Students at a Catholic university in New York are up in arms over their college’s choice of a Catholic cardinal commencement speaker.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, is scheduled to be the commencement speaker next Sunday at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. A petition drive, however, is seeking to have the school disinvite him, on the grounds that Dolan is “homophobic” and has been complicit in “sexual violence.”
“Over the years, Cardinal Dolan has been involved with sexual abuse scandals dealing with clergy of the church, homophobic comments and does not represent the ideals we have come to know Le Moyne to represent,” says the petition. “With the growing attention toward sexual assault on the Le Moyne campus, students have felt that keeping Cardinal Dolan as commencement speaker completely opposes what we have advocated against.”
The petition also equates opposition to Dolan with other recent protest actions on campus.
“We have walked the halls of Le Moyne for the Black Lives that Matter, we have held vigils for the Muslim students gunned down in Chapel Hill and much more,” it says. “We have always come together in hard times. Do not stop now. Stand strong, sign and keep it going.”
The petition doesn’t include any specific examples of wrongdoing by Dolan, though it does include a link to a 2013 article about sex abuse victims in the Milwaukee archdiocese calling for more open records. Dolan was Milwaukee’s archbishop from 2002 to 2009, but his involvement in the sex abuse scandal was limited to handling the uproar and aftermath rather than any alleged complicity in actual abuse.
While Dolan was responsible for laicizing many priests and was very vocal in recognizing the scope and severity of the abuse crisis, he was also criticized for sometimes paying suspected abusers to leave the priesthood and for using various financial maneuvers to protect Church assets from being used to pay legal damages.
As for the allegations of homophobia, Dolan’s position that homosexual acts are sinful and gay marriage unacceptable are in line with official Catholic doctrine.
The petition currently has 620 signatures. Le Moyne itself is a small school, with only 2,800 undergraduates along with 800 graduate students.
The college’s president has already categorically rejected the petition’s demand.
“There’s absolutely no chance that we would change our speaker moving forward. We’re proud to host Cardinal Dolan and we’re looking forward to hearing his message,” Le Moyne president Linda LeMura told WSYR. “My message to our students and faculty who have expressed concern is to give the Cardinal a chance. Listen to his message of hope and love and I think he will pleasantly surprise our audience.”
In response, the petition’s organizers say they plan to hold a silent protest on graduation day.