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 CNS Story:

HUGHES-LANDRIEU May-10-2005 (730 words) With photo. xxxn

Archbishop skips Loyola graduation over law school's Landrieu honor

By Peter Finney
Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes said he would not participate in commencement exercises at Loyola University in New Orleans because the university's law school decided to honor a prominent Louisiana Catholic family that includes a U.S. senator who has voted to support keeping abortion legal.

The law school planned to grant an honorary degree May 13 to the entire family of Moon Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans and state appeals court judge. One of his daughters is U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The New Orleans archbishop announced May 5 he had decided to decline an invitation to participate in the university's graduation ceremonies, scheduled May 12-14, because "not all members of the (Landrieu) family have been faithful to the church's teaching regarding public policy" on abortion.

"Judge and Mrs. Landrieu have founded a remarkable family," Archbishop Hughes' statement said. "They have a commendable record of public service and service to the church. Their children have also given of themselves to generous service.

"It is unfortunate, however, that in honoring the whole family, the Loyola law school did not clarify its conviction on respect for human life. Not all members of the family have been faithful to the church's teaching regarding public policy," he added.

Sen. Landrieu and her younger brother, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a fellow Democrat, have public voting records that include several votes contrary to the church's opposition to abortion.

In tracking federal abortion-related votes, the National Right to Life Committee indicated Sen. Landrieu had supported its position in 11 of 39 instances since 1997. The same scorecard indicated that since 2003 she had supported the committee's position six of 13 times.

Her votes since 1997 included her support of a "sense-of-the-Senate" resolution that endorsed the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortion and her support of federal funding for abortions in military facilities and for overseas organizations that support abortion. The National Right to Life Committee said Sen. Landrieu supported its position by voting in March 2003 to ban partial-birth abortion.

It was that recent vote and her authorship of a strong anti-cloning bill that raised the hopes of pro-life organizations in Louisiana that Sen. Landrieu's position on abortion was "evolving" from some of her previous positions.

In a 2001 fund-raising letter to supporters, Sen. Landrieu said she was "proud that both the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America have acknowledged my support of reproductive choice with current 'scorecard' ratings of 80 percent and 90 percent, respectively."

But earlier this year at the "Proudly Pro-Life" dinner honoring pro-life causes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, pro-life advocate and attorney Sharon Ryan Rodi said she hoped Sen. Landrieu was modifying some of her previous positions, noting "Mary Landrieu is moving ever so slightly to our side."

When Lt. Gov. Landrieu was a state legislator in the early 1990s, he opposed several bills that would have criminalized abortion. The bills passed but were vetoed by then-Gov. Buddy Roemer, and Landrieu voted to uphold the veto. Landrieu has said he views abortion as morally wrong but feels it should not be criminalized in all cases.

Archbishop Hughes said his action was consistent with a 2004 statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Catholics in Political Life," which indicated that Catholic institutions of higher learning should not grant "awards, honors or platforms to those who act contrary to church teaching on fundamental moral principles."

He said he had spoken with Loyola's president, Jesuit Father Kevin W. Wildes, and expressed his "disappointment" that the law school had decided to extend the honorary degree to the entire Landrieu family.

The archbishop said he reluctantly decided to skip the commencement exercises "lest my presence confuse the faithful and give the impression that it is appropriate to include in an honor anyone who dissents publicly from church teaching."

Moon Landrieu earned a law degree from Loyola in 1954 and went on to become mayor of New Orleans, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter and an appeals court judge.

The Loyola School of Law said the collective honorary doctorate was being given to Moon Landrieu, his wife, Verna, and their nine children because they are "extraordinary examples of people living out the Jesuit mission of men and women for others."


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