor am I a candidate for public office. I have not met Bishop McManus nor has hebeen willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with mypastor to learn more about me or my faith. Yet by objecting to my appearance at AnnaMaria College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic.

(You can read the full statement here [.pdf].)Perhaps the bishop believed this was a teaching moment. What do you suppose the lesson was?Update: Bishop McManus explains his decision:

My concern basically was that to give this type of honor to Mrs. Kennedy would in fact undercut the Catholic identity and mission of the school. And that in so far as that that happens, the communio or the unity that exists between the local church and the local Catholic college is strained and hurt, he said.

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Grant: The lesson that the bishop is teaching is that his religious zealotry knows no bounds when it comes to enforcing the Roman Catholic Church's misguided teachings regarding artificial contraception and legalized abortion in the first trimester.So the bishop is leading by example and setting an example for other conservative Catholic religious zealots to follow.

Based on the closing of Mr. Gibson's article, it seems likely/possible that factors other than Bishop McManus' view that this was a "teaching moment" played a role in his decision. It also seems "Patrick Whelan, a pediatric specialist at Harvard Medical School who is president of Catholic Democrats, said he had spoken with McManus, and described the bishop as combative about denying the invitation to Kennedy.I am not happy about this; it has put me in a very difficult position, McManus told Whelan, who recounted the conversation to the Globe. This is my decision and mine alone, and nobodys pressuring me to do this, McManus told Whelan. "Earlier in the article Gibson points out that diocesan spokesman Raymond Delisle "said unnamed critics of Kennedy supplied McManus with more local, Massachusetts-scene things where her position has certainly been public. He did not elaborate on the items or the critics. "

The students' reaction: Alicia Savo, Anna Marias student government president, said she that while she had been excited to hear Kennedy speak, she trusts the bishops judgement in the matter. I feel bad that they had to disinvite her, and she took it very decently, Savo said. But I dont think the bishop would have said he didnt think it was a good idea unless it wasnt a good idea. I understand where hes coming from.That bears repeating: "I dont think the bishop would have said he didnt think it was a good idea unless it wasnt a good idea."

Insulting Democratic candidates, politicians, widows of politicians, etc., burnishes the reputation with the Republican masters.E.g., there were many who wanted Notre Dame to insult the President of the United States.Another example? http://m.cjonline.com/stories/052508/rel_282674705.shtml(Bishop Naumann, now of Kansas City, Kansas, then auxiliary in St. Louis, didn't allow 8th graders and high school kids to attend a speech by President Clinton. Naumann is also the one who told then Gov. Sebelius not to receive Communion.)

The bishops zealotry has brought them greater and greater alienation from the average Catholics and soon perhaps from even the most faithful who ae not yet Republican shills. I am sure that one of them, somewhere is going to cross the line this election season (Dolan nearly did in his all but endorsement of "devout" Rick Santorum) and I hope that they will recognized for their myopia and astigmatism. As one looks at figures of attrition -- even with the anticiated joy of Easter and new congregants -- it is hard to feel anything but sadness. It will be curious to see any criticism of the Ryan budget which flies in the faace of Catholic social teaching and even B16. Great Spring days, but it's yet a long winter for the church-- as Rahner foretold...

Has the time arrived when Catholics should "disinvite" from public events and "publicly shun" any hierarchs who seek to impose their political ideology on the Catholic community and who seek to deny freedom of conscience to Catholic women and men exercising their constitutional rights to free speech?

One lesson might be that there are times to keep your mouth shut. With no reaction from the bishop, the many dozens who knew and cared about Anna Maria might have noticed and remembered the speaker after graduation was done. The educated students should be smart enough to handle whatever Kennedy might say.Today, the news is in WashPost, HuffPo, etc., etc., including the fact that Vicki Kennedy was honored by Emmanuel, another esteemed Catholic college 40 miles down the road, just two years ago and the Emmanuel president speaks well of her still. The net gain to Bp. McManus is not clear. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/commencement-wars-heat-u...

When I first heard about this dis-invitation, I thought the temple police and the communion cops were at it again, protecting all of us "little ones" from "confusion." An alternative suspicion: The name Kennedy was heard in the land and the bishop or his staff googled her to find a gotcha. This edict by the bishop is sickening. I do wonder about the lives of some of our fellow Catholics - the meaness and the pettiness that it takes to carve the time out of one's life to nail a committed Catholic to an orthodoxy cross. Too many of our bishops are scared, mediocre bureaucrats. They misconstrue leadership to be about taking orders from the curia (and rich, right wing donors), issuing orders, and acting sad and surprised when the flock doesn't jump when they say jump.

I don't agree with many Catholic teachings, but it seems to me that if you take public positions in favor of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, a bishop has a right to discourage a Catholic school from having you as a commencement speaker. Vicki Kennedy may not be a public official, and she may not be running for office, but she is a public figure, and she has spoken publicly about her disagreements with the Church. Why should she expect a Catholic bishop to welcome her with open arms? Actually, if she were a public official, that might argue in her favor. It makes more sense to invite a public official to make a commencement speech, in the knowledge that you might not agree with everything he or she says, than it does to invite the widow of a famous politician.

David N. ==I agree that the bishop has a right to be concerned. But according to Ms. Kennedy she asked to talk with the bishop about her beliefs, and she asked him to talk with her pastor about her, but he refused to meet. Bad. Really, really bad.

Jack, I am not sure that the students could handle whatever Kennedy might say. Consider their reaction: I dont think the bishop would have said he didnt think it was a good idea unless it wasnt a good idea.Doesn't it suggest that they will listen to the voice of authority (for example a commencement speaker) with uncritical trust? Anna Maria College provides them with a safe, sheltered environment, where they can trust that what their teachers tell them is what is true, almost by definition. It would be very troubling for them if there was not a perfect unity of views between the various figures of authority that they interact with. Holloway, you may make fun of the desire to protect the "little ones" from "confusion", but here I wonder if the students do not share that desire to be protected from possible confusion. Such a carefully sheltered education could lead to adults who fully trust authority, and doesn't that make for wonderful citizens in a future society with no crime, no dissent, and no unsightly Occupy movements? What's not to like?I read that Anna Maria College was founded as, originally, a place to provide higher education to women from poor families. Perhaps political dissent and questionings of assertions from church authorities are luxuries to be reserved to the idle rich. The students who need jobs and survival skills do not have time for such luxuries: they mostly need to learn skills for future jobs, and good sound principles of relying on authority, so that they can be counted on by their employers and will be reliable, productive, committed members of society and of parishes, unencumbered by futile doubts about the wisdom of the directions given by their pastor, president, or boss at work.

The conservative, republican, catholic bishops strike again! Mrs. Kennedy had two strikes against her.She was a Catholic woman and also the widow of a Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. We in the laity must remember that Bishop McManus can see the state of her soul. He must be aware if she have attended Mass regularly, gone to confession, received communion in a state of sin. He is like many of the conservative, republican, catholic laity who want to deny anyone who does not agree with them from receiving the sacraments. even at a funeral. Most of our current Cardinals and Bishops had sworn to follow the orders of our current Pope and his predecessor John Paul II instead of Jesus Christ. While Jesus was on earth 2000 years ago, he ate with sinners, he shared their company, he loved them and showed compassion. He did not approve of their sins, but told them to sin no more. How can you save souls when you condemn them without giving them a chance to change their ways. Jesus Christ told us to love our neighbors and he showed us that compassion is better than hate. God Bless Mrs. Kennedy and her family and all of us who are sinners including the Bishop.

@David Nickol (4/3, 6:15 pm) Yeah, I agree a bishop has a right to discourage a Catholic school in his diocese from having a commencement speaker, or giving an honorary degree to someone who's seen to have taken public positions at odds with the Church's teaching.Of course, that's not what seems to be happening around the country. What seems to be happening is that Catholics who are seen to have taken public positions at odds with the bishops on issues like abortion rights, contraception, and same-sex marriage are the ones being singled out by some bishops.Unless it's escaped me (and it's entirely possible it has), I can't recall a similar instance of a bishop discouraging a Catholic school from honoring a non-Catholic who's at odds with Church teaching. And I can't recall a similar instance of a bishop discouraging a Catholic school from honoring a Catholic who disagrees with Church teaching on any of a range of justice and peace issues.Again, I'd be happy to be proven wrong about this. Otherwise it seems like another instance of a bishop with with a particular political agenda. (Again, he's the bishop. He has the right to do pretty much whatever he wants.)

Ann,Granted the bishop was ham-handed, but I find myself annoyed with the "liberals" on this one. Catholics believe bishops are successors to the apostles. Why should the bishop defer to Vicki Kennedy? Why can't she defer to him? If her faith is all that important to her, why did she speak out in favor of abortion rights and same-sex marriage? (I am assuming the news accounts are correct about this, although I would prefer to read what she said for myself.) Has she officially recanted? It's one thing to hold a personal position. It's another thing to speak out as the wife or widow of Teddy Kennedy. Even setting aside abortion, 'liberals" ought to know that the Catholic Church is firmly opposed to anything that might reasonably be called "gay rights." Speaking of which, though, Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress) has stirred up a hornet's nest over on First Things by backing up Cardinal Schnborn. Her piece and the comments that follow are well worth reading.

"Bishop Robert McManus also told officials at Anna Maria College not to give Vicki Kennedy an honorary degree."This seems rather clumsily worded. Going back to the source document, we have:"Anna Maria College has withdrawn its invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy to speak at its commencement this spring after Bishop Robert J. McManus raised concerns with the school about the positions taken by the widow of former U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., on abortion, gay marriage, contraception, and other social issues of interest to the Roman Catholic Church."

Claire (4/03 743pm) " I am not sure that the students could handle "You are right. At least that one needs a bit more education. There's another good Catholic school a few miles away that might strengthen her mind. (Holy Cross did without the bishop and dared to listen to Chris Matthews when faced with a similar situation in 2003.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/higher-education/mass-catholic-co...

I think the message is what it always has been. Catholic Democrats should move their party in a pro-life direction.

Has anybody figured out how the action of a bishop violates the Land of Lakes Agreement whereby Catholic Universities are declared free of interference by the hierarchy? Those who disagree with this historic agreement assert that this takes away from the quality of the Catholic universities as Catholic. On the contrary, Catholic universities, it can well be argued bring greater witness to the church than the bishops. In fact the bishops received a serious blow when their moral vacuity prevented them from exercising the domination they intended with that specious document "Ex Corde Ecclesia." The truth is that the Catholic universities, as imperfect as they may be, represent the Catholic faith so much better than the bishops.

David N. --Apparently Vikki Kennedy is for abortion rights. That is not the same thing as being pro-abortion. Bishops in Europe tolerate those rights. In every case those are prudential decisions. If Kennedy's bishop thought she was more than just tolerating the rights, then he should have spoken with her as SHE requested, but HE refused. Or maybe they could even have had a dialogue at that graduation, giving the bishop opportunity to make his no doubt persuasive case. (Yes, I 'm being sarcastic.)As for gay rights, if Bishop McManus were true to form he would probably refuse Cardinal Schoenbrun the permission to talk in his diocese.

Good article at Jack's link. First two comments beneath it are good, too.I think all the talk about how many people have left the Church is backwards. It's the Church that has left. For some/many Catholics, it has become unrecognizable.

David Nickol: You are annoyingly off-topic.

The Republicans despise President Kennedy. The example he set by explaining his position on the separation of Church and State galls them still. (See, e.g., Santorum, who said JFK's speech at Houston made him want to throw up.) They hate Kennedy almost as much as they hate Obama. They hate Ted Kennedy, too. Many in the RCC (Republican Catholic Church) wanted to deny Ted Kennedy a Catholic funeral. As Richard McBrien explained it in NCR:According to The Boston Globe, the archdiocese received "hundreds of phone calls and e-mails," in addition to negative comments by bloggers and some anti-abortion organizations which took the Cardinal to task for participating in the Kennedy funeral. Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis and now the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, or Vatican Supreme Court, told a Washington gathering last week that "Neither Holy Communion nor funeral rites should be administered to such politicians." One of Cardinal O'Malley's sharpest critics was Raymond Arroyo, anchor and news director on Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network.http://ncronline.org/blogs/essays-theology/sen-kennedys-funeralThe opportunity to slap Vicki down was irresistible.

Mark Proska, what was the clumsy wording?

"David Nickol: You are annoyingly off-topic."How so, exactly? He seems to raise some cogent points. It seems we've reached the point where for some there is no viable ground to criticize the awarding of honorary degrees.

Claire --Was your last post serious? You can protect a kid through a so-called "college" by never letting the kid hear an upsetting word, but once graduated and in the real world there are no such "protections". Which brings us to the meaning of "college education". . .

David G--The opening quote in my previous comment was clumsily worded. It was not supported by the ending quote. Bishops don't "tell" colleges not to give out honorary degrees to anyone. They explain the concerns they have if it should be given (scandal, etc). The decision is up to the college.

According to David Gibson's article, linked in the opening post, it was the bishop who made it clear to the administration of the little college that Vicki Kennedy was unacceptable. ---Among faculty openings is one for a professor of theology."Qualifications include a Ph.D., in Theology, must apply for and retain the Man datum (sic) in good standing, . . ."http://www.annamaria.edu/aboutamc/jobopportunities/facultyopeningsThe web site of the nuns (from Quebec) who run Anna Maria College is . . . under construction. http://sistersofsaintanne.org/index.php?pr=Who_are_we

Seems clear cut. The bishop's taken the position that others took concerning Obama's Notre Dame appearance, speech, and honorary degree. In Ms. Kennedy's case, there's apparently even more reason for not honoring her at a Catholic college than there was for not honoring Obama. A bit of the backstory:http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/bishop_forces_college_to_cancel_commencement_...

Ann, no I am not serious. But I may be slightly off topic, because it is not clear exactly why Vicki Kennedy is being uninvited. What is objectionable about her going there? Is it the honor given her, or is it merely the fact of her speaking there? Would she be allowed to go and give a presentation?

'Wonder if the same bishop would have problems with President George W. Bush, who on false pretenses took this country into a war that cost--and continues to cost--thousands of lives and untold billions of dollars. Cafeteria Catholicism, indeed.

Claire --Well, you almost fooled me :-) Unfortunately, that sort of "education" does work for a while, and in particularly stubborn or loyal people it sometimes works a lifetime. Sadly, in many cases the kids rebel, often bitterly. I don't doubt that their parents meant well. I suppose that's why I get so impatient with so many bishops -- they don't give parents much help in answering their kids' theological and philosophical/moral questions. And kids do have questions - loads of them. They think ignoring/covering up problems solves them. But that didn't work with the sex scandal problems and it won't work with theological and philosophical inadequacies either.

Following up on Mark Proska (4/3, 10:33 pm): Here's how the local newspaper reported the bishop's role in the college's decision. "College officials, in a statement released this morning, said, that, as a small Catholic college, Anna Maria 'relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the bishop and the larger Catholic community.'" http://www.telegram.com/article/20120330/NEWS/120339969So, apparently the final decision rested with the college, but the bishop's role was more than advisory (unless I'm misreading the article).

Has a US Catholic Bishop in recent years asked that someone be excluded from an award, honor etc, on an issue that is NOT abortion, contraceptives, or related to sexuality?

The Bishops do not run the colleges and do not control their governing boards, so their role can ultimately be no more than advisory. On the other hand, the Bishops do have the final say on whether a college is or continues to be Catholic, though that's an authority they've been very reluctant to exercise.

Odd to insist/imagine that that "the final decision rested with the college". Why are some posters attempting to deny the bishop the credit that is his alone?(The college mentions in its job listing for a theology professor that the theologian must have a "Man datum" (sic). If a Catholic college refuses to obey its bishop, where would a "Man datum" come from?)David Gibson in USA Today:Patrick Whelan, a pediatric specialist at Harvard Medical School who is president of Catholic Democrats, said he had spoken with McManus, and described the bishop as "combative" about denying the invitation to Kennedy."I am not happy about this; it has put me in a very difficult position," McManus told Whelan, who recounted the conversation to the Globe. "This is my decision and mine alone, and nobody's pressuring me to do this," McManus told Whelan.

Why is this a problem?

Had the bishop said nothing, would the board of trustees made the decision to dis-invite Vicki Kennedy? I doubt it.

I noticed how Mrs. Kennedy pointed out I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith.Very I and me and "my" centered; glaringly so in fact. Why would a bishop need to learn about her faith? Never mind her faith. She needs to learn about the Catholic faith.

"Unless its escaped me (and its entirely possible it has), I cant recall a similar instance of a bishop discouraging a Catholic school from honoring a non-Catholic whos at odds with Church teaching"Barack Obama at Notre Dame?"'I am not happy about this; it has put me in a very difficult position,' McManus told Whelan."This is the key line for me; Anna Maria had to know that its action would be construed as a provocative act and would put the bishop in a tough spot. And why is Vicki Kennedy a good candidate for an honorary degree anyway? Her main claim to fame is as the second wife of Ted Kennedy. She was (according to Wikipedia) a well-regarded lawyer at one time, and I am sure she has done charitable work and such, but those facts describe lots of other people who will never get honorary degrees from anywhere.

James Kabala: See Jack Barry@04/03/2012 - 5:43 pm.Vicki Kennedy received an honorary degree from another Catholic college in Massachusetts not too long ago. This surely mitigates against your statement that Anna Marie College would have known that the invitation to Vicki Kennedy would have been perceived as a provocation by the local bishop.

Perhaps this is the lesson:What follows when a belief in objectivity and truth dies away in higher education? In time an educated person comes to doubt that purpose and meaning are discoverable...he doubts, finally, that they even exist.

Ann Olivier:"Bishops in Europe tolerate those rights. "What?! They "tolerate" them just as much US bishops do, meaning they arenot calling for an armed insurrection...

Another example of leadership that is still living and thinking in "the first half of life".

Holy Cross, not far from Anna Maria, faced and resolved differently a similar situation in 2003. The controversy, conflicting views and values, and grounds for decisions are well described in the HC Magazine. An interesting note is that Avery Cardinal Dulles, receiving an honorary degree along with Chris Matthews, didn't mind sharing the same stage. Bishop Reilly of Worcester declined. His statement about the fidelity and dedication of the college to the mission of the Church is worth noting. http://www.holycross.edu/departments/publicaffairs/hcm/summer03/news/con...

And why is Vicki Kennedy a good candidate for an honorary degree anyway?------------Southampton College gave Kermit the Frog an honorary degree.

@Jim Pauwels (4/4, 8:40 am) I don't know that it's a problem. I think pretty much every commenter in this thread would acknowledge that the bishop has the power to make that kind of request and, in the case of a college that depends heavily on its relationship with the bishop, to win submission to that request.It does place parents of young (teens to 20s) Catholics in the position of having to explain why these things happen, and why they only seem to happen when the Church's teaching on sexuality and sex-related issues is at stake. There are lots worse problems for parents to have.

Hi, Luke - and yet, the expressions of outrage in the comments seem to suggest that a lot of Commonweal Catholics think it *is* a problem that Mrs. Kennedy would be disinvited. I understand the intuition - I have mixed feelings about it myself - but I'd like an account of *why* it's an outrage.

What are "Commonweal Catholics", Jim? Are you one of them? Who has said "it's an outrage"? Are Commonweal Catholics holier/less holy than thou?

Mrs. Kennedy may or may not be the best choice for a graduation speaker. From what I have read, she is intelligent, faithful,and worthy -- and obviously a "draw" as the widow of Ted Kennedy -- and she deserves priase for her care during his illness.I haven't read Mrs. Kennedy's exact words or the context for them. This gets at what some have commneted on on the role and status conferred on a graduation speaker. If one's public statments ae to be thoroughly examined and expressed opinion not exactly in accord with the Church's regarding abortion or birth control is the absolute litmus test-- as it seems to be -- we are going to have a moe restricted poll than necessary.Thedre are criteria to be observed and surely some whom I would veto as a commencement speaker for different criteria, but I would not make this this allegiance the sine qua non.

Hi, Gerelyn, I'm surprised you haven't run across the term "Commonweal Catholics" before. I didn't coin the term. Do you note the word "SUBSCRIBER" after my name in the comments? I suppose that is the most straightforward meaning of the term, although the editors may be generous enough to allow it to encompass even those who don't subscribe. And yes, I'm sure there are many Commonweal Catholics who are holier than I am.And yes, I interpret the angry comments attached to this post to be expressions of outrage.

A note from staunchly Catholic Emmanuel College, Boston, which gave Vikki K. an honorary degree in 2010 in now-Cdl. O'Malley's domain -- "Honorary degrees were awarded to attorney and advocate for issues impacting women, children and families Victoria Reggie Kennedy,. "Kennedy wished the students luck, commended them on their achievements and told them about the Kennedys' long history with the college [Emmanuel]. Her late husband, former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, received an honorary degree back in 1964, and his brothers, John and Robert Kennedy were both on the college's Board of Trustees. "'You have never stopped asking what you can do for your community and I know you never will, she said of the graduates."https://www.emmanuel.edu/About_Emmanuel/News_and_Events/News/News_Articl... May 11 2010

Mark P says"The Bishops do not run the colleges and do not control their governing boards, so their role can ultimately be no more than advisory.' Hey Mark the bishops claim a religious liberty crime if they can't controp BC at Catholic colleges. Which is it or are you on the wrong thread?

Bruce --That lesson applies as much to conservatives as liberals. You're just as capable of anyone of not seeing what's there.

Ms. Kennedy has been active in pushing for gun control, especially with children. And why haven't the bishops followed her lead?The assumption of the conservatives in all of this is that to award an honorary degree to someone that person needs to be perfect.

@Jim Pauwels (4/4, 10:40 am) Thanks for the response. From the several articles I've read about this story I got the impression that Ms. Kennedy was invited in large part because of her work on gun control and children's safety issues. If devout Catholics (and Ms. Kennedy appears to fall into that category) cannot be honored or publicly recognized by Catholic colleges (or other Catholic institutions) because they have publicly differed with the USCCB, or with the local bishop, over how best to apply the Church's teaching in the public arena, then so be it.But I don't think it's unreasonable for devout Catholics to object when that standard is (or seems to be) applied arbitrarily. And those objections need not arise primarily because one disagrees with a bishop's action in a given case. The objections might very well arise because of one's love for and devotion to the full range of the Church's social teachings---and the perceived damage done to the Church's teaching authority and public witness by bishops who seem to care more about one segment of the Church's teaching and witness rather than the fullness of that teaching and witness.

Hi, Jim,I've seen the term before, but never with an explanation. I didn't realize it simply meant subscribers to the magazine. I guess I thought it meant liberal, and that those who used it were emphasizing the difference between themselves and non-Republican Catholics. I haven't noticed "angry comments", just more sadness at what the Church has become.

Ann: I understand the school invited Vicki Kennedy precisely because of her work as a gun-control advocate. Apparently criminal justice is one of the most popular majors at the school. The notion that she was invited -- or that she achieved prominence -- only because she married Ted Kennedy is a sexist fiction.

David Nickol: You are annoyingly off-topic.Grant Gallicho,I can see how you would find my comments annoying, but I don't see how they are off topic.Perhaps the bishop believed this was a teaching moment. What do you suppose the lesson was?I suppose it had something to do with a USCCB document titled Catholics in Political Life that says in part:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

It isn't sexist; I wouldn't give Paul Pelosi an honorary degree either, even though he is a leading businessman in the San Francisco area.

"If devout Catholics (and Ms. Kennedy appears to fall into that category) cannot be honored or publicly recognized by Catholic colleges (or other Catholic institutions) because they have publicly differed with the USCCB, or with the local bishop, over how best to apply the Churchs teaching in the public arena, then so be it."Is that an accurate description of what, in fact, she has done. Seems to me her statements amount to rejections of the Church's teachings rather than applications of said teaching to particular facts.

Paul Pelosi received a John Carroll award last year at Georgetown. http://jcw.georgetown.edu/2011/awardees.htmlThe John Carroll Award was established by the Georgetown University Alumni Association in 1951 to honor alumni whose achievements exemplify the ideals and traditions of Georgetown University and its founder, Archbishop John Carroll. The John Carroll Award is the highest honor bestowed by the alumni association. All recipients have distinguished themselves through lifetime achievement and outstanding service to their alma mater. Five John Carroll Awards are presented each year.(To anyone interested in the Carroll family: The Irish Americans, by Jay P. Dolan, a great book, imho, has lots of information. http://www.amazon.com/The-Irish-Americans-A-History/dp/1608190102/ref=sr... )

@Jeff Landry (4/4, 12:10 pm) Thanks for the response. I confess I haven't reviewed Kennedy's public statements closely on these, or on a number of issues. Speaking more generally, it seems to me entirely plausible for Catholics to accept the Church's teaching on contraception, but conclude that contraception should be legal. Likewise with same-sex marriage. (After all, the Church accepts the legality of non-sacramental opposite-sex marriages.)I'm unaware of any US bishop urging a Catholic college not to give honorary degrees to public figures who, for example, supported the Iraq War, or who oppose immigration reform, or oppose universal health care, etc.The resulting impression (for many) is that a good number of bishops are, de facto, placing sex-related issues in a different and privileged position as compared the rest of the larger universe of the Church's social teachings.

Oh oh, I have an idea. What about an entirely new web site titled "Vacation Suggestions for Stressed-Out Clerics". The premise being if reason and compassion do not work we give positive reinforcement a try. As a method of change it is significantly lacking in reason and compassion but it does have the word "postive" in it. And, others might provide a suggestion or two we can use ourselves!

David Nickol: No, you were changing the subject, and you know it. And when you say things like this: "Its one thing to hold a personal position. Its another thing to speak out as the wife or widow of Teddy Kennedy," you sound ignorant of her own accomplishments.Actually, you've misleadingly presented the conflict from the start. You wrote: "a bishop has a right to discourage a Catholic school from having you as a commencement speaker," as if anyone suggested bishops do not have that right. You wrote: "Vicki Kennedy may not be a public official, and she may not be running for office, but she is a public figure, and she has spoken publicly about her disagreements with the Church. Why should she expect a Catholic bishop to welcome her with open arms?" as if someone suggested that the bishop should have handed her the honorary degree himself.

Perhaps arrangements could be made for the imminent recipient of an honorary degree to go to Confession backstage immediately beforehand -- or center-stage to remove any doubts. Purification of corrupt ancestors of whom Jeff Landry seems to be thinking may be better left to Mormons, who are expert in that sort of thing. The stature of an honorary degree seems to be approaching that of an imprimatur or a gold star for excellence in a Catechism quiz. Such degrees commonly state the particular commendable reason for the honor, which might be taken at face value. Straw man "open arms" could well be replaced by a civil arms-length handshake, as noncommittal as necessary. Hyperfocus on one aspect, true or false, leads to absurdities like the Bishop of Worcester ignoring Avery Cardinal Dulles at a commencement because he felt obliged to ignore Chris Matthews. http://www.holycross.edu/departments/publicaffairs/hcm/summer03/news/con...

"It isnt sexist; I wouldnt give Paul Pelosi an honorary degree either, even though he is a leading businessman in the San Francisco area."Fer hevvin's sake! Don't let Paul know or he might find it necessary to take his own life.

Some words of Jesus for this Holy Week to think about: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitened sepulchres, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. (Mt 23:27)

She is a board member of Catholic Democrats and authored the preface for their 2009 book, The Catholic Case for Obama. She was named a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 4, 2009. Since the Senator's death, Kennedy has spoken at graduation ceremonies and received honorary degrees from UMass Boston, Lesley University, and the University of Maryland in the Spring of 2010. She also surprised the 95 members of the graduating class of Harwich High School on Cape Cod by accepting their invitation to speak at their June 2010 graduation.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Reggie_Kennedy

"A note from staunchly Catholic Emmanuel College, Boston, which gave Vikki K. an honorary degree in 2010 in now-Cdl. OMalleys domain"This seems like a salient point. The same person, acceptable as an honoree for one prelate, is unacceptable as a commencement speaker for another prelate. It seems that two bishops, working from the same set of facts, reach different conclusions.

" The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. "Ah, yes: fundamental moral principles.Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told. Micromanaged "religion" is doing what you are told, no matter what is right. Power brings a man many luxuries, but a clean pair of hands is seldom among them.

No, you were changing the subject, and you know it. . . . Actually, youve misleadingly presented the conflict from the start. Grant,Call me stupid if you like, but don't call me disingenuous. If there's one bit of incivility that really makes my blood boil, it's an accusation followed by "and you know it." I was mystified by your accusation of being off topic. I now at least partially understand what you meant, but it would have been far preferable if you had made your points in the first place.

This is not a thread on gay rights, or how bishops view gay rights. You didn't know that?I do think it's disingenuous to suggest that anyone disagreeing with the way McManus handled this believes that bishops have no right to do what he did, or that he should have welcomed her with open arms.

As the link David Smith provided indicates, the bishop's view on gay rights was important.Revealingly, a source close to the dispute about rescinding the invitation of Kennedy said that Bishop McManus particularly objected to a 2010 YouTube video of a gala for the Point Foundation at which Kennedy gave a warm introduction to gay rights activist David Mixner.

Perhaps. But isn't it interesting that McManus doesn't say much about abortion or gay rights in his explanation?

"What do you suppose the lesson was?"That the bishops and the political pro-life movement have a wealth of shortcomings:- They lack the ability to persuade. Except for family members and loved ones, no woman is forced to have an abortion in the US. Every woman pondering the abortion option today could decide to keep her child and bring it to term, and no law would be broken. Unlike some nations.- They continue to swallow whole the rhetoric that the freedom to choose an abortion is a problem of the Left. The GOP has no motivation to end abortion--where might all the hoodwinked Catholics go then?- They continue to confuse notions of direct cooperation with evil, remote cooperation, moral absolutes, and prudential judgment. Bishop McManus looks like a fifth-grader, only one with his finger on the pulse, the carotid pulse, of a university.- Time and time again, they demonstrate a preferred method of bullying. They set up pro-life allies, such as an inviting committee from this college, to public embarrassment by repeatedly--repeatedly--inviting people, only to cancel these invitations. - They lack true courage. If pro-choice speakers are so bad, what if, instead of disinviting, a bishop actually did something more than sign a fiat? What if the man showed up and offered a minute or two of honest commentary on the problem he supposedly faces in having people outside the party line make a speech and get a colored hood?Someday, I would *love* to see something dished back to universities and the Church along these lines. I know Commonweal has speakers on the circuit. Might one of you take a minute or two or silence at your next public appearance to recognize the poor decisions repeatedly made to disinvite speakers? How likely is it you'll be wearing those well-trod moccasins any time in the future?Getting back to the question ... what was it again? "What do you suppose the lesson was?" That bishops and the political pro-life movement, on this issue, are pitifully poor teachers. Next question.

This is not a thread on gay rights, or how bishops view gay rights. You didnt know that?Grant,The first sentence of David Gibson's story that you link to and quote yourself reads: "A small Catholic college in Massachusetts has been pressured by the local bishop into cancelling an invitation to Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow to deliver the school's commencement address because of her support of abortion rights and gay marriage." I did not attempt to make the thread a discussion of gay rights. I simply stated the obvious: Even setting aside abortion, liberals ought to know that the Catholic Church is firmly opposed to anything that might reasonably be called gay rights. It's just a fact. If you think the link to First Things was unwarranted, I apologize, but I assumed the thread on Cardinal Schnborn was close to inactive, and I thought the people in this thread who participated in the last would be interested. I do think its disingenuous . . . . I am not going to respond in kind.

What is it, then, David, to pretend that someone here suggested first that bishops have no right to do what McManus did and second that he should have been just thrilled to have the college give Kennedy an honorary degree?

"It seems that two bishops, working from the same set of facts, reach different conclusions."Jim Pauwels at 2:54Is that a hopeful or an unhopeful sign?

John P - it's mostly just a picture of reality, that the bishops are not of a single mind on this, as they aren't on a number of other issues (e.g. denying communion to pro-abortion public figures). I suppose someone could find that either hopeful or unhopeful.

Perhaps. But isnt it interesting that McManus doesnt say much about abortion or gay rights in his explanation?---------I hadn't noticed the update -- McManus's explanation. I think he makes it quite clear when he says:She has publicly associated with political and social organizations that promote activities and points of view that are contrary to fundamental church teachings. We all know what the "fundamental church teachings" are these days.

Grant's ire at what he finds annoying about Nickol's response is curious in light of other comments, such as:"The lesson that the bishop is teaching is that his religious zealotry knows no bounds when it comes to enforcing the Roman Catholic Churchs misguided teachings regarding artificial contraception and legalized abortion in the first trimester.So the bishop is leading by example and setting an example for other conservative Catholic religious zealots to follow."or"Insulting Democratic candidates, politicians, widows of politicians, etc., burnishes the reputation with the Republican masters."or"The bishops zealotry has brought them greater and greater alienation from the average Catholics and soon perhaps from even the most faithful who ae not yet Republican shills. I am sure that one of them, somewhere is going to cross the line this election season (Dolan nearly did in his all but endorsement of devout Rick Santorum) and I hope that they will recognized for their myopia and astigmatism."or"Has the time arrived when Catholics should disinvite from public events and publicly shun any hierarchs who seek to impose their political ideology on the Catholic community and who seek to deny freedom of conscience to Catholic women and men exercising their constitutional rights to free speech?"And that's just within the first 8 posts or so. So in light of these comments, it seems fair to conclude that some here have, in fact, suggested just "that bishops have no right to do what McManus did."

She has publicly associated with political and social organizations that promote activities and points of view that are contrary to fundamental church teachings. ----------Her association with POLITICAL organizations (the Democratic Party) is what got her degree voided and her invitation shredded. No Democrats need apply.

Gerelyn--I think one of your comments may have been referring to me, so I should point out that I do think the Bishop's decision to advise against granting the invitation/honorary degree was wise counsel, and I do give him credit for it. I don't see what the mandatum for a theology professor has to do with an invited speaker.The quote of McManus that you cite is interesting. It appears that it's one not given directly to the reporter, but recounted by a third party, so I am surprised it is shown in quotes. Based on all my years in the business (relax, David, kidding, and I know it's from The Globe), I would not have thought that proper reportage.

"... it seems fair to conclude that some here have, in fact, suggested just 'that bishops have no right to do what McManus did.'If some have, I'm not sure I would agree with them. "Right" is not quite the right word. Bishops possess a *responsibility* to teach. Only fringe Catholics (of the Left or Right) would deny this. What most critics, including me, are getting at is that Bishop McManus has handled this responsibility poorly, and perhaps even dodged it.To be able to teach effectively, one has to have a message, a means of communication, and an audience. And those three elements must coincide in such a way to have a hope of being effective. Otherwise, a bishop's pronouncement is for himself. Speaking of the message, I'm not sure that bishops who disinvite are even clear themselves on why. It strikes me as a lazy copycat way that gains more headlines than converts. I'd rather Bishop McManus hold a picket sign in front of his local PP--at least he'd have a prayer.No, as a liberal pro-life Catholic, I criticize the man not because he's doing too much, but because he's done frightfully little.

Hi, Mark:I mentioned the "Man datum" (sic) that the little college requires its Professor of Theology to obtain as another example of the shepherd's absolute authority over his sheep. I disagree with those who have said some commenters are suggesting the bishop has no right to do what he did. That would be fatuous. (Not sure what you mean about the quotations from McManus in the article Grant linked.)

Ann,The quote is neither liberal or conservative. If the shoe fits...

Gerelyn ---i'd say your guess about "Commonweal Catholic" meaning a liberal Catholic who generally agrees with the positions of the magazine is the most common meaning. Maybe Grant has a more informed opinion.

"leads to absurdities like the Bishop of Worcester ignoring Avery Cardinal Dulles at a commencement because he felt obliged to ignore Chris Matthews".Jack --There's a perfect example of tribalism -- ostracising anyone who has even the slightest connection with a dissenter. In this case it didn't even need any words or actions. Casting out by silence. The opposite of dialogue.

"leads to absurdities like the Bishop of Worcester ignoring Avery Cardinal Dulles at a commencement because he felt obliged to ignore Chris Matthews".Todd --Excellent post. I particularly like your distinguishing between the bishop's right to act and his resposibility to teach. Surely the latter is more important, and he flunked the test when he refused to talk wity Ms. Kennedy at her request.

Oops --The bottom of my post to Jack was left out and my note to Todd was tacked on to it.My point to Jack was that the bishop's ignoring Cardinal Dulles at the Chris Matthews affair is a perfect example of tribalism -- ostracizing some one who has only the slightest connection with a dissenter. Casting out by silence in this case. The opposite of dialogue.It seems to me that bishops have a *duty* to dialogue with those whom they criticize publicly by name. Merely saying they're wrong is not a real defense of the Church's official position for it doesn't even begin to persuade. I guess I'm saying that, as teachers, bishops have an obligation to persuade, not just parrot principles. Anybody can do that.

So I guess the take away from this is call the bishops (and by extension those who agree with them) "zealots", call them "Republican shills", call them "myopic" or call them "ideologues", but, by all means, don't call them "right".

Ann - I don't have a problem with McManus referring Mrs. Kennedy to her local pastor if she wants to discuss her standing as a member of the church. That's the person with whom she should have the conversation. The alternative - bishops reaching across diocesan lines to counsel people for whom they have no directpastoral responsibility - is an invitation to confusion.

"It seems to me that bishops have a *duty* to dialogue with those whom they criticize publicly by name. Merely saying theyre wrong is not a real defense of the Churchs official position for it doesnt even begin to persuade. I guess Im saying that, as teachers, bishops have an obligation to persuade, not just parrot principles. Anybody can do that."How in the world is the granting or withholding of an honorary degree in any way, shape or form a "dialogue"? And how, in the history of such relative meaninglessness, has this form of "dialogue" led to a change in said public figure's position? It sure didn't seem to do Fr. Jenkins much good in stressing his view of the HHS mandate with the administration.

Jim P. ==Ms. Kennedy has already talked to her pastor. Apparently he knows her thinking well. She suggested to Bishop McManus that he talk to her pastor about her. Do read what she wrote back to Bishop McManus before you form an opinion of her.

Jeff ==The dialogue I was referring to was the one which Ms. Kennedy proposed to Bishop McManus. He refused to talk with her. Have you read her letter to him? It's right there in black and white.Your position is obviously that it is the lay person (or lowly priest) who stands to profit from merely listening to a bishop tell her/him that she/he is wrong. Since bishops sometimes are ignorant and even make mistakes there would also be the opportunity in such dialogues for the bishops to learn something from the faithful, e.g., just what the sensus communus is. Or maybe some ethics/whatever. Talk to some teachers --they'll tell you that they learn from students all the time, at least on a college level. Or do you think that the best teaching method is straight lecturing with no feedback?

Ann,Vicki Kennedy says in her statement:

I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith. Yet by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College he has 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. [emphasis added]

Isn't this rather grandiose of her? Because she feels she has been mistreated, it is a sad day for the Church? Who does she think she is? Is there any trace of humility in her at all? Why not gracefully accept the decision of the bishop, and if she wants to discuss the case, ask for a meeting afterward? If she is concerned about her standing as a Catholic, let her show a little deference rather than request a meeting the purpose of which seems clearly to try to talk him out of his decision so she can proceed with her speaking engagement.

^That's B.S. She's been remarkably gracious--she has pointed out that she does not resent the school's decision, and has made the needed observation that nobody would be well served by turning the actual commencement day into a circus. Why shouldn't she defend herself a bit when she has been publicly shamed? Calls for meekness always seem to come out when somebody else's cheek is the one being struck.

Agree, Abe. And I agree with her. Anyone who doesn't feel sad to see the Church reduced to a Republican PAC must be . . . a Republican.

"Your position is obviously that it is the lay person (or lowly priest) who stands to profit from merely listening to a bishop tell her/him that she/he is wrong. Since bishops sometimes are ignorant and even make mistakes there would also be the opportunity in such dialogues for the bishops to learn something from the faithful, e.g., just what the sensus communus is. Or maybe some ethics/whatever."Ann -I think it best to stay away from ascribing to people positions they themselves haven't articulated. My only point is that it seems whenever these battles (tiresome and worn as they are) pop up, we're always told we need "dialogue" with those with whom we disagree. Well dialogue requires openness on either side, and it doesn't seem to me that giving an award or not moves the "dialogue" one iota. See President Obama's Notre Dame commencement speech. We went though this big argument about the value of awarding the degree (and one where I tended to come down on the side of Notre Dame), and one such value we were told is that it engages someone we disagree with. Well, the result appears to be that after the President's mellifluous speech he engages in what Prof. Rick Garnett has described as an at best "insufficient sensitivity" and at worst outright hostility to religious liberty issues, as evidenced by such actions as attacks on the DC School Voucher program, the Hosanna-Tabor case and the HHS mandate. So, if these awards are justified on the basis of "engaging a dialogue", my response is "where's the beef?"

I think it best to stay away from ascribing to people positions they themselves havent articulated.Odd thing for you to say after posting a long list of quotations from comments by other posters (including me) which you summarized in this way: So in light of these comments, it seems fair to conclude that some here have, in fact, suggested just that bishops have no right to do what McManus did.I suggested nothing of the sort. Your conclusion was offensive and false and off-topic. The bishop has a right to do whatever he wants to do in his diocese. Having the right to do something and doing what is right are two different things.

An unintended consequence may follow from Bp. McManus's attention to the USCCB "Catholics in Political Life" in his public defense of the Church institution. As news briefs spread nationwide and abroad, clips like the Irish Herald's prolfierate: "Catholics snub Kennedy wife --"A small Massachusetts Catholic college rescinded its invitation to Vicki Kennedy to speak at its graduation ceremony, saying the local bishop objected to honouring the widow of the liberal lion Senator Edward Kennedy. "A spokesman for Worcester Bishop Robert McManus declined to say why exactly he objected to the choice of Mrs Kennedy, a member of the most prominent Catholic family in US politics. Mrs Kennedy said she was "disheartened" by the public rebuke."http://www.herald.ie/news/19m-property-sold-for-2500-3067408.html

"Isnt this rather grandiose of her? Because she feels she has been mistreated, it is a sad day for the Church?"David N. --Grandiose? Why is it grandiose for someone to want common courtesy? Or do you think that bishops do not need to be polite? Indeed, Ms. K. was extraordinarily gracious in extremely trying circumstances. And what happened? Nothing. In spite of her request, he refused to talk to her. She is a highly intelligent and socially committed person who has done a lot of good in her life, and given her articulateness, he might have learned a good bit about what a certain segment of his flock is thinking. But that, apparently, is one of his interests.(It's bishops like him that inspire me to use the sort of language my Mama taught me never to use. Sigh. But I think it :-) (Actually, I suspect that he might have realized that he is no match for her, and so demurred. But that doesn't make his misbehavior right.)

Catholics snub Kennedy wife A small Massachusetts Catholic college rescinded its invitation to Vicki Kennedy to speak at its graduation ceremony, saying the local bishop objected to honouring the widow of the liberal lion Senator Edward Kennedy.A spokesman for Worcester Bishop Robert McManus declined to say why exactly he objected to the choice of Mrs Kennedy, a member of the most prominent Catholic family in US politics. Mrs Kennedy said she was disheartened by the public rebuke.

"The notion that she was invited or that she achieved prominence only because she married Ted Kennedy is a sexist fiction." Grant Gallicho

David S. -- Grant doesn't edit the Irish Herald, alas, yet.

Sorry. David Nickol, not David S.

Grandiose? Why is it grandiose for someone to want common courtesy?Ann,It is not grandiose to want common courtesy. It is grandiose, when you feel you have been snubbed by a bishop, to say, "This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the Church I love."What a sad day for the 2000-year-old, 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church when one of it's 5125 bishops gets Vicki Kennedy disinvited from Anna Maria College! It's a sad day for her, yes, but she can take it. But it's an even sadder day for the Church!

"I suggested nothing of the sort. Your conclusion was offensive and false and off-topic."Funny, coming from someone who has done nothing but hurl ad hominems at the Bishops. See the quotes above - most of which are lifted from your posts."The bishop has a right to do whatever he wants to do in his diocese. Having the right to do something and doing what is right are two different things."Then why attack him for using his privilege, unless you in fact don't think he should be doing it? I'm very confused what's gotten your dander up so much. Again, see the quotes above.

Ann: I understand the school invited Vicki Kennedy precisely because of her work as a gun-control advocate. Apparently criminal justice is one of the most popular majors at the school. The notion that she was invited or that she achieved prominence only because she married Ted Kennedy is a sexist fiction. Why is it that David Gibson, along with every other journalist to write about this incident, identifies her first and foremost as "Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow" rather than as "noted gun control advocate"? Perhaps it's because no one would know who she is with the latter identification. Her non-profit is apparently defunct -- its 2007 income (last available) was all of $932, and it hasn't even issued a press release in the past decade. http://www.kidsandguns.org/familyroom/activities.asp

David N. --Bishop McManus didn't even reply to the remarkably polite message from Ms. K. Yes, David, that was an extremely sad day for the Church because it shows publicly that Bishop McManus doesn't think that bishops need be polite to lay people. That was the pit of rudeness.

Studebaker --Thanks for noticing that Ms. K. is more than Ted Kennedy's wife. But it should perhaps be added that one of her accomplishments was rescuing him from the miserable ways of living he fell into after all the tragedies in the Kennedy family. After their marriage he was very productive politically, and friends give much of the credit to her. An all-round remarkable person, apparently.

Funny, coming from someone who has done nothing but hurl ad hominems at the Bishops. See the quotes above most of which are lifted from your posts.No. Only one of the quotations in your offensive post was from one of my comments.You're deflecting your anger at the bishop onto your fellow posters. You're mad at him for being so blatant about his reasons for insulting Vicki. He should have been less honest.She has publicly associated with political and social organizations that promote activities and points of view that are contrary to fundamental church teachings.

David, that was an extremely sad day for the Church because it shows publicly that Bishop McManus doesnt think that bishops need be polite to lay people.Ann,The Church is very big, and Vicki Kennedy and Bishop McManus are very small. (And as Father Komonchak occasionally asks, "What do you mean by 'the Church'?")

The size of the Church is as big as the next person you meet. Vicki's husband was famous with elevator boys in the Senate because they knew him to be the friendliest, kindest man in the whole building. The little school kids he often used to go and read with knew him to be the same. As Ann pointed out above, Vicki helped him rise to that from extraordinary earlier difficulties and deserves a share of the credit. .

It appears that Bishop McManus has elaborated at some length about his decision to encourage the college to disinvite Vicki Kennedy, citing Ex Corde Ecclesia and Catholics in Political Life as the underpinnings for his thought process:http://www.catholicfreepress.org/featured-article-1/2012/04/04/bishops-f...

Oops. I wasn't aware that Grant had already added the Catholic Free Press link as an update.

What bewilders me (sort of) is that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. If I ran the Catholic Church, I would certainly have a policy more in line with tolerance and freedom of thought that didn't bar speakers who disagreed with Church teachings, but I don't run the Church. Bishop McManus really just seems to have followed Church policy. The fact that so many other bishops apparently don't choose to follow such policies is a testament to their wisdom (in my humble opinion), but it seems to me the problem is the official policy, not Bishop McManus. I am not quite sure what the point is of hanging on to a policy that the vast majority doesn't act on. I can imagine Vicki Kennedy's feelings were hurt, but far from being martyred, she is no doubt more of a hero to left-leaning Catholics than she would otherwise have been. I identify with left-leaning Catholics, but the American Catholic Church (that is, the hierarchy) isn't left-leaning. Normally I would be instantly sympathetic to someone in Vicki Kennedy's position, but this time I find myself irritated (and have officially been pronounced irritating) that people seem so wounded by what, according to Church policy, amazingly doesn't happen all the time. The Catholic Church is, in a number of ways, very oppressive, and I wish that Mrs. Kennedy's "sad day for the Church" was among the worst, rather than among the most trivial.Does anyone think if Bishop McManus had met with Vicki Kennedy or talked to her pastor, the bishop would have changed his mind? If she was willing to disavow her past support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage in her commencement address, I have no doubt Bishop McManus would have been thrilled to give her a forum. But does anyone suppose she would have done that?

By the way, thanks to Jeff Landry for his message of 04/04/2012 - 5:53 pm.

There's ample reason to expect that Vicki would have been considerate, wise, and skilled enough to share some fruits of her ample experience in ways that might plant a few useful thoughts in the graduates without seizing the opportunity to campaign. It's probably harder to include abortion and same-sex marriage in a commencement-type speech than to leave it out. Then, the bishop could take his 15 minutes to hammer home unforgettably the lifetime consequences for the students of having spent all that time and energy in a _Catholic_ college. A great day for those involved and few others in the world would ever know about it.

I must say David you appear to be conflicted or confused about this. Nothing you or Jeff Landry says disproves the fact that Grant and others recognize the right of the bishops to take a position while Catholics have the right to dissent the way Paul did with Peter and Augustine did with Jerome. In fact the official church has differed with Augustine on major issues despite its admiration for his rhetoric.

Maybe the bishop's concern was in a different area: (Note who are in the picture) "Statement from Victoria Reggie Kennedy on the 2nd Anniversary of Health Care Reform" http://emkinstitute.org/updates/entry/anniversary-of-healthcare-signing

David N. --Nobody has said the bishop had not right to have her barred from speaking. But I do not think he had a right to treat her as he did. That is my concern. Given that the incident has become widely known, even appearing in some of the secular press, I don't think you can say this is a little matter. What Bishop McManus has done is at best embarrased the Church at large by ignoring an apparently sincere woman who wasn't going to Immaculata to talk about abortion and gar rights. Had that been her topic, it would have been quite different.Whata\ the bishop shows, and many other bishops showed in the matter of Obama's honorary degree from Notre Dame, is that the official American Church cannot bear to honor people for their virtues when they disagree with the Church about some important matters. This is no way to live in a pluralistic society. If you have a neighbor who is otherwise a just and generous man but he believes in abortion, will you not try to be civil to him in an effort to maintain communication with him? Do you think that without respectful communication you will ever change anyone's mind about anythin? I say that if we cannot honor the virtues of sincere but in some ways misguided people, then this country is doomed to this miserably divided culture we are suffering from now.

P. S. Benedict's new initiative, the Courts of the Gentiles, is apparently an effort to engage non-Catholic thinkers who disagree with the Church about many things but who seem to be seekers after truth. Benedict is showing real leadership and a Christian attitude towards those who think we are wrong. That is the way to engage them in real dialogue. Would that the American bishops had as much sense. You don't have to agree with someone to respect them.

Nobody has said the bishop had not right to have her barred from speaking. But I do not think he had a right to treat her as he did.Ann,So much attention has been focussed (particularly by Grant) on my statement that "a bishop has a right to discourage a Catholic school from" having as a commencement speaker someone who publicly endorsed political positions that contradict the teachings of the Church. Your statement illuminates the meaning of the word right in cases like this. If I understand Grant correctly, he interpreted my statement as implying that he and others were denying that a bishop had the authority to do what Bishop McManus did. Of course, I didn't mean that at all, just as when you say you do not think the bishop had the "right" to treat Vicki Kennedy as he did, you aren't using the word right in the sense of a human right or a civil right or a right of a bishop under canon law. It seems clear to me that many people (including Grant) feel the bishop had no right to do what he did in the same sense you are saying he had no right to treat Vicki Kennedy rudely. It's not really a matter of "rights." It's a matter of what people here feel bishops ought and ought not to do. It may be a bit hyperbolic to put it this way, but bishops have something like absolute authority in their dioceses, because they are answerable only to the pope. Also, as American citizens, they have freedom of speech, and so speaking of rights in the legal and civil sense, they have a right to be rude if they want to be. We're not really talking about rights here. We're talking about our own approval and disapproval.Whata\ the bishop shows, and many other bishops showed in the matter of Obamas honorary degree from Notre Dame, is that the official American Church cannot bear to honor people for their virtues when they disagree with the Church about some important matters.But this is not a matter of pig-headedness on the part of some bishops. It is policy as laid out in USCCB documents. And to play devil's advocate for a moment, why should a Catholic school that is trying to inculcate Catholic values honor people who disagree with the Church on important matters? Is there really a shortage of Catholics capable of giving commencement speeches who don't agree with the Church on important matters? It is an essential feature of Catholicism, embraced by "conservative" Catholics but apparently not by "liberal" Catholics, that Catholicism beyond doubt knows the Truth. When you know you can't possibly be wrong, why should you "agree to disagree" on important matters with people who dissent? It is not that they have another opinion. It's that they are flat-out wrong.

"When you know you can't possibly be wrong," I know to stay the hell away from you.

Hi, David: Yesterday you asked, What do you mean by the Church? (I think the person you quoted as asking the question was looking for something about how we are ALL the Church.)Today you say, It is an essential feature of Catholicism, embraced by conservative Catholics but apparently not by liberal Catholics, that Catholicism beyond doubt knows the Truth. (If we all are the Church, then the Truth comes from all of us, not just from the ordained, the male, the Republican.)But the bishop made it very clear what he means by "the Church". See the update to the opening post. My concern basically was that to give this type of honor to Mrs. Kennedy would in fact undercut the Catholic identity and mission of the school. And that in so far as that that happens, the communio or the unity that exists between the local church and the local Catholic college is strained and hurt, he said. (He sees himself as "the local church", separate from "the local Catholic college".)You are particularly annoyed at Vicki for saying the insult to her was a sad day for the Church. Is she part of the Church? Is an insult to one non-ordained person, a woman, and a Democrat, not an insult to all? Those of us who went through decades of Catholic education without ever once hearing the word "abortion" and without ever once being told our "political" associations made us unworthy to speak at Catholic colleges or to receive honorary degrees now are degraded along with Vicki. Is it time to rethink donations to alumnae funds?

When you know you cant possibly be wrong, I know to stay the hell away from you.Abe,I agree with the sentiment, but the possession of the Truth is a bedrock principle of Catholicism. The Church teaches infallibly. Of course, it is not an infallible teaching that a public figure who has spoken in favor of abortion rights and gay marriage may not be given an honorary degree from a Catholic college. But still, Bishop McManus could certainly claim that Church teaching about abortion and gay marriage is true beyond question, and he could make a good case that people who advocate public policies that ignore or contradict certain truth should not be honored by Catholic colleges.

David Nickol: You wrote, "Why should she expect a Catholic bishop to welcome her with open arms?" Who suggested anything of the sort? I realize that you've found a subject that dovetails nicely with your critique of the Catholic Church, but it's not the only religion (or voluntary association of people) that believes it holds the truth. And it seems you're confused about the infallibility doctrine.

If we all are the Church, then the Truth comes from all of us, not just from the ordained, the male, the Republican.Gerelyn,I am not an expert on ecclesiology (or whatever the are is in which the answer to this question is to be found), but it seems to me that if "we are all the Church" is a true statement, it applies to Catholics collectively and not individually. Truth, in the Catholic Church, comes from (or is validated by) the Extraordinary Magisterium (the pope) and the ordinary Magisterium: "'By divine institution it is the exclusive task of these pastors alone, the Successors of Peter and the other Apostles, to teach the faithful authentically, that is with the authority of Christ shared in different ways; so that the faithful, who may not simply listen to them as experts in Catholic doctrine, must accept their teaching given in Christ's name, with an assent that is proportionate to the authority that they possess and that they mean to exercise." Vicki Kennedy is not part of the Magisterium, and when she speaks in contradiction to the Magisterium, she does not cease to be a Catholic, but she does not speak as a Catholic and she does not speak for the Catholic Church. She speaks against her own Church.

David Nickol -- I appreciate your efforts defending the Church against its many detractors.

It seems to me that there is an awful lot of rhetorical parsing and posturing here. The Bishop had every right to pressure the College to not invite, Vicki Kennedy. But in doing so, and the College succumbing to the pressure, he/they are certainly subject to criticism for their judgement. In this case, the Bishop had the right, but there are plenty of reasons why he exercised bad judgement in exercising it.

Our computer was down for a few days but I see the usual divisive arguments continue.jbruns is right -as we see so many times, having the right to do simething doesn't make it right of itself and certainly open to criticism.A couple of other points;If this is a "teaching moment", the problem is (as in multiple cases) how our bishops understand themselves as teachers.it strikes met that they think they are the handers on of the syllabus to little kids and not as exchanging the text of the moment with inquiring , learning and debating adults.-It sems to me that the current case (despite Jeff) will be perceived as more of the GOP tied Bishops in the US.There is a clear problem with the Bishops being seen as too political.We need t odiscuss Ms. Gates on universal access to birth control because many lives wil be saved and how the Cardinal Abp. of New York or the folks in Congress on the right deal with that.I though Ken"s brief remark here was crude and judgemental - which, I guess, exemplifies the divivenes that goes o nand on here.BTW I think "Commonweal Carholics" is way too facile a label.

"But this is not a matter of pig-headedness on the part of some bishops. It is policy as laid out in USCCB documents."David N. =Then the policy is pig=headedness enshrined. The policy is an ass (to mix metaphors, but you get the drift.) What you are implying is that law, simply by being law, has value. Not so.You also say, astonishingly considering that it is coming from you, "It is an essential feature of Catholicism, embraced by conservative Catholics but apparently not by liberal Catholics, that Catholicism beyond doubt knows the Truth. When you know you cant possibly be wrong, why should you agree to disagree on important matters with people who dissent? It is not that they have another opinion. Its that they are flat-out wrong."You have lumped many truths into "the Truth". Catholic beliefs are NOT all known beyond a doubt that is what makes them matters of faith. (How can you dispose of the notion of faith and still call yourself a Catholic????) The notion that I can't possibly be wrong is the height or, rather, the depths of pride and arrogance.Yes, this is the dividing line between super=conservatives and liberals -- super-conservatives have at best an extraordinarlity childish notion of their own wisdom. And that some of these super=conservativres are American bishops is the main problem with the American Church.

David Nickol: You wrote, Why should she expect a Catholic bishop to welcome her with open arms? Who suggested anything of the sort?Grant Gallicho,Yes, I did write that. I wrote it on Tuesday, and this is Friday, and apparently you are still annoyed!It appears to be your premise that if I say a bishop has a right to do something, I must be implying that someone said he didn't. Or if I ask, "Why should she expect a Catholic bishop to welcome her with open arms? it implies that somebody here suggested she did. In Cathy Kaveny's thread, you responded to a message of mine by saying, "Religious freedom is not absolute." Could I not argue that was annoyingly off topic, since neither I nor anyone else in the thread claimed that religious freedom was absolute? I just don't accept your premise that if someone makes a statement in a comment, he or she must be implying someone else in the discussion has claimed the opposite. I realize that youve found a subject that dovetails nicely with your critique of the Catholic Church, but its not the only religion (or voluntary association of people) that believes it holds the truth. And it seems youre confused about the infallibility doctrine.I am not an expert in world religions, but it does seem to me the Catholic Church's claim to have a body of infallible truth, to have an infallible leader (the pope), and to have an infallible Magisterium is very unlike the claims of other religions, even though other groups do claim in their own ways to have the truth. I also think that this aspect of the Catholic Church is something Catholics cherish and feel no need to be defensive about. I think I am pretty knowledgeable about claims of infallibility, the hierarchy of truths, development of doctrine, and related issues, but if you see me misrepresenting anything along these lines, I am more than happy to be corrected. I do not agree with the Catholic Church on many issues, but when I discuss the Church, I always strive to be accurate about what the Church teaches.

You have lumped many truths into the Truth. Catholic beliefs are NOT all known beyond a doubt that is what makes them matters of faith. (How can you dispose of the notion of faith and still call yourself a Catholic????)Ann,This is getting very deep, but as I understand it, many matters of faith in the Church are nevertheless considered to be matters of certain knowledge. The pope speaks infallibly on matters of "faith and morals." When he makes a pronouncement on a matter of faith, that pronouncement is taken to be infallibly true. Faith, in Catholicism, does not refer to things that are tentatively accepted as true but can't be known for sure. The Catechism says:

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." [Italics in the original]

David and Ann:David states:"The pope speaks infallibly on matters of faith and morals. When he makes a pronouncement on a matter of faith, that pronouncement is taken to be infallibly true" My understanding it that it is far more complicated that as stated. And the Church would do well to not rest too heavily on that doctrine, the equivalent of saying, "because I say so."We are reasoning people, and the strongest cases will always be made on the base of reason and logic, within the context of faith. Jesus said that we are to apply "our whole mind" to our love, and therefore our limited understanding, of God.

jbruns,Let me add that the conditions under which a pope is believed to make an infallible statement are so narrow that it is often said only two papal teachings (the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption of Mary) are definitely infallible. Nevertheless, those are taken to be certain, yet of course they are also matters of faith. Since the pope in infallible only in matters of faith and morals, the certainty that infallibility offers has to apply to matters of faith, not matters of fact. I would also note that some would argue that infallible truths like the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption of Mary, though infallibly true, are open to interpretation. So there is the problem of having infallible truths and yet still having disagreement over exactly what they mean.

David, Yes, well put.

"The pope speaks infallibly on matters of faith and morals. When he makes a pronouncement on a matter of faith, that pronouncement is taken to be infallibly true."David N. --No, this is too simple an account of the official Church's teaching on the infallibility o the popes. The popes speak infallibly only very, very, very rarely. The popes are held to be infallible only in very rare circumstances == he has to view the teachings of the Church through history, conclude that the doctrine in question has been held through history by all the Faithful, then he has to pronounce the doctrine *as being infallible*. That is, he ALSO has to say (or words to this effect) "I am speaking to you officially as pope to tell you that this doctring has been held ocontinuously by all/most Catholics throughout the history of the Church and what I am saying cannot be bistaken."JP II messed this teaching up pretty badly when he started to talk about "definitive doctrines". That's his own new doctrine, and it isn't clear exactly what he meant, except that the Church could not change it.

I might point out that Pius IX was the very first pope to articulate that "doctrine". So how can he claim that it was held continuously by all/most the popes throughout out history? So far as I can see, not even 2 of them said what he said, though maybe there were a few others.

Ann,I think you wrote your last message without seeing my message of 04/06/2012 - 3:54 pm.I would point out, though, that the truths of the Catholic Church that are held to be infallible are far more than those in the papal statements explicitly defined as infallible.

889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

And of course assent is required for even non-infallible teachings. "[T]he faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ."

I might point out that Pius IX was the very first pope to articulate that doctrine.Ann,Do you mean the Immaculate Conception? It is not a doctrine, but a dogma, an infallibly declared truth that all Catholics must accept. Note the second paragraph.

"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

Thank you, David, but we were just talking about the popes, weren't we? As to those paragraphs from the Catechism, they are quite incoherent in spots. This whole infallibility questions is another teaching that needs reviewing. Not for no reason was the articulation of it by Vatican I and Pius IX highly controversial when it first appeared. If ANYTHING discourages people from becoming Catholic, that is it. Which, of course, is not of itself any reason to change the teaching. But there are reasons other than the difficulty of seeing how it could possibly be true.

David --No, I didn't mean the Immaculate Conception. I meant the dogma of infallibility itself. The official Church claims that it is itself and infallible doctrine, defined as going back universally into Church history. Yet Piux IX and Vat I were the first pope and Council to define the concept. Makes no sense.

Ann,The dogma of infallibility was defined by the First Vatican Council. Pronouncements by Church councils are infallible. Disbelieving in the infallibility of the pope is not an option for Catholics.

David --We've obviously read some different accounts of the Councils and the sort of certitude they claim.

David --It is one thing to say that the Holy Spirit teaches what is infallibly true. It is another to say that the same thing about popes and bishops. They are not God.

David Nickol, what are you doing? Is this an impersonation of a rigid conservative? Are you playing with us?

Claire,Do you honestly think that the infallibility of the pope, the the infallibility of Church councils, and the concept of dogma and certain truth is only for "rigid conservatives"?

"It is one thing to say that the Holy Spirit teaches what is infallibly true."But Ann, how does that statement have any meaning if we don't also believe that the teaching of the successors of Saint Peter isn't, given specific circumstances, inspired by the Holy Spirit?

This whole infallibility questions is another teaching that needs reviewing.I agree. When Paul VI writes Humanae Vitae - infallibly, according to 892 -, and when the people of God reject it - infallibly, according to 889 -, we have a contradiction and it is time to revisit that notion. David, one problem with the texts you cite is that, interpreted broadly, they contradict common sense. "Infallible" means "that cannot be wrong", but bishops, popes, and the people of God, are all human. They have made, are making, and will make plenty of mistakes, including in matters of faith and morals. The best we can hope for is that they try to discern the truth and are to some extent helped by the Holy Spirit. As to that bishop pressuring the College to disinvite Vicki Kennedy, I'm not sure he's doing his "pastoral duty" as described in 890. It doesn't seem to me to be a very effective way to be a shepherd. As to Vicky Kennedy saying that it's "an even sadder day for the Church", I presume that she is talking, not just about the dis-invitation, but about the trends of the past few years, which are intruding into her life via this incident.

Mark --The Holy Spirit is always there to help us with the difficulties of making right moral decisions. His help is especially available to the popes and bishops. But they too are just human and can reject the help, just as we can. They do not lose their wills by becoming bishops. They are not automatons.What this implies is that, no, we cannot always be completely certain that a certain decision is right. But we can be certain that we have done our best to reach a right decision. God has not guaranteed us that *any* kind of good will come to us necessarily if we will only do our duty. He has not promised us, for instance, that if we act as justly and fairly as we know how with our neighborsthat we will necessarily prosper. (Yes, the prosperity preachers say otherwise, but just look around you and you'll see that they are wrong.) Analogously, He has not promised that if we are honest in our moral deliberations we will always find the correct answers to our moral questions.God has promised neither total happiness nor total wisdom in this world.

David, one problem with the texts you cite is that, interpreted broadly, they contradict common sense. Claire,It would be a mistake to interpret the statements on infallibility "broadly." As I have noted earlier, the conditions required for the pope to speak infallibly are so narrow that it is generally agreed that popes have met them twice. Some argue that Humanae Vitae is infallible, but there is no consensus, so it is a very weak argument that uses Humanae Vitae as an example of an infallible teaching. If one believes the Catholic Church is what it claims to befor example, if Jesus really named Peter as the head of his Church, the popes are Peter's intended successors, and the bishops are the successors to the apostlesthen there is nothing remarkable about the Church's claims of infallibility under certain conditions and in certain matters.

P. S. Even if you think that the popes and bishops are always right, you have no assurance from God that *you* will always apply those principles correctly in your own moral thinking. In other words, *your* conscience can be mistaken in applying the rules. We can be wrong, Mark, and God never promised us otherwise. But no doubt He forgives us when we do our best.

P. S. Even if you think that the popes and bishops are always right, you have no assurance from God that *you* will always apply those principles correctly in your own moral thinkingAnn,But it is not Catholic teaching that the pope and the bishops are always right. It is Catholic teaching that sometimes, under limited and fairly well defined conditions, the pope and the bishops speak with certainty on matters of faith and morals.

"He has not promised that if we are honest in our moral deliberations we will always find the correct answers to our moral questions."No, but he has promised the bishops that whatever the bishops bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. I don't see where you've given that due recognition.

Mark --I know the text. What I don't see is how you relate it to the question of infallibility. Neither the text nor the context (Matthew 18) has to do with the truth of propositions. Jesus does say there that when someone is accused of something there must be two or three witnesses, or the whole church, which must be brought to bear in reaching a determination about the truth of the accusation. That does seem to be a plea for looking at evidence before reaching a conclusion, and that could be relevant to the infallibility claim, especially the claim about the sensus communus (the whole church).

Mark --The sort of binding that bishops may do is a matter of some dispute. But as I understand it, it is NOT a matter of simply saying something is true thereby making it true. You seem to think that a bishop can bind us to thinking that something is true just because he *says* it's true == that his saying it will make it true both on Earth AND in Heaven. So far as i know the Church has never taught that. Or just what does "binding" have to do with the problem?

"You seem to think that a bishop can bind us to thinking that something is true just because he *says* its true..."You're dodging, Ann. My initial comment was in response to yours of April 6, 5:30 pm, where you called into question the infallibility of the popes and bishops. I never said anything as silly as what you say I seem to think.Happy Easter!

Mark --When you say that the bishops may "bind" on earth and in heaven, and we're talking about what we ought to think,then I concluded that you meant that the bishops could somehow affect the truth of propositions. Or, as I also asked, what does "binding" have to do with teachings? The Bible doesn't refer the binding text to teachings, does it? If so, where does it do so?

Ann--Matthew 18:18.

The claim of infallibility is the weakest argument the Church can make in its teaching.

This thread IMO has degenerated into discussion of the 'teaching" office of the Church.The notion of infallible teaching has and is quite limited.What has expaed is the notion of other doctrines put forward in the magisterium and the amount of assent the faithful must give - and as we've discussed, we've moved from theological notes to the more JPII notion where we are at today and which many reject on conscience basis. Hence a call for rexamination of lots of stuff as Bishop Robinson urged on his peaking tour.Then there's the teaching role of the bishop and how one frames that anlogously.How the Pegrine Office is excercised is hardly clear as the s called Council of Jerusalem in Acts makes clear.Ecclesial models will continue to be influenced by historical circumstances and needs.Thus the discussion here on what "communio" should imply is very much in play.

A quick note -since we're discussin ga kennedy, I was bemused by catdinal Dolan's defense of JFK and Sanrourum in the same breath on CBS Sunday.A teaching moment?????

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