It’s election season in Pennsylvania and that means it’s time for some good ole’ fashion single-issue politics. Case in point: Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA, where last week Senator Hillary Clinton spoke before a crowd of over 2,000. Prior to her arrival, Erie Bishop Donald W. Trautman criticized the college “for not reflecting the pro-life stance of the Catholic Church regarding abortion.” In protest, the bishop announced that he would not speak at Mercyhurst’s graduation next month.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responded disapprovingly in an editorial, which read in part…
Bishop Trautman . . . has the same right to free speech as anyone else and he
also has his own duty as a bishop to speak out on moral issues of the day. But
none of that makes his rebuke of the college wise. For one thing, it amounts to
taking political sides. For another, it is based on a considerable misunderstanding. Mercyhurst College. . . was not endorsing Mrs. Clinton's views on abortion by inviting her, no more than a newspaper endorses every letter to the editor or op-ed article in the forums it provides for free expression. As it happens, Mrs. Clinton never mentioned abortion; her speech was about economic issues.
The editorial also reminds readers of President Bush’s visit last year to St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA.
Although Mr. Bush has been pro-life in the sense of seeking to protect the
unborn, the seamless garment of his philosophy is tattered by his pro-death
penalty stance and his instigation of a foolish and unjustified invasion of
Faculty, students, and alumni from St. Vincent’s protested the event. But the editorial didn’t mention whether any bishops denounced Bush’s presence at the college. I doubt there was any such proclamation. Nevertheless, the Post-Gazette went on to state my own thoughts on the matter, that universities and colleges (whether religiously oriented or not) should enthusiastically welcome public figures such as Clinton and Bush. Their voices stimulate the intellectual atmosphere, making for great conversations afterward.
Still, if Bishop Trautman and those sharing his politics wish to reclaim their “seamless garment” moral credentials, they’ll have a chance soon enough. An e-mail just arrived in my inbox announcing that Karl Rove will be speaking this Wednesday at my school, St. Francis University. This should be interesting...