Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not to be Outdone...

Georgetown appears jealous of all the attention that Notre Dame has received, and seems to wish to show that it is more an apostate university than our midwest counterpart. Word just received from "The Corner" is that Georgetown Law Center, in conjunction with "Legal Momentum" - founded as NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund - will confer on Vice-President Joseph Biden the "Legal Momentum Award" for his work on the Violence Against Women Act.

I don't seek to gainsay Vice-President Biden's work on behalf of women, but the conferral of this honor is in direct violation of the U.S. bishops’ 2004 mandate in “Catholics in Political Life”: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” The "Legal Momentum" foundation has every right to confer any award it wishes on the Vice-President, but the Vice-President's strenuous pro-abortion stance is sufficient reason not to give him the platform that is being provided by the Georgetown Law Center. Following on the heels of the covering of the IHS and cross during President Obama's speech in Gaston Hall last week, it appears that Georgetown is committed to the effort of wresting attention away from Notre Dame's scandal.

What particularly strikes me about this event is that the award originates from an entity outside of Georgetown, but the event itself is being hosted at - and presumably paid for by - Georgetown University. There seems to be no question worthy of being raised over the appropriateness of the University conferring legitimacy upon the activities of an activist organization - at least when the activism is toward an end that seems to conform to the predilections of the university's leaders. However, when there is an effort on behalf of some to establish activities or programs within the university in an opposite political direction, severe denunciations rain down upon any such "politicized" agenda. A striking recent example of this hypocritical call for a neutral and a-political academic environment in response to a doctrinally appropriate activity on a Catholic campus was articulated in this article by Notre Dame theologian Jean Porter in criticism of the creation of a Fund to Protect Human Life at Notre Dame. As its director, philosophy professor David Solomon pointed out in response, many of a univerity's activities can be seen as having a broadly educative impact that demands engagement by faculty and the broader institution. Yet, in this case, something like the Fund to Protect Human Life - which is in keeping with the Catholic identity of Notre Dame - is attacked for being political - for violating the necessary objectivity required of the academic project - while the conferral of an honor from an outside organization upon Vice-President Biden at Georgetown is presumptively to be regarded by the various administrations and faculties as unproblematic recognition of public service. At the very least, these instances should disabuse us of the notion that we are dealing with even-handed and neutral definitions, and rather recognize that what is contained in them is a positive assertion of what is regarded as good and defensible (or, alternatively, unjustified and undesirable). That some of the core political beliefs of these politicians contradict a central teaching of the Church ought to be sufficient reason to withhold the conferral of honors by leading Catholic universities. That they receive these awards reveals profoundly the scandal of capitulation of our leading Catholic universities to a broken and degraded culture.

(h/t Matthew Franck)

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