Chris Matthews presence at Commencement
and his talk were received enthusiastically by the graduates
families, but not by some alumni and outside groups.
Mr. Matthews was chosen to receive an honorary degree
and give the Commencement address because we knew he would
give a memorable speech, because he is a prominent alumnus
who has been a loyal and distinguished supporter of Holy
Cross and the Catholic Church, and especially because he
has used his position in the media to bring some of the most
difficult moral issues in our society into the political
arena, in a thoughtful and principled way, says Holy
Cross president, Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J.
It was the last point that caused the
problem. While there was very little comment in March to
the announcement that
Matthews had been selected as the speaker, an attack arose
a month before Commencement, claiming he was pro-abortion. Most
alumni joined students, faculty and staff in supporting the
Colleges decision, but some registered strong protests.
Bishop Daniel Reilly of Worcester chose
not to attend the ceremony, not wanting to be seen as supporting
was not unambiguously pro-life. In a statement explaining
his decision, he made it clear that, in making this
decision, I am not questioning the fidelity of the College
of the Holy Cross to its mission as a Catholic College or
its dedication to the mission of the Catholic Church. Interestingly,
Avery Cardinal Dulles, often described as the greatest living
American theologian, who also received an honorary degree,
had no problem sharing the stage with Matthews.
It is extremely unfair and misleading to characterize
Chris Matthews as being an abortion supporter or even as pro-choice in
the sense that the decision to have an abortion is morally
neutral. He does not believe that, says Fr. McFarland. Mr.
Matthews has made it clear that he thinks abortion is wrong,
and we should be concerned about preventing it.
We regret that some alumni and other friends who have
worked with admirable dedication to protect the unborn have
been offended by the decision to honor Chris Matthews. That
was not our intent. As a Catholic institution, Holy Cross
embraces the Churchs teaching on the sanctity of all
human life, continues Fr. McFarland. We also
embrace and value all of our alumni. The most prominent among
the protestors was Charles Millard 54, longtime College
Trustee and former chair of the Board.
It is out of my respect for and appreciation
of Charlie Millard, a distinguished and devoted alumnus,
of eight Crusaders, that I clear up some misinformation that
has persisted in the wake of the Commencement controversy
regarding our responses to the deep concerns he expressed
in the weeks leading up to Commencement about awarding an
honorary degree to Chris Matthews. Though we were not able
to reach agreement with Charlie over the appropriateness
of the degree or the wording of the citation, it is certainly
not true that we ignored him. As chair of the Board, Dr.
Michael Collins 77 responded respectfully to Charlies
concerns on behalf of the Trustees.
As much as we lament the indignation and upset the
decision may have caused some in the Holy Cross community,
as an educational institution we must maintain our commitment
to thoughtful and open inquiry, critical scrutiny of all
positions and assumptions, examination of issues in all their
complexity without losing the important distinctions and
nuances, and honest and respectful dialogue with other cultures
and points of view, continues Fr. McFarland. Only
in this way can we fulfill our mission to produce thoughtful,
principled, and well-prepared leaders for the Church and
society, and to bring our traditions and values into constructive
engagement with the wider culture.
Chris Matthews '67