By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A small Massachusetts Roman Catholic college rescinded its invitation to Vicki Kennedy to speak at its graduation ceremony this spring, saying the local bishop objected to honoring the widow of the liberal lion Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
A spokesman for Worcester Bishop Robert McManus declined to say why exactly he objected to the choice of Kennedy, a member of the most prominent U.S. Catholic family in politics.
"Bishop McManus is acting, he feels, consistently with what all of the U.S. bishops asked colleges or higher institutions to do going back to 2004, that they not honor ... Catholics who take a public stance or position on issues contrary to things that the Church is trying to teach," said Raymond Delisle, a spokesman for the diocese.
Kennedy said she was "disheartened" by the public rebuke.
"I am a lifelong Catholic and my faith is very important to me," she said in a statement. "I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections."
She said that by opposing her appearance at the college, the bishop "has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic."
Senator Kennedy, a Democrat, was a liberal standard-bearer during his nearly 47 years in office and an advocate for abortion rights -- a stance that ran afoul of church teachings. His brother John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States, was assassinated in 1963.
The school, Anna Maria College of Paxton, Massachusetts, apologized to Kennedy.
"As a small, Catholic college that relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the Bishop and the larger Catholic community, its options are limited," it said in a statement.
The Catholic church has been increasingly vocal on political issues over the past year, particularly regarding the use of contraception, which the church opposes.
In February, clergy around the United States were asked to read statements at the pulpit calling on the administration of President Barack Obama to exempt religious employers from paying for insurance coverage of contraceptives.
Following Edward Kennedy's death in 2009, the clan has slowly faded from the political spotlight, though Joseph Kennedy III -- grandson of Edward's brother Robert, who also served in the Senate -- has announced plans to run for Congress.
(Reporting By Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Thomasch)