Bishop rescinds Hagan speech invitation; controversy plays out in social media

BY MARK C. PEYKO | METRO MONTHLY EDITOR

On Friday, when Diocese of Youngstown Bishop George V. Murry rescinded state Rep. Robert Hagan’s invitation to speak to graduates of the Mercy School of Nursing, the action led to a explosion of pointed comments on social media sites like Facebook.

In a prepared statement released Friday evening, Murry cited Hagan’s abortion views and pro-choice voting record as some of the reasons for the action and said Hagan’s views were inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Mercy College of Ohio is a Catholic teaching institution affiliated locally with St. Elizabeth’s Health Center in Youngstown and St. Joseph Health Center in Warren. The institution’s Youngstown campus is located at 1044 Belmont Ave. at St. Elizabeth’s.

The Diocese released Murry’s statement at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening. In it, the bishop wrote: “It recently came to my attention, without any proper review by my office, that the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic institution, invited Representative Robert Hagan to be its commencement speaker at the Cathedral of St. Columba.”

“While I respect and appreciate many of the social justice positions taken by Representative Hagan, it remains a fact that he also has consistently voted for pro-abortion legislation, policies and funding. Abortion extinguishes an unborn human life. It is an intrinsically evil action which the Catholic Church has condemned for centuries. As Catholics, we must in good conscience oppose Representative Hagan’s position in support of abortion. Therefore, I asked the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic sponsored institution, to rescind their invitation to Representative Hagan to speak at the Nursing School graduation.”

Hagan said his planned speech topics were public service and health-care service.

“I was invited sometime in February and the School of Nursing invited me,” Hagan said Saturday in an email response to the Metro Monthly. “I will be glad to share invite, but it is in [the] Columbus office.”

Hagan immediately responded to the bishop’s rescinded invitation on his Facebook page Friday evening. “I have fought for social justice my entire life and today, I am one disappointed Catholic. After being invited to give the commencement speech at Mercy Nursing School here in Youngstown, I got a call telling me that the bishop has overruled their invite and they have rescinded the invitation because of some of the political positions I have taken. I am saddened that the work that I have done to feed the poor, clothe the naked, help cure the sick, and to bring an end to the death penalty has fallen on deaf ears. I guess being an altar boy for six years didn’t qualify me for dispensation. I will write to the Bishop.”

On Saturday, Hagan said he was writing a formal response to Murry. “I am working on a letter to him as we speak to sit down for a discussion.” Hagan’s planned letter was apparently in response to Murry’s earlier statement where the bishop said he would agree to meet with Hagan. There, the bishop said, “I am most willing to meet with Representative Hagan to discuss his position and concerns, while, at the same time, speaking with him about the Church’s long standing teaching about the sacredness of human life in all its dimensions.”

As the controversy continued to play out over the weekend, it spurred hundreds of comments on Hagan’s Facebook page. Although Hagan has 752 Facebook subscribers and most of the comments were favorable toward the state representative, some defended the bishop’s action and position. In one post, Nicole Zayas wrote: “I understand why the Bishop made this decision, he is not a hypocrite. He would be a hypocrite if he allowed someone who is pro-choice to represent a Catholic school. That being said, I love Bob Hagan, and I am a Roman Catholic.”

Others had more pointed comments, which, in turn, spawned arguing within Hagan’s original thread. In one post, Joe Falcony addressed two posters whose views he opposed. “Sorry Carol…..There are only two choices. Life or death. If you are not pro life….well then you get the picture. Ralph….they are babies…beating hearts, and they do feel pain.”

To which, Ralph R. Zerbonia responded: “Joe Falcony, it has nothing to do with the point, the Bishops have no right interfering with our Representatives in governments responsibilities. They get a tax exemption that says they have to stay out of political influence, furthermore we have a constitutional amendment that says no laws shall be based on religion. Joe, abortion is legal, not all of our citizens believe as you do. They are entitled to full representation without having the representative intimidated by a religious fatwah.”

By mid-weekend, Hagan was still responding to the bishop’s original media statement. In one Facebook post, he said, “I gained a great perspective of social justice from my 12 years (13) of Catholic Schools and I am fine with their dogma, but not fine with the imposition of politics in their religion.”

Although Murry’s written statement said he would be willing to meet with Hagan, it left no room for compromise or discussion of a reversal of the rescinded invitation. The complete text of the statement appears below.

Editor’s note: The Facebook posts cited in the article were left essentially unchanged to preserve meaning and a writer’s intended message.

© 2012 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

DIOCESE OF YOUNGSTOWN NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE……APRIL 27, 2012

BISHOP GEORGE V. MURRY, SJ STATEMENT ON MERCY SCHOOL OF NURSING GRADUATION

YOUNGSTOWN, OH…..The Most Reverend George V. Murry, SJ, Bishop of Youngstown, released the following statement regarding his request to the Mercy School of Nursing regarding its commencement speaker, Representative Robert Hagan:

“It recently came to my attention, without any proper review by my office, that the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic institution, invited Representative Robert Hagan to be its commencement speaker at the Cathedral of St. Columba.

“While I respect and appreciate many of the social justice positions taken by Representative Hagan, it remains a fact that he also has consistently voted for pro-abortion legislation, policies and funding. Abortion extinguishes an unborn human life. It is an intrinsically evil action which the Catholic Church has condemned for centuries.  As Catholics, we must in good conscience oppose Representative Hagan’s position in support of abortion. Therefore, I asked the Mercy School of Nursing, a Catholic sponsored institution, to rescind their invitation to Representative Hagan to speak at the Nursing School graduation.

“I am most willing to meet with Representative Hagan to discuss his position and concerns, while, at the same time, speaking with him about the Church’s long standing teaching about the sacredness of human life in all its dimensions.”

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Comments

  1. ervin sanders says:

    if this position is valid then is anybody fit for office? Must we clear everything with our hierarchy before we take a politcal position?

    Like

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