Dear Dr. Francis:
I write to you to follow up our telephone conversation. 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.
In our document released in 2004 the Catholic bishops of the United States provided explicit direction for all Catholic parishes and institutions: “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.”
I recognize that Ms. Brazile is a Catholic Louisiana native who has worked effectively in service to the poor and African Americans in particular. However, her public statements on the abortion issue are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching. She has supported President Obama’s decision to reverse the Mexico City policy allowing federal funds to organizations that provide abortions overseas by saying that this policy will “save lives.” She has also relativized the importance of the fundamental life issues on national television suggesting that there are more important things for the American people to discuss than abortion. 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.
The Catholic Church stands in support of all of those who want to serve and plead for the poor and vulnerable in our midst. 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 , again, reiterate my disappointment. I have always enjoyed being a part of the Xavier Commencement when I was able to do so. I applaud the remarkable history of Xavier University in offering highly respected university education to African Americans. I also admire your remarkable record of public service.
The University has received an extraordinary legacy from its holy founder, Saint Katherine Drexel. I pray that the university will be faithful to that legacy in every way including respect and protection of all human life.
Sincerely in the Lord,
Most Reverend Alfred C. Hughes
Archbishop of New Orleans