Catholic Democrats criticize bishops for ‘politicizing the faith’

The head of a national organization representing progressive Catholics said Bishop Robert J. McManus coerced Anna Maria College officials into withdrawing their commencement speaking invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy and that the prelate’s intervention was just another recent example of a broader effort by powerful conservative church leaders to move the American Roman Catholic Church to the political right.

“These bishops have one standard for Democrats and another standard for Republicans,” said Steven A. Krueger, the national director of Catholic Democrats. “They are politicizing the faith.”

Mr. Krueger, along with other activists, yesterday delivered 20,000 petition signatures gathered online from around the country to the diocesan offices on Elm Street. The signatories request that Bishop McManus ask the college’s Board of Trustees to reinstate Mrs. Kennedy as commencement speaker.

The small Catholic liberal arts school in Paxton disinvited Mrs. Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, after the bishop raised concerns about the positions she has taken on abortion, gay marriage, contraception and other social issues.

The bishop told college officials he would not attend the May 19 ceremonies at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts if Mrs. Kennedy spoke and received an honorary degree in public administration.

Representatives of Catholic Democrats and Faithful America, a national interfaith group, delivered the petitions — printed on 1,100 pages and stuffed into three large black binders — to Raymond L. Delisle, the diocesan vice chancellor of operations and spokesman, at the chancery.

Bishop McManus was not in his office when the petitions arrived. [More]