Cardinal's speech upsets university
Sept 11, 2004
A Roman Catholic cardinal seen as a top contender to succeed Pope John Paul II has sparked student and faculty protests at Georgetown University with a remark he made about homosexuals in a commencement speech.
(Sydney Morning Herald, May 23 2003) A letter protesting against the speech by Cardinal Francis Arinze was signed by about 70 faculty members at the Jesuit university and delivered on Wednesday to Dr Jane McAuliffe, dean of the university's school of arts and sciences.
Dr McAuliffe, a specialist in Islamic studies, invited Cardinal Arinze - president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue - to speak on Christian-Muslim relations at the school's graduation ceremonies last Saturday.
Instead, the Nigerian prelate told the graduates that happiness was found not in the pursuit of material wealth or pleasures of the flesh, but by fervently adhering to religious beliefs.
Cardinal Arinze then spoke of the importance of family to the Roman Catholic Church.
"In many parts of the world, the family is under siege," Cardinal Arinze said. "It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalised by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce."
Theresa Sanders, a professor of theology at the university, protested by leaving the stage where Cardinal Arinze was speaking. Other students upset with the comments also left, according to emails on a subscription list used by many of the university's gay and lesbian students.
Ed Ingebretsen, a professor of English at Georgetown and a priest in the American Catholic Church, said on Wednesday that Cardinal Arinze's remarks were in line with Catholic doctrine, but nonetheless seemed out of place at the commencement ceremony.
"These things are exactly what he's paid to say," Professor Ingebretsen said. "[But] it's a graduation; why he decided to do the pro-family thing no one seems to know."
Professor Ingebretsen said he was compelled, as a writer, to post a short apology on the email subscription list "on behalf of Catholics" for Cardinal Arinze's "insensitive remarks", which he termed "un-Christian".
Dr McAuliffe issued a two-sentence statement acknowledging that she had been contacted by several students and faculty "to express their reaction, both negative and positive" to the address. "As an academic community, vigorous and open discussion lies at the heart of what we do, and there are many different voices in the conversation."
Cardinal Arinze, 70, is widely mentioned as a candidate to succeed John Paul II, which would make him the first African Catholic pope.
He ascended through the ranks of the church's hierarchy in Africa, where Catholicism is flourishing. He was called by John Paul II in 1984 to work in the Vatican.