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Archbishop Hughes avoids Xavier commencement over pro-abortion speaker
Archbishop Alfred Hughes / Donna Brazile
Archbishop Alfred Hughes / Donna Brazile

.- Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Hughes, reiterating his “disappointment” with Xavier University of Louisiana, has said that he will not attend the school’s commencement exercises, saying pro-abortion rights strategist Donna Brazile’s appearance as its spring 2009 commencement speaker contradicts support for those “in their mother’s wombs.” Archbishop Hughes expressed his objections in an April 22 letter to Dr. Norman C. Francis, President of Xavier University, writing:

“It is with regret that I make the decision not to participate in the Commencement Exercises this year at Xavier University in light of the university’s decision to invite Ms. Donna Brazile to be the Commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree. Ms. Brazile has a public record in support of keeping abortion legal.”

He cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) 2004 document “Catholics in Political Life,” which said Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

Acknowledging that Brazile is a Catholic Louisiana native who has “worked effectively in service to the poor and African Americans in particular,” the archbishop said her public statements on abortion “are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching.”

In particular, Archbishop Hughes cited her support for President Barack Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City Policy. Brazile has said the policy, which allows federal funds for organizations that promote or provide abortions overseas, would “save lives.”

The archbishop also charged that Brazile has “relativized the importance of the fundamental life issues” on national television by suggesting that there are more important things to discuss.

“She has supported and worked for the election of candidates who support contraceptive practices and abortion on the basis that this stance is pro-woman,” he added.

“The Catholic Church stands in support of all of those who want to serve and plead for the poor and vulnerable in our midst,” Archbishop Hughes explained. “This, however, must include those who are most vulnerable in their mother’s wombs. Moreover, contraceptive practice actually leads men to be less responsible toward women and abortion both harms the mother and kills the child.”

“I have always enjoyed being a part of the Xavier Commencement when I was able to do so,” he said, applauding the school’s “remarkable history” of providing public service and offering respected university education to African Americans.

“The University has received an extraordinary legacy from its holy founder, St. Katherine Drexel. I pray that the university will be faithful to that legacy in every way including respect and protection of all human life,” the archbishop’s letter concluded.

Responding to Archbishop Hughes’ letter in a statement, Xavier University said that the school has had the “honor of his presence at ceremonies” when the archbishop’s schedule permitted.

“Xavier understands the reasons for his absence at our 2009 Commencement Exercise. From the founding of Xavier by St. Katharine Drexel eighty-four years ago, our institution has promoted respect for the dignity, well-being and the protection of life for all persons,” the statement said.

“Xavier’s legacy and mission remain in its commitment to ‘create a more just and humane society,’” the statement continued.

According to a press release from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archbishop Hughes’ letter to Xavier University marks the second time he has written to a Catholic university in the last month. He also wrote to the president of the University of Notre Dame expressing disappointment with the choice of pro-abortion rights President Barack Obama as its Spring commencement speaker.



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April 23, 2014

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