~from Indian Catholic
The College of St. Mary, in Omaha, Nebraska has decided to withdraw its invitation to Roberta Wilhelm, the scheduled speaker for Sunday's commencement out of concern that threatened protests might disrupt the ceremony.
The college had invited Ms. Wilhelm, who is the executive director of Girls Inc. in Omaha, to give the address. The controversy was caused by Girls Inc.'s national advocacy positions, which include statements on contraception, abortion and sexual orientation that are contrary to Catholic beliefs.
Last weekend, the college began receiving e-mails, faxes and telephone calls, some of which threatened to picket, demonstrate or shout down Wilhelm, said Sister Maryanne Stevens, the college's president.
The callers were distressed that someone who led a group that favors abortion was the commencement speaker at a Roman Catholic college. The Sisters of Mercy - an order of Catholic nuns - are affiliated with College of St. Mary.
"I decided it had the potential to mar our graduation ceremonies that are truly celebratory events for our students and families," Stevens said.
The e-mails, faxes and calls came after Fr. Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Omaha, sent an e-mail Friday to a number of people in the area asking them "to do what you can in a respectful manner" to encourage the college to cancel Wilhelm's speech.
"Whatever the speaker's personal feelings, she works for and represents a corporation that works in direct opposition to our faith and the true health and good of girls and women," he wrote.