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Boston College defends choice of speaker for commencement

Amid criticism from a conservative local Catholic group, Boston College reaffirmed Thursday its decision to invite the Irish prime minister to be its commencement speaker.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been under fire in Ireland for supporting legislation that would permit abortions if there is a real and substantive threat to the mother’s life, including from suicide.

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Earlier this week, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts assailed the school’s decision and circulated a statement urging Catholics to express their outrage over Kenny’s ­selection. The statement provides contact information for several officials, including BC president William P. Leahy and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

C. J. Doyle, executive director of the advocacy group, said he has received a great ­response from Catholic groups around the country.

“How does any rational person reasonably take seriously the Catholic opposition to abortion when a Catholic institution honors someone who is in the process of legalizing abortion in their country,” said Doyle, a BC graduate. “This is a terrible scandal.”

BC spokesman Jack Dunn defended the choice, saying the school selected Kenny to celebrate its heritage and relationship with Ireland.

“Boston College invited Prime Minister Kenny a year ago to speak at our commencement in light of our longstanding connection with Ireland and our desire to recognize and celebrate our heritage,” he said in a phone interview. “Our invitation is independent of the proposed bill that will be debated in the Irish Parliament this summer.”

The college is scheduled to award Kenny a doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, which will be held May 20 at Alumni Stadium. The criticism of ­Kenny was first reported by the Irish Times.

Irish bishops have spoken out against the legislation, calling it “a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”

“It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person,” they said in a statement earlier this month.

But Kenny has said the measure would clarify Ireland’s strict abortion laws, not alter them.

“This bill restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland,” Kenny told reporters this month.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@
globe.com
. Follow her on
Twitter @klandergan.
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