Archbishop Hughes not to participate in Xavier commencement

Tells Xavier president choice of commencement speaker is not in line with Catholic teaching.



Upon learning Xavier University had selected pro-abortion strategist Donna Brazile has this year’s commencement speaker, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes has informed Xavier University president, Dr. Norman Francis, that he will not attend this Spring’s Commencement Exercises at the Catholic university.


Recognizing Ms. Brazile’s effectiveness in working for the poor, Archbishop Hughes goes on to say, “her (Ms. Brazile’s) public statements on the abortion issue are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching.”  The archbishop cites her recent support of reversing the Mexico City policy and her long standing position to keep abortion legal as main reasons she is not a good choice to be honored by the Catholic institution.


He continues by citing the 2004 US bishop’s document that instructs Catholic institutions on how to select speakers and honorees.  The document clearly states that those “who act in defiance of (Catholic) moral principles” should not be recognized by Catholic institutions.

Archbishop Hughes closed the letter with his disappointment at not being able to be part of this spring’s commencement exercises and calling on Xavier to be faithful to the holy legacy of St. Katharine Drexel, the school’s founder.

This is the second time in the last month Archbishop Hughes has publicly released letters to Catholic university leadership condemning their selection for commencement speaker.  Earlier this month, Archbishop Hughes wrote to the president of the University of Notre Dame, expressing his disappointment that President Barack Obama, after he has made several decisions to forward pro-choice issues, would be Notre Dame’s spring commencement speaker.


The complete text of Archbishop Hughes’ letter to Dr. Francis is pasted below:

April 22, 2009


Dr. Norman C. Francis

President, Xavier University of Louisiana

1 Drexel Drive

New Orleans, LA 70125-1098


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

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