Rightwing Attacks on CUA's New President

The new President of the Catholic University of America was introduced to the university community at a well attended gathering on campus yesterday. Professor John Garvey, previously the Dean of the Law School at Boston College, will take up his duties at the 15th President of CUA later this summer.

It did not take the conservative blogosphere long to impugn this man’s fitness. Never mind that he is, as Archbishop Alan Vigneron, Chairman of the CUA Board, said, “an accomplished jurist, scholar and teacher.” Never mind that his appointment had just been approved not only by the bishop-heavy CUA Board but by the Holy See. Never mind that he has devoted his life as a scholar to studying the ways that faith informs the law, his area of expertise. Never mind that his five children have a total of 92 years of Catholic education.


Garvey’s crime? He donated, over the course of three years, $1,750 to the campaign of his home state Senator John Kerry. And, while Dean of the Law School, he oversaw the awarding of an honorary degree to home state Congressman Edward Markey. Both Kerry and Markey are pro-choice. Now, I can think of a bunch of reasons to vote for or against John Kerry but I do not see how that support, or lack thereof, would disqualify a person from the post of a university President at a Catholic college. And, more than a year ago I let my feelings be known about the awarding of honorary degrees at commencement time. I think both Kerry and Markey are wrong on abortion, but I cannot judge their entire careers based on that fact alone anymore than I can judge George W. Bush’s career simply because he sanctioned the use of torture against suspected terrorists. That, too, is an intrinsic evil.

The conservative Catholic blogosphere is not a place one goes for thoughtful judgment, however. In the comments section at the “American Papist” someone wrote in, “Stunning…Just stunning. A search committee lead [sic] by the nation’s top prelates, with direct Vatican approval over the appointment at a pontifical university, selected a radical pro-abort democratic lawyer. It is too much to ask that the person holding such a position not be a radical pro-abort? I mean, is this really such a high hurdle?” Another commenter wrote, “I’m just….confused. Do the American bishops oppose abortion or don’t they?” That last is an easy one. The American bishops oppose abortion. Next question. But, where does the adjective “radical” come from and on what basis does anyone describe this man as a “pro-abort”? Slander, too, is an intrinsic evil.

One news item noted that Garvey had been criticized by the Cardinal Newman Society because of the honorary degree to Cong. Markey. Being criticized by the Cardinal Newman Society is a badge of honor and makes me like Garvey all the more. Their namesake must be turning over in his grave at their foolish campaigns to turn Catholic college campuses into Bible colleges. They do not want a university to do what it must do, engage the world, including those in the world who do not share our suppositions or values. They do not object when a Jewish scholar is honored at a Catholic university, yet the denial of the divinity of Christ would seem to be at greater divergence from the values of the Christian faith than inviting an alumnus, member of Congress to receive an honor.

There are wiser counsels. My friend Rick Garnett, a conservative legal scholar at Notre Dame with whom I have not been afraid to disagree but whose opinions are always as informed as they are thoughtful, called Garvey “one of my heroes.” He said that Garvey is the reason he is a law professor and that the mission of Catholic University – bringing faith and reason to bear upon each other, for the service of the Church and the nation – is in very good and very Catholic hands. I suspect he is closer to the mark than the ranters and I hope the bishops notice that a situation like this shows what little regard for the bishops the ranters have. Unfortunately, too many in the hierarchy see a nasty blogpost and get scared, and some may actually share the ranters' desire for an "abortion only" approach to politics and a shrivelled idea of a Catholic university. It is good to know that the CUA Board does not suffer from these afflictions in making what most people have deemed an inspired choice.

N.B. My apologies for the lack of links above. We are having a computer nightmare here. A quick Google search will yield the articles and comments noted above.

Michael Sean Winters

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8 years 9 months ago
A couple things:
There is no such thing as ''Right Wing'' so its use in this headline is meaningless.  The terms ''right'' and ''left'' arose out of the French Revolution and the subsequent time period that had those who wanted a classless equality society on the left and those who wanted a class system with a monarchist on the right.  Obviously the second does not exist in very many places any more and does not exist in this country or in Western Civilization.  The House of Saud could be such a system but not even a thuggish dictator is right wing.  Unless one wants to consider Fidel Castro or Kim Il Sung trying to continue the dynasty with brothers or sons.  
If one wants to consider all authoritarian forms of government as ''right wing'' then obviously communist and many socialist governments are right wing.  Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin were ''right wing'' economist/political scientist and dictator respectively and how absurd is that.  The opposite of left wing politics, which does still exist, is libertarianism.  And that is anything but a class based form of government.  Mr. Winters, please drop the use of this term, it has no meaning except to raise an emotional distaste for someone or something you do not like.
Is the basis of this opinion, a couple of ''malcontents'' on one blog or a wide spread outcry against Mr. Garvey's appointment?   It is easy to find a bunch of disgruntled people anywhere about something and this particular blog has its share.  Is this post just a blatant attempt to create a diatribe over nothing or is there substantial reaction to Mr. Garvey.  Is this just an opportunity to get in shots at people Mr. Winters doesn't like such as the Cardinal Newman Society.  And bring up torture and President Bush.  Let's reach into the grab bag for appropriate comparisons.  There must be more for the next post.
''The conservative Catholic blogosphere is not a place one goes for thoughtful judgment''  I think one could make the same comment about nearly every one of Mr. Winters' posts though there are a few that are really excellent.
But it does sound like Mr. Garvey is a good choice and we should wish him well.  Why doesn't Mr. Winters write a post on how well qualified he is and how he will be a good replacement for Mr. Winters' friend, Father O'Connell, who as I understand might be ''Right Wing.''
Kate Smith
8 years 9 months ago
MSW, I was surprised to learn of this criticism of Dean John Garvey, and I agree with you that it is wrong.   But I don't think it's useful to paint the whole conservative Catholic blogosphere in the way you do, though your examples are helpful.   (And I'm a "liberal".)
One fact from the background of Dean Garvey.  When the clergy sexual abuse story and the  then new bishops charter was in the news, Dean Garvey wrote early about the need to respect the rights of accused priests and the legal issues concerning the church and state.  (I bet it is in a conservative Catholic blog somewhere.)  That was not easy to read.
Dean Garvey will be a fine (conservative) leader for Catholic U.
James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
I was wondering just yesterday when the hysterical anti-abortion blogosphere would make some noise again, given that health care reform is a done deal and we are all paying attention to the Gulf crisis. They had to start something, as silence is bad for their fundraising.
Helena Loflin
8 years 9 months ago
"The conservative Catholic blogosphere is not a place one goes for thoughtful judgment, however."
Stephen O'Brien
8 years 9 months ago
Principled, consistent adherence to Vatican II’s teaching that abortion is an “abominable crime” (*Gaudium et spes* 51; *CCC* 2271) transcends the divide between the “right” and the “left.” 
Michael Sean Winters should be respectfully invited to undertake a mental experiment.  Let Mr. Winters suppose that the new president of the Catholic University of America has made campaign contributions, not to a senator who supports the legalized murder of unborn children, but instead to a senator who is an active member of the Ku Klux Klan.  A second supposition is that the new university president states that he made those donations to “engage the world, including those in the world who do not share our suppositions or values.”  Then let Mr. Winters rewrite his blog entry by changing all the terms accordingly.  In such a rewriting, the penultimate sentence might read: “Unfortunately, too many in the hierarchy see a nasty blogpost and get scared, and some may actually share the ranters' desire for a ‘racial reconciliation only’ approach to politics and a shrivelled idea of a Catholic university.”
Is it likely that such a sentence would ever appear in an essay on the Web site of *America*? 
Leonard Villa
8 years 9 months ago
Mr. Winters needs to read the statement of the American bishops on the responsibility of Catholic politicians on the life issues.  They say in their Living the Gospel of Life: We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life. 
Should it not be relevant that Professor Garvey was overseeing an award for a politician whose behavior was scandalous according to the American Bishops' own document because he is pro-abortion (the choice is about abortion!) How does such criticism become "right wing"?  Perhaps Professor Garvey has had a change of heart. If so let him say so. Let the bishops that support him say so. It is no secret that Catholic institutions are riddled with individuals ( they are an anti-church) who no longer hold to the teachings of the Church especially in morality.  It's time to clean house as a matter of honesty and integrity.  The bishops should not allow the Church to be compromised by her own institutions because they have individuals who work against her teaching from within. 
Jim McCrea
8 years 9 months ago
I hope one of these days a 4th letter of Fatima will be discovered and in it will be the BVM saying that abortion in some circumstances, while sad, is understandable and appropriate.
Then we will FINALLY rid this church of these strident one-issue people posing as Catholic Christians.  They are of a mindset that whatever the BVM allegedly says must be gospel and they won't be able to handle that.
Dale Rodrigue
8 years 9 months ago
Nah, MSW.
Just ''sour grapes'' on the part of some. Someone didn't get their way or have a say in the matter and now some of them are having a tantrum.
Stephen O'Brien
8 years 9 months ago
I like what Jo McGowan recently wrote on the Web site of *Commonweal* in “The Unwanted: Extending the Argument Against Sex-Selective Abortion”: ''Progressive thinking begins with the premise that everyone has the right to be here, and that a community can be judged on how it plans for and includes the most vulnerable.''
Here is the link:
I doubt that *Commonweal* has lapsed into hysteria or strident single-issue myopia. 
James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
I agree with comments by the Bishops on Catholic politicians to the extent that the politicians let teaching moments pass by in order to not be seen as criticizing the local bishop. Of course, I doubt most of them are doing more than giving lip service anyway - on either side.

There is a huge difference between advocating for abortion and not prosecuting it criminally. Indeed, not passing health care or a living wage is as much an attack on the unborn as not supporting an abortion ban that has never been proposed legislatively and not supporting overturning Roe in such a way as to change the balance between state and federal power on equal protection.

It would have been nice had Kerry, Biden and Pelosi addressed these issues head on, rather than relying on plurarlism - although in their defense, in the Catholic ethic texts that we all had in pre-law at Catholic college, the reason that tax resistance is not justified against a society that allows abortion is, in fact, pluralism.
Peter Santos
8 years 9 months ago
Right-wing Catholic blogosphere?  How charitable.  The techniques of degradation.  Demonize those you disagree by labeling them as "fanatics" or as being somehow "extremist." This is the cheapest way to win a debate.  And every bit as adolescent.
Above is a Blog post from a Catholic layman who is anything but an extremist.  I dare you to read it calmly and objectively.  If you can.


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