Saint Joseph’s University has invited Chris Matthews to be its Commencement speaker. One graduate wrote a letter to which the President of the school Fr. Timothy Lannon responded. Here’s the exchange:

Dear Father Lannon,

I am writing to express my disappointment that my alma mater has invited Chris Matthews to speak at Commencement this year. Mr. Matthews, while nominally Catholic, has made no secret of his support for both legalized abortion and President Obama, who is staunchy pro-abortion as well.

This is just another example of how St. Joseph’s seems intent to deny its Catholic roots. My husband and I are both members of the class of 1983, but several years ago (after learning about Rainbow Week at SJU) we decided to put our charitable contributions to better use by supporting St. Charles Seminary. We also have 6 children, none of whom will be attending St. Joseph’s if we can help it.

Please reconsider this invitation, which sullies the image of the University in the eyes of the Church and the eyes of Our Lord. He alone is the Author of life.

Fr. Lannon’s response is here. My comments are in bold.

Dear Jacqueline –

I have received your email regarding our Commencement speaker, Mr. Chris Matthews. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter.

Ideally, we at Saint Joseph’s University would like for the focus of Commencement to remain upon student achievement and family celebration.

(In other words, myob. Isn’t this implying that Jacqueline’s focus is not where it should be because she’s so caught up on this whole abortion thing.)

In reality, however, we realize that some disagreement is inevitable, since we cannot possibly please everyone when we choose our Commencement speakers and honorees.

(No. You can’t please everyone. How about just God, then?)

In deciding who will be honored at Commencement, Saint Joseph’s takes into account a number of factors rather than focusing on a single viewpoint or issue.

(But the Pope has said that abortion is not just one issue among many. So is the Pope too focused on one single viewpoint like maybe…the Church’s viewpoint?)

Chris Matthews is a respected journalist, who has witnessed first-hand a number of pivotal events in our history, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Beyond his journalistic achievements, Matthews spent time engaged in service as a member of the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa. He engages on a weekly basis with policy makers, world leaders and the men and women who shape our world and our history. The graduates of Saint Joseph’s University stand to learn a great deal from his experiences.

(See how he fit in Pope John Paul II there for no reason at all? Yes. Chris Matthews was on television around the time the Pope passed away. How is that a resume builder? Hmmm. And anyone have any guesses how Pope John Paul II would’ve felt about Chris Matthews delivering the commencement speech?)

Chris Matthews is also a proud, Jesuit-educated Catholic, who attended The College of the Holy Cross. In 2003, that school granted Matthews an honorary degree but came under fire because of his view on abortion. In my conversations with Chris, he told me that he has never questioned the teaching authority of the Church. He is an active member of his parish in Washington, D.C. He is a political commentator who raises issues on how intrusive government should be. Matthews has also received honorary degrees from eight other Catholic universities.

(I love how Fr. Lannon calls him “Chris” here. Just feels so chummy doesn’t it? And Fr. Lannon saying that eight other Catholic colleges invited him, that is simply a clear statement of the dearth of Catholicism in our Catholic colleges. I mean, isn’t he just saying, “Everyone else is doing it.”)

The Catholic, Jesuit identity of Saint Joseph’s University is paramount, reflected daily in our classrooms, campus life and residence halls. Saint Joseph’s is also a private, independent and comprehensive university, where academic rigor and faith come together in a full exchange of ideas. The emphasis is on a complete educational experience for every student.

(In other words, we teach truth and…untruth. And this is not about presenting differing opinions. This is about honoring a man who holds opinions wildly different from the Church including the value of human life.)

I am sorry you are disappointed that we will honor Chris Matthews at Commencement. As a Catholic, liberal arts University, a tension will always exist in providing for free speech, academic freedom and open inquiry, while maintaining an active Catholic identity.

Thank you once again for taking the time to share your opinion. God’s blessings.


Timothy R. Lannon, S.J.

I find the whole thing incredibly disappointing. To me, it’s not a question of allowing Matthews to speak but a question of honoring him.