St. Mary's College Moraga - Catholic in Name Only?


February 15, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - - Nestled in the verdant surrounding hills of Moraga, California, in soft focus, St. Mary's College seems to be the embodiment of what Catholic higher education should be about.

Established in 1863 by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the institution's administration quickly passed to the De La Salle Christian Brothers who have run it ever since.

Though nominally providing a Catholic educational environment, like most American college campuses, St. Mary's has become in many way secularized to the point where whatever link to "Catholic" it has is more synonymous with the word's alternative definition of "universal" rather than being reflective of a substantive relationship with the world's largest and oldest, Christian sect.

The school's literature [a marketing study in this case] bears testament to the validity of such a conclusion:

"Catholic: Saint Mary's Catholic identity is evident in both the name and the appearance of the college. There's a chapel. There's a "mission" feel to campus architecture. But is Catholicism experienced as something deeper? Is it an integral part of a Saint Mary's education? Our research yielded mixed responses to these questions. Among alumni, we found a stronger connection to Saint Mary's Catholic nature among older (and Catholic) alumni; they told us Catholic traditions were an important part of their Saint Mary's experience. (In fact, any perceived move away from Catholic self-definition could be seen as a betrayal by those who identify with Saint Mary's Catholic traditions.) Non-Catholic and more recent alumni tend to see Saint Mary's as a liberal arts college that just happens to be Catholic." [source, 2008 study - Seeking the Highest Point - Inspiring a Stronger Brandfor Saint Mary's College,]

In other areas, the college's drift away from providing a traditional Catholic educational experience is also evident.

For example, on January 28, 2009 St. Mary's hosted a speech by domestic terrorist William Ayers, a former leader of the Marxist Weather Underground, which carried out a series of murderous bombings across the United States as a protest against America's presence in South East Asia. [see, Domestic Terrorist Bill Ayers To Speak At St. Mary's College Campus In California - College Characterizes Him As Advocate Of "Social Justice",]

The college attempted to pass off this support of Ayer's radical agenda as "social justice," apparently upon the spurious contention that Ayer's revolutionary violence was somehow countenanced by Catholic doctrine.

Most recently however, as the California Catholic Daily first noted, the school has allied itself with Planned Parenthood, "St. Mary's College of California in Moraga has named a $2500 poetry scholarship in honor of a former Planned Parenthood director and another woman who served as a volunteer for the abortion provider. The Vanessa Bedient and Molly Reidelberger Scholarship for Excellence in Poetry was named after Bedient, former director of Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, and Reidelberger, who worked as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood for 15 years." [see, The Soul of Goodness,]

"Vanessa Bedient (née Stribling) grew up in Piedmont, California and attended Scripps College, the University of Washington, and UCLA. She served as the director of Planned Parenthood in Santa Barbara, where her two children were raised, and later in San Francisco. She loved literature and the arts, and was the soul of goodness. Molly Reidelberger lived in Singapore for a number of years, and volunteered at the Melrose Home for orphaned or abandoned children. She received her paralegal certificate from Saint Mary's and worked as a legal assistant in the San Francisco Bay area for a number of years. In addition, she volunteered at Planned Parenthood for 15 years. This scholarship is for $2,500." [source, from St. Mary's website,]

The Catholic Daily piece also made clear that this was not a one-off, but rather part of a pattern of questionable associations between the largest provider of abortions in America and the college, including its listing of Planned Parenthood as a potential place of employment [see,], providing a link which takes one to Planned Parenthood Action [see,] whose main activity seems to be in activism assuring that the organization's considerable abortion provided cash-flow will continue unabated. [see, Abortion Rights,].

Wanting to give St. Mary's a chance to explain the disjunct between the school's actions in naming a scholarship after two long-time associates of Planned Parenthood and what is one of the most steadfast aspects of Catholic theology, the right to life from conception to natural death, we contacted the college's spokesman Michael McAlpin.He provided us with the following statement:

"The Vanessa Bedient and Molly Reidelberger Scholarship for Excellence in Poetry was independently established in 2004 by the loved ones of Mrs. Bedient and Mrs. Reidelberger. Since 2005 the award has been given to talented students in the MFA in Creative Writing Program with limited financial means. The award description provided by the family members of Mrs. Bedient and Mrs. Reidelberger was intended to acknowledge and memorialize them. The award in no way suggests Saint Mary's College supports the politics and practices of Planned Parenthood."

The school's president Brother Gallagher's office was also contacted for comment. As we go to press the call and message have not been returned.

A defense of the college's actions based upon its assertion that acceptance does not imply approval, in large part offers a distinction without a difference. While the college must, for public relation's sake, maintain that it in no way endorses the "politics and practices of Planned Parenthood," a perhaps over-delicate reference to PP's abortion mill, no one forced the hand of St. Mary's to accept a funding offer based upon such questionable terms.

Indeed, that very acceptance will most likely be read by most as an endorsement - an imprimatur if you will - providing undeserved legitimacy for an odious practice which always results in the loss of human life and which is completely at odds with Catholic theology.

Largely having retreated from any meaningful link to Catholicism, aside from the now quaint presence of a chapel on campus, one wonders at what point St. Mary's might simply jettison the notion that it is anything but another private and thoroughly secular, left-leaning college, albeit one in a beautiful setting, and be done with it - if not only from the aspects of fairness in advertising, at least to put an end to the sleight-of-hand with which parents are deluded into believing that their sons and daughters will be matriculating in a faith affirming environment.

Certainly the school's few remaining Christian Brothers [approximately two dozen in number] could be more suitably employed in enterprises not visibly at war with the Church.

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