Cardinal Denounces Honor for Giuliani

By Nick Anderson and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 20, 2005

When former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani receives an honorary degree this morning from Loyola College in Maryland and speaks at the Catholic school's 153rd commencement in Baltimore, the city's archbishop and his representatives won't be there.

Never mind that Cardinal William H. Keeler does not ordinarily attend the college's annual spring exercises. And never mind that Keeler was not formally invited to this year's event. As the local guardian of Roman Catholic doctrine, the archbishop of Baltimore felt compelled this week to express his views on an occasion featuring a Republican politician known for supporting abortion rights.

"May I state," Keeler wrote to Loyola's interim president, David Haddad, in a letter dated Wednesday and posted yesterday on the archdiocese's Web site, "that there will be no representative of the Archdiocese participating in any event honoring former Mayor Giuliani. I am confident that, by now, you understand many of the consequences that spring from an invitation having been extended to former Mayor Giuliani to receive an honorary degree at Loyola. May the Lord make of this event a teaching moment for many."

Keeler's pointed rebuke to the Jesuit college is part of a wider effort by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to restrict platforms for speakers known to hold beliefs at odds with core Catholic teachings. Last June, the bishops declared: "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."

Some Catholics are now pressing for strict enforcement of that pronouncement. Among them is Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, based in Manassas.

Reilly said he knows of just one bishop besides Keeler who has confronted a college or university this year. In Louisiana, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes refused to attend the May 13 commencement ceremony at Loyola University of New Orleans because of an honorary degree bestowed on that city's prominent Landrieu family. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lt. Gov. Mitchell J. Landrieu (D) say they do not advocate abortion but have opposed making all abortions illegal. The university went ahead with the honor.

Reilly said the society is protesting commencement speakers at 17 Catholic schools nationwide. "At least publicly it would appear that many or most of the bishops are not enforcing their own policy," he said.

At Catholic University in Washington, officials last year blocked an invitation to actor Stanley Tucci to speak at a film forum, citing his ties to abortion-rights causes. In New York, Marymount Manhattan College emphasized last month that it is no longer a Catholic institution after coming under fire for inviting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), an abortion-rights backer, to speak at its commencement.

In Baltimore, Loyola officials are standing firm this week. College spokesman Mark Kelly said students from the Class of 2005 wanted Giuliani, who is Catholic, to speak at their graduation because they admired his leadership after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, just days after their freshman year began.

"We are a Catholic institution," Kelly added. "We do adhere to the church's teachings, and we remain committed to the sanctity of life." Kelly said Keeler was welcome at any Loyola function. Keeler spokesman Sean Caine said the archbishop was not formally invited to the commencement but had a standing invitation to the college's events.

In a prepared statement, a Giuliani spokeswoman said the former mayor was "very honored" to address and meet the Loyola graduates. Senior class President Dana Matthews said Giuliani was a popular choice. "I've only heard excitement," she said. "I've never heard one negative comment from anyone."

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