Xavier stands ground amid criticism of honorary degree recipients

Xavier stands ground amid criticism of honorary degree recipients

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The archbishop is at odds with a Catholic university over plans by the school to honor certain dignitaries during its May commencement exercises, but Xavier University is sticking with its choices.

On a blustery day, students moved about Xavier's campus, many aware of the winds of controversy surrounding a recent university announcement that Xavier will give honorary degrees to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former NBA star and anti-AIDS activist MagicJjohnson, former Sen. Mary Landrieu and Carnegie Corp. President Dr. Vartan Gregorian.

"Certainly the university has the freedom to select who they want to grant honorary degrees to, and at the same time the archbishop has the freedom to boycott it," said political analyst Ed Chervenak.

In a letter, Archbishop Gregory Aymond writes: I am saddened to inform you that some of those to be honored do not represent the values and teachings of the Catholic Church. … The U.S. bishops state that the Catholic community and Catholic institution should not honor those who hold values contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Church.

The Archdiocese wouldn't say which church values or teachings the archbishop was referring to.

"I don't believe he should get involved with that," said student Miles Turner. "Xavier is doing well right now."

"I think, you know, Catholics are very traditional, so I feel like we should expect him to have those views," said Stormie Young.

While the archbishop didn't name names, during her political career, Mary Landrieu has taken heat from higher-ups in the Catholic Church.

"Certainly there's precedent," Chervenak said. "Archbishop Hughes boycotted an event at Loyola University where she was being honored so, if I was a betting man I would say it's probably the former senator."

Holder defends the president's signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, portions of which have upset the Catholic Church.

"The federal mandate to basically have all companies provide contraception for all females has riled the Catholic Church, as well as other religious institutions," Chervenak said.

Xavier isn't backing down, saying: "The University followed its traditional process for selecting honorary degree recipients and firmly believes that our pending honorees are strong leaders who have made extraordinary contributions to humanity."

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