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Victoria Kennedy speaking to the Point Foundation.
Under pressure from Roman Catholic Bishop Robert J. McManus, Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts has withdrawn its invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy to deliver a commencement address. The Bishop's objection to Kennedy, the widow of former Senator Edward Kennedy, is that her positions on "divisive" social issues, including gay rights, health coverage for contraception, and abortion, contradict Catholic teachings.
Mary Carmichael reports in the Boston Globe that Anna Maria College invited Kennedy to speak at the spring commencement in February, but has now rescinded the invitation under pressure from Bishop McManus.
Kennedy, noting that the bishop has refused to meet with her, issued the following statement: "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."
She also expressed sympathy for the College: "I know the President and Board of Trustees extended their initial invitation to me with the most sincere intentions, and I regret the position in which they have been placed. I have great respect and admiration for Anna Maria College and the Class of 2012 and would not want my presence to hurt the school or detract from the graduates' special day in any way. Nevertheless, I am disheartened by this entire turn of events."
Steve Krueger, national director for Catholic Democrats, on whose board Kennedy serves, characterized recent conflicts such as this as symptomatic of divisions within the Church, especially between the laity and the hierarchy. "Increasingly, we see more and more bishops playing the role of enforcers of the faith rather than shepherds of souls, because they squandered the trust that they once had and the authority that came with it," he said.
"I know from personal experience that Vicki takes her faith very seriously, and [the Bishop] is essentially seeking to distance her from the life of the church. It's a subtle form of ex-communication," Krueger added.
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.
At his Live from Hell's Kitchen blog, Mixner comments tongue-in-cheek about the Point Foundation and the occasion at which Kennedy presented him a Legend Award from the Foundation.
"Now we all know that the Point Foundation is a dangerous and subversive organization," Mixner writes. "After all, God forbid, it provides scholarships to young LGBT Americans who have been forced from their homes because of their sexuality. It sends people to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Notre Dame and so many other places to become educated, productive citizens and role models for future generations. It gives each of its scholarship recipients mentors who are there for them unconditionally to help them through tough times. Oh yes, and let's not forget, it teaches young people to have pride, to love themselves and to have hope for the future."
He adds that "The dinner was held in the Pierre Hotel Ballroom (known for its subversive meetings) and was completely packed to the point of being sold out. Prime Minister and Ms. Brown of the United Kingdom sent taped greetings. Corporations such as Audi, Motorola and Time Warner sponsored the evening. Cheyenne Jackson, Judith Light, Harry Smith of CBS News, Kelly Ripa and the Baroness Denise Kingsmills were all in attendance. Tony Award winner Alan Cumming introduced Mrs. Kennedy."
Mixner asks, "What did she say as she presented the Legend Award to me that was so threatening to cause her voice to be silenced at Anna Maria College?"
In reply, he quotes from Kennedy's comments that night: ". . . Teddy never doubted that in the end, the cause will be won--not partial equality, but full equality; not second-class equality, but the right to live free, and to marry and raise a family. My husband said: 'Equality is a continuing struggle and America is a continuing revolution.'"
A vision in which glbtq people have equal rights is, no doubt, truly frightening to someone of the parochial mindset of Bishop McManus.
Here is a video of Mrs. Kennedy's comments about David Mixner that so infuriated the bishop.
In the video below, Jonathan Griffith talks with Michael Marino about the Point Foundation
In the video below, Point Foundation scholars speak for themselves.