Student’s reaction to controversial recipient of Ivy Young Willis award

By Lindsey Harner
February 12, 2009

Shannon Keough

Dear Dr. George,

I would like to welcome you again to Cabrini College. As your inaugural year continues, I hope you are finding Cabrini to be a wonderful home. I wish you many blessings in your travels this semester and in your time at Cabrini College.

Unfortunately, I also write for another reason. I have recently learned that the annual Ivy Young Willis Award is to be given to political commentator Cokie Roberts. It is my understanding that this award is given to a woman in the field of public affairs who has made “outstanding contributions” over the years.

While I am always impressed with the selection of women for this award, this year I must strongly protest the honor going to a woman who is so openly against Catholic teaching. Cabrini College was founded on the Catholic principles of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Faith has been an integral part of this college since it’s infancy and has helped shape our place in the world of higher education.

As Catholics, and more importantly, as a Catholic institution that represents Catholic morals and ideals, it is our duty to reflect those morals and ideals at all times. It is my belief that honoring a woman such as Cokie Roberts would be detrimental to our proud claim to be “extraordinary.”

Cokie Roberts has made herself known as an extreme pro-abortion activist. Although a Roman Catholic, Roberts has ridiculed those who support the value of human life, calling us “extremists.” Commenting on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, Roberts claimed offense “as a woman” and rejected the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban. She also described the ban, which has helped to spare thousands of lives, as “off track.”

I am sure you realize the horror that is the process of partial-birth abortion and the reasons why its practice offends faith, morals and reason.

In addition to her very vocal support of abortion, Roberts has even attacked our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, as “lacking in the theological virtue of charity” and called his election, “an extremely controversial choice.”

Pope Benedict has done wonders for the Catholic faith. He has continued the work of our beloved Pope John Paul II in defining Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception and the value of the human life, among other things. He is a shining example of what all Catholics should strive to be. More importantly, as our pope and leader of our Catholic faith, we are called to honor him as our spiritual father and head of the Church.

Finally, Cokie Roberts has belittled our bishops, noting that they are almost “asking to be ignored” concerning their enforcement of Catholic teaching on contraception and homosexuality.

With such an obvious distaste for Catholic teaching, it is a wonder that she still calls herself Catholic. But I digress.

Dr. George, in an increasingly secular world that truly has little regard to what was once held sacred, faith, conservative values, and most importantly, human life, I urge you to lead Cabrini as a light of Catholic charity and virtue to the world.

In my three years at Cabrini, I have seen its progress from a Catholic college in Main Line, Pa. to a national leader in social justice and humanitarian efforts.

As you know, with much power and influence, comes much responsibility. As Cabrini progresses to the forefront of higher education, it becomes all the more vital for us to identify with our Catholic faith. We were not merely built by little nuns who honored a fading religion? the very fibers of this institution are intertwined with the beliefs that are now so radical in our world.

Cabrini’s mission is to “provide an ‘education of the heart,’ integrating intellectual competency with moral and social responsibility.” Honoring Cokie Roberts with such a prestigious award goes against our very mission.

I implore you, Dr. George, reconsider your selection. Do not tarnish our Catholic heritage? no, our ever-present Catholic faith?by giving this award to a woman so against the values for which we were founded. Set an example to women that it is possible to stand firm in their faith and also be a strong voice in the area of public affairs. Do not compromise our values.

All the more urgent, do not directly violate the directive given by our bishops in 2004: “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.”

In the few times I have had the pleasure of speaking with you and in listening to your inaugural address, I was filled with hope at your love for our Catholic faith and its importance not only in the “education of the heart” but also in our world.

Once again I ask you, lead Cabrini to become an example to the nation through efforts in Catholic social justice.

I am certain that families searching to send their children to an institution grounded in excellence and Catholic teachings will applaud your decision to award this honor to a woman more worthy.

I wish you all the best during your time at Cabrini College. I have faith that my alma mater will continue to be the mind-changing, heart-educating, faith-strengthening institution from which I graduated just two months ago.

Lindsey Harner, Class of ’09

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Lindsey Harner

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