Why the speech by Kansas City Chiefs kicker was embraced at Benedictine College's commencement


Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker may have stirred controversy in some quarters for his proclamations of conservative politics and Catholicism on Saturday, but he received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees of the May 11 commencement ceremony at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

The fast-growing college is part of a constellation of conservative Catholic colleges that tout their adherence to church teachings and practice — part of a larger conservative movement in parts of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Butker’s 20-minute speech hit several cultural flashpoints.

Butker, a conservative Catholic himself, spoke against Pride month, abortion and President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic. He said women are told “diabolical lies” about career ambition when “one of the most important titles of all” is that of homemaker. He said this is not time for “the church of nice” and in particular blasted Catholics who support abortion rights and “dangerous gender ideologies.”

Benedictine College is a Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas, that traces its roots to 1858. It is located about 60 miles north of Kansas City., and has an enrollment of about 2,200.

In some ways, Benedictine College sounds like a typical Catholic college. Its “mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts, residential college is the education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship,” according

to its website.

But its home to more traditional expressions of Catholicism, such as the Latin Mass, all-night prayer vigils and a strict code of conduct. Its mission statement further cites its commitment to “those specific matters of faith of the Roman Catholic tradition, as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and handed down in the teachings of the Church.”

The school gets a high ranking from the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that touts nearly two-dozen conservative colleges that exhibit what it calls “faithful Catholic education.” That includes upholding church teachings and Catholic identity while providing ample Masses and other devotional activities in shaping their students.

The society seeks to differentiate schools that “refuse to compromise their Catholic mission” from those that have become “battlegrounds for today’s culture wars.” Others praised by the society include Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Ave Maria University in Florida and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

The society’s ranking says Benedictine benefits from having monks in residence, multiple Masses and prayer groups, spiritually focused organizations and theology programs with professors with a “mandatum” of approval from the local bishop.

Benedictine’s enrollment has doubled in the past 20 years. Some 85% of its students are Catholic, according to the Cardinal Newman Society.

Students told The Associated Press in interviews they embrace the college’s emphasis on Catholic teaching and practice.

“It’s a renewal of, like, some really, really good things that we might have lost,” one student told the AP in its recent article on the revival of conservative Catholicism.

Annual tuition for full-time undergraduates is $35,350, but Benedictine says 100% of its students receive some form of financial aid.

Benedictine’s sports teams, called the Ravens, compete in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Its athletics department says it is committed to ”setting the highest standards for academic success, athletic competition, ethical behavior, fiscal responsibility, and spiritual development.”

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.



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