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Pa. Catholic University Cancels Ellen Goodman Speech

LORETTO, Pa. — A Catholic university in central Pennsylvania has canceled a speech by Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman because of her support for abortion rights.

Goodman was scheduled to speak about civility in public discourse at St. Francis University in Loretto Oct. 12 before a top school official wrote Goodman to cancel the appearance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

“After careful consideration, the university feels that the body of your work has reflected statements that are not in close enough alignment with some Catholic teachings and with the values and mission of the university as required for an event of this stature,” Saint Francis provost Wayne Powel wrote to Goodman in rescinding the invitation.

Goodman told the newspaper she was disappointed “at having my plea for civility returned with a pie in the face.”

The university rescinded the invitation after the Cardinal Newman Society, a lay watchdog group that monitors how colleges adhere to church teaching, objected earlier this month to her appearance.

“St. Francis University is to be commended for taking such a courageous step in favor of its Catholic identity,” society spokesman Adam Wilson said.

Powel said the school has a committee that typically screens speakers but said there “was a broken process in this case.”

“The people who should have been looking and paying attention to who was considered by the committee didn’t do so,” Powel said. “It should have been looked at by the senior administration, including myself.”

The lecture series in question was endowed 25 years ago by William Furlong, a professor who also oversaw the student newspaper. Kelly Rhodes, an assistant professor of English who helped choose the speaker for the 25th anniversary of the program, said the group sought a high-profile journalist.

“We thought there might be some people who would take objection to her, but abortion wasn’t a part of her comments,” Rhodes said. “Her topic was unrelated to it. We felt that the body of her work was such that the choice was appropriate and consistent with Franciscan values and the vision of the lecture series.”

Goodman said the decision silences diverse voices.

“The only thing that matters on some campuses and other places is what your view is. Not even what you’re going to say, but what you believe on abortion,” Goodman said. “It’s not my problem. It’s their problem. All I lost was a lot of work preparing a speech on civility.”

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