By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – The alumni association of Northeast Catholic High School for Boys drew sharp disapproval from the Archdiocese and other pro-life advocates, including a number of North Catholic alumni, for selecting Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery as the recipient of an outstanding achievement award in conjunction with its recent 80th annual memorial Mass and Communion breakfast.
In a statement released late last week, the Philadelphia Archdiocese said it had learned earlier in the week that the alumni association “planned to honor an inspanidual who does not conform to Church teaching on life issues.”
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph P. McFadden then immediately contacted the president of the alumni association to express his disapproval of the award presentation and to inform him that the administration of Northeast Catholic High School would not be attending the event.
Bishop McFadden assists Cardinal Justin Rigali in overseeing the Secretariat for Catholic Education.
An independent group, North Catholic’s alumni association does not operate under the auspices of the high school.
According to a 2007 voters’ guide of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Bucks County, McCaffery responded in the affirmative to a question about a woman’s right to choose abortion.
McCaffery was not available for comment.
“We don’t regret the decision,” said Ed White, the alumni association president.
According to White, a 1955 alumnus, McCaffery was selected for his work in the field of jurisprudence. White also noted McCaffery’s past service, including in the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force Reserve and the Philadelphia Police Department.
“We honored him for his public service,” White added.
John P. Stanton, a 1945 North Catholic alumnus, was among approximately a dozen alumni who peacefully protested the selection of McCaffery outside the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul prior to the 8:30 a.m. Mass Sunday, March 29.
“It’s a bitter shame,” said Stanton, who is the former executive director of the Pro-Life Union of Southeastern Pennsylvania and a member of Immaculate Conception B.V.M. Parish in Jenkintown.
“It’s bad enough to [have to] be [protesting] in front of the abortion chambers, but when you’re there in front of your headquarters’ church – or any church – and witnessing spanision among Catholics, it’s very painful,” he added.
Stanton said he appreciated the Sister of St. Joseph who joined him and the other protestors outside the Cathedral. According to him, she was representing her two brothers, both of whom are North Catholic graduates but who no longer live in the Archdiocese. They, too, had expressed their disappointment in the alumni association’s selection of McCaffery.
According to Stanton, as many of his fellow alums entered the Cathedral, they gave him and the other protesters “a pat on the back” for their efforts.
In a March 24 letter to the alumni association president, Bishop McFadden said the association’s “intended honoree is not aligned with the pro-life teachings that comprise the basic foundation of student education at Northeast Catholic and all of our Catholic schools,” continued the statement released by the Archdiocese.
“While no disrespect is intended to the alumni association or to any inspanidual, Northeast Catholic High School must remain true to its mission of upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement said.
McCaffery, a 1968 alumnus of Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia, delivered the keynote address at the breakfast that followed the Cathedral Mass at the nearby Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel.
According to White, McCaffery attended Mass at his own parish, not at the Cathedral.
Stanton attended the Mass but not the breakfast.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.