Letter to Cardinal Hickey Re Parish Presentations On Embryology (Sept. 1992)

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright September 22, 1992
Reproduced with Permission

His Eminence Cardinal Hickey

Dear Cardinal Hickey:

If you would recall, I was asked to speak at your mandatory meeting of parish priests in September, which was scheduled in order to discuss the impending Maryland Abortion Referendum. The purpose of this letter is to attempt to clarify to you the reasons why I did not attend the last two of those meetings.

When I was approached by Dr. Delaney to present a talk on the incorrect science being used by the proponents of abortion who argue for different "biological marker events of personhood", I made it clear that my talk would require at least an hour to complete if it was to have any real meaning or impact. I was assured that I could get at least 30 minutes, and could probably take more if I needed. At least six weeks before your meeting, I sent Dr. Delaney a copy of a paper of mine on this subject which will soon be published, in order that he and those in your office to whom it was circulated would understand exactly what I would be presenting. I also know that at least one member of your "organizers" had possessed a copy of my doctoral dissertation from which my paper was drawn for at least six months prior to your meeting. There was no question, I presume, about what I was going to present; nor that I needed a certain length of time to present it.

I rejected any honorarium, cancelled my first class at DeSales School of Theology (with the permission of my Academic Dean) so that I might present the paper, and spent a great deal of time trying to reduce it to a "30-minutes or more" presentation. Upon arriving at the church, I was not met by any one in charge, nor was I seated with the other panelists in the front of the auditorium - and so I took a seat in the general audience. It was not until 10 minutes before my presentation that I learned that my time had been cut to 10 minutes - and only then because I happened to look at Dr. Delaney's program (I was not given one). I did attempt, as I sat there, to reduce it as much as possible. Some of the other presenters had taken more time than allotted, so I had hoped that I might also.

I must say that I was rather shocked that when the "signal light" being used to time the speakers turned from green to red, the "program organizer" actually stood up, came over, grabbed my elbow, and announced to me and the audience that my time was up and that I would have to stop. When some of the audience responded that I should have more time, the "organizer" put it to a 2-second vote - and declared that the consensus was that they were not interested in my continuing. He then remarked that, after all, the parish priests had been promised to be let out by 4 o'clock! I must confess that I have been speaking for many years now, and I have never been grabbed by the elbow and stopped mid-way through a presentation for any reason - nor have I ever seen this done to any other speaker.

If your office did not want me to speak, then why was I asked? If you knew exactly what I was going to present, and that I needed a certain amount of time to complete it, then why was my time suddenly cut to ten minutes - and why was I not even informed about it? If the purpose of the meeting was at least partially to arm the parish priests with information and arguments to help them "reach" their parishioners (and therefore minister to them) about abortion, then why would your office want to throw out my information which could have severely undercut the current abortion arguments? Surely your parish priests must know that their parishioners, at least, are quite well informed about and familiar with these arguments - as I stated, they are even participating on CompuServ debates involving the scientific underpinnings of the abortion arguments. Everyone, it seems, except the parish priests, are already quite familiar with these scientific arguments. Was it so important to "let them out by 4 o'clock"? The entire situation simply did not, and does not, make any sense to me.

This is why, after speaking at length with Dr. Delaney that same evening, we both concluded that your office really did not want me to speak at the next two scheduled meetings of parish priests. Your "organizer" even pulled Dr. Delaney aside and told him that you and the "others" were disappointed with my "presentation" (what there was of it), and that you had requested that I be told not to return to the following meetings. In spite of the strange happenings which had transpired, I had been willing to go all the way down to Southern Maryland and then to Landover Hills to present a very truncated ten minute version of my paper. However, when Dr. Delaney told me that you did not really want it, I decided that it would be foolish and a waste of time to attend the next round of meetings. I thus instructed Dr. Delaney to inform your office that same evening that I would defer to your request, which, I presume, he did.

I am truly sorry that I could not have been of some service in this effort, and I do hope that your meetings were effective. I did want you to understand the reasons why I did not come to the next two meetings.


Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
DeSales School of Theology
Washington, D.C. 20017
(Home address:
5108 Randall Lane
Bethesda, MD 20816

[Edited for format and clarity July 18, 2004]