Catholic college cancels commencement speech by Ted Kennedy's widow

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A small Catholic college in Massachusetts says it rescinded a speaking invitation to the wife of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy at a bishop's behest.

Anna Maria College in Paxton issued a statement saying Victoria Reggie Kennedy's perceived political views are at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church, rendering her unfit to speak at the small private school's spring commencement. The final judgment was said to rest with Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus.

"After hours of discerning and struggling with elements of all sides of the issue, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees decided with deep regret to withdraw its invitation," the statement read.

Ray Deslisle, a spokesman for McManus, told the Boston Globe that Kennedy "has contrary beliefs to the church in the key areas of pro-choice versus the sanctity of life," as well as "the sanctity of marriage."

Patrick Whelan, president of the national Catholic Democrats, told the Globe McManus also expressed concerns about what he believed are Kennedy's positions on gay rights and health coverage for contraception.

The Boston Herald reported that Kennedy released her own statement in response, expressing disappointment with the college's decision:

"I hold no public office nor am I a candidate for public office. I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted my pastor to learn more about me or my faith. Yet by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the church I love."

Catholic colleges across the nation have faced similar dilemmas, coming under pressure from diocesan leaders to close their doors to political liberals. In 2009, almost a quarter of the nation's bishops were up in arms when the University at Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to speak.

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