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Condi Rice & Boston College (updated)

Together at last. A minor dustup followed the announcement (free registration required) that this year's Boston College commencement speaker would be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This entails bestowing the customary honorary degree, something several B.C. professors object to for her role in the Iraq adventure.

''On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work," the letter said. It pointed out Pope John Paul II's opposition to the war in Iraq.

It's been pointed out that Rice has describedherself as "mildly prochoice," which has led someto criticize the complaining professors for ignoring prochoice Democrats and picking on the GOP speaker.

Over at Mirror of Justice, a letter from Patrick Shrake (recent University of St. Thomas Law grad) was posted which lists other prochoice B.C. speakers and honorees. Shrake writes:

I'll note that I'm NOT saying that the professors are wrong to oppose the award for Rice.Just curious if they have consistently opposed awards to those who were "in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work."

To which Elizabeth F. Brown, Assistant Professor of Law at St. Thomas, responded, in part:

Pat's comment on Boston College's records of awards lifts language directly from the Cardinal Newman Society's report on Catholic College's entitled Culture of Death on Catholic Campuses: A Five Year Review, pp. 16-17.

The Cardinal Newman Society strikes again. They really are the gift that keeps on giving. Brown also argues, rightly, I think, that the list of bad Catholics is a distraction from the issue at hand, namely whether Rice ought to be honored with a degree from B.C.

Update

Patrick Shrake has clarified in the comboxes for this post that his original e-mail contained a line crediting the Cardinal Newman Society for their list of suspect Catholics.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Grant, I guess I do not see why it is not relevant, when trying to assess the claim that Boston College is the kind of place that ought not to give honorary degrees to people whose views or actions allegedly conflict with Catholic teaching, to note that Boston College does not have a track record of worrying about such conflicts. Just because the CNS complains about something does not make it un-important, or irrelevant . . . does it? Best, Rick

In my view, if that's the question on the table--the broader, more abstract one you articulate--it is. If the question is Rice's fitness for an honorary degree, Brown is right. I didn't suggest that CNS's concerns are de facto irrelevent, although their expressions of those concerns seem de facto outlandishly expressed. I wouldn't know how to measure or identify a track record of an institution's or a person's worries.

The BC Heights is running this poll:Should Condoleezza Rice speak at Commencement? Yes, regardless if she talks about politics Yes, but only if she leaves the subject of politics alone No, she is too controversial No, she conflicts with "Jesuit Ideals" Thought you might like to follow it at http://www.bcheights.com/poll/index.cfm?event=displayPollResults

I once taught at a School quite vocal about issues of justice and peace. They even had a bulletin board reserved for egregious violations of same. I called it "The Justice and Peace Bulletin Board of Selective Indignation."Perhaps it's time to retrieve Cardinal Bernardin's notion of a "consistent ethic of life." It might drastically reduce the pool of potential commencement speakers and honorees. But, hey, no pain, no gain.

I appreciated the exchange between Grant and Rick. I think Rick's point at MOJ is very well stated.I, like Rick, do not support the war. But also like Rick, I recognize that Catholic opposition to the war did not rise to the same level as the Church's opposition to abortion, contraception, etc.Further, I think that a reasonable argument can be made for denying Condi Rice an honorary degree Boston College, but I agree with Rick that the fact that her pro-choice leanings are absent from the opposition's concerns calls their integrity into question.Furthermore, every time the left hears of CNS protesting some speaker, they retort, "Oh sure, but if this was someone who promoted this unjust war they'd be rushing to give them a medal!" Well, here's a case where we have a woman who IS guilty of prosecuting an unust war AND is at least "mildly" pro-baby killing--whatever that means. Contrary to the left's assertions, the right jumps in and says, "No, she probably shouldn't be honored." But that's STILL not good enough for some like Brown (or perhaps, even you Grant?) who can't help themselves from both STILL ignoring the inconvenient pro-choice question-at-hand AND making an ad hominen argument against critics of the opposition who don't even disagree with the objective of the opposition (cancelling Rice's appearance), but are simply pointing out the opposition's seemingly selective and a little too convenient appeal to Catholic identity.I think this is why even the moderate left has so little credibility in contemporary Catholicism. Where the moderate right is absolutely willing to be challenged on issues like the death penalty and the war, the moderate left continues to hide out, pretending to "unquestionably pro-life" but then defining-down what "being pro-life" means to the point of being meaningless. Meanwhile they elevate pet concerns to the level of dogma--setting themselves up as an alternative Magisterium of modernism and then wondering why no one sees them as a serious moral force anymore.I think that's a shame. I think "Commonweal Catholics" have a great deal to contribute to this discussion. But no one is going to listen to them until they give up their knee-jerk histrionics any time they encounter something that smells too pious, too pro-life or too traditional.Or to put it another way, if you really want to be heard, then any time you hear the words, "Opus Dei" "Legionnaires" "CNS" or "Priests for Life" you have to stop acting like someone said "Jack-booted thugs" or "Black Helicopters" at a Jeff Foxworthy concert.I'm just sayin'...Greg

I agree with Robert Imbelli that the consistent ethic of life is worth retrieving. But all indignation is selective.I'd like to know what those who signed the letter against Rice's honorary degree think about her "mildly prochoice" leanings. (I don't think she said she was mildly in favor of abortion, though.) My sense is that some of the objection is funded by Rice's direct involvement in the pursuit of this war. My hunch is she had no direct involvement in the procurement of abortions. I'm a touch weary of Greg's persistent use of left-right tropes. I don't know what he's referring to in his use if left, right, moderate-left (those who lack credibility with "contemporary Catholicism"), moderate-right (the refreshingly willing-to-be-challenged). So I'm not sure what Greg thinks is "a shame." That moderate-left Catholics set "themselves up as an alternative magisterium"--whatever that means and wherever it occurs? Nor can I identify the Foxworthy-related reactions he refers to.

Mr. Popcak,You want left. Let me critique from the left.Here Rice is supporting what can only be described as a "seamless shroud" ethics-pro-war, pro-abortion (wait-the only time I've ever heard a Catholic right winger use the term "pro-choice' is when discussing St. Condi), and pro-death penalty. Seamless shroud. No way should this leading member of the Party of Death set foot at a speaker's podium at any event including the Our Lady Star of the Sea pancake breakfast in Atlantic City. Where is Pommeru's outrage that this pro-abort woman is representing our nation to the rest of the planet. How can she talk about human rights when millions of unborn humans are aborted every year? (Isn't this how the diatribe goes?)The verbage is a bit "inhibited" when the right has to discuss its own Party of Death members. I refuse to back down and allow the right wing's talking points on this become an indictment of BC and the liberals.Condi is pro-abort, a card carrying member of the Party of Death and is coddled by the Catholic right wing. Mr. Popcak tries to change the subject, but don't let him. Liberals should do less "discussing" and more thinking.

I will sidestep the issue of Condoleezza Rices suitability for a BC honorary degree, in favor of a criticism of the honorary degree process itself. I apologize in advance for the length of this posting. The legitimate purpose of an honorary degree is to recognize persons who exemplify a schools values and ideals. This year, two of BCs degree recipients will be Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, and Sr. Elizabeth White, who taught English for decades at BC and the former Newton College of the Sacred Heart (and who, full disclosure, several years ago selflessly edited drafts of my wifes BC doctoral dissertation in theology). Both represent the best of BCs Catholic and Jesuit identity, and they fully deserve the honor.Too often, though, the honorary degree process serves at least three other, less admirable goals:1.)Paying tribute to major donors (who likely have already had buildings, athletic facilities, endowed chairs, and institutes named in honor of their generosity.)2.)Attracting and entertaining family, friends, and other commencement guests.3.)Perhaps most important, currying favor and prestige.The last two goals are the most problematic. First, entertainment. Apart from honorary degrees and the invited speaker, a college commencement ceremony is extremely brief. If, as is the case at most larger universities, most graduates do not receive their degrees individually from the schools president, the ceremony consists of little more than some ceremonial marching of faculty and graduates, a chaplains pious invocation, and the mass granting of degrees according to undergraduate and graduate divisions and schools. All of which takes less than an hour and is relatively unentertaining (especially to the often hung-over graduates themselves). Take away the honorands and the speaker, and one takes away the laughs, the gawking, and the oohs and aahs. One sees why commencement speakers are increasingly chosen from among celebrities and, especially, the media (television, especially, because writers are often too nuanced and telegenically-challenged!)Second, favor and prestige. Notre Dame, for instance, annually grants an honorary degree to a Cardinal, or, in an off year, to an Archbishop. While these degrees are often well-deserved (Walter Kasper, for instance, was honored in 2002), they can also do wonders for relationships with the Vatican and other constituencies. In the post-Roe era, ND also habitually honors U.S. presidents who do not publicly support abortion; Bill Clinton is the only president not to be honored since Richard Nixon (I imagine that Jimmy Carter was given a pass because abortion had yet to become as prominent a political issue as it is now). George W. Bush was honored less than four months after his swearing-in. Since he, like almost every other previous president, had done virtually nothing of consequence in that time-frame, how can his degree be anything other than NDs paying tribute to the state? (Which ND has already done in inscribing God, Country, Notre Dame on the side faade of its basilica). One has to wonder, too, how, in seeking out Secretary Rice as a speaker, BC hasnt implicitly sanctioned government policies that are morally suspect (e.g., torture and pre-emptive war).Moreover, a prestigious commencement speaker brings prestige to the university. Note how BC ever-so-casually highlighted the fact that Secretary Rice gives only one such address a yearthe implication being that BC is really something special. Note also how the BC student paper, The Heights, ran a juvenile editorial on how the school landed a better speaker this year than Harvard, Yale, Pennsylvania, and Stanford. The good publicity garnered by such a speaker cant but help increase ones undergraduate applications and yield-rate, as well as ones esteem in the eyes of (hoped-for) peers. The bottom line here, of course, is ones U.S. News and World Report ranking; ND and Georgetown need to stay in the top 25, while BC longs to achieve that status, and none of the three can do it on academic reputation alone (notice, sometime, how low they rate in that category).This leads to a final point. In this Easter season, Christians celebrate in a special way the Lordship of Jesus, who through his resurrection rules over all creation. As the Anglican bishop N.T. Wright points out, the Christian claim that Jesus is Lord was and is a thoroughly political statement. It profoundly threatened the Roman Empire, which reserved such lordship to the emperor alone, and led directly to martyrdom. The profession of Jesus Lordship undercut the totalizing claim of the state then, and it ought to do so now.Perhaps the Rice affair, then, can help warn Catholics and their institutions against the perennial threat of idolatry, whether it be the supine succoring of the state or the embarrassing, inevitably futile attempt to prove to the academy that we really belong there. The most prestigious players in the academy will always consider us second-rate as long as our Catholicity endures in anything more than a vestigial sense (e.g., Dukes Methodism). Whether it be a seemingly silly flap over BCs commencement, or NDs recent attempts to curry favor among academic elites, we have a long way to go in fostering colleges and universities unafraid to be fully Catholic in the world and in the academy.

"Condi is pro-abort, a card carrying member of the Party of Death and is coddled by the Catholic right wing. "You can add Giuliani, Pataki and a host of others to the list. Talk about convenience.

Chris, arent' you being WAY too sanctimonious and philosophically sociologically unnuanced, for that matter?. Re-read MacIntyre's After Virtue about the relations between tradition, virtue, practices, and institutions. Institutions are necessary because they allow traditions to continue through time. At the same time, they threaten traditions, because they are necessarily concerned primarily with external goods like money, power, and standing, rather than goods internal to the practices which constitute the tradition. BC and Notre Dame --and Ave Maria and Steubenville -- are institutions which sustain practicess. They are consequently always going to be concerned with external as well as internal goods. How they strike a balance in particular cases is always going to be diffficult question. Prophetic railing against any concern for external goods strkes me as unhelpful.If your last sentence is referring to the flap over the Vagina Monologues at ND, I think it is a really cheap shot. I think the debate over the play is not characterizable as one between "white hats" who are loyal to Catholic identity and "black hats" who want to "curry favor with academic elites." I think it is precisely a debate about what constitutes loyalty to Catholic identity. Not everyone answers that question in the same way. You and I -- and Bill Miscamble and Father Jenkins -- have substantive differences precsely over the question what constitutes being "unafraid to be fully Catholic in the world and in the academy."

The bishops are pretty clear on this: 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. If BC backs down and disinvites Rice, they can rightly be accused of hypocrisy because of the other people they have honored. At present, they can only be accused of defying the Faith.Which is worse?

A suggested modification to Patrick's phrase in the above post: rather than "defying the Faith," is it more accurate to say "defying the Magisterium?"But then we know that the Magisterium is selectively invoked and selectively defied. They must be accustomed to it by now.

Actually, Robert, I prefer my phrasing because the BC mess has more to do with honoring someone who acts "in defiance of Catholic principles." Also, I don't think we should be so quick to separate the Faith from the Magisterium.

Dear Cathy,I share your concern about the interaction of institutions and traditions, and of the internal and external goods at play therein, but I dont think that my critiques can be reduced to prophetic railing. First, I dont think that major donors are bad. Because of donors big and small (and NBC television football contracts), I didnt pay a cent for the more than $100,000 cost (tuition and living expenses) of my theology doctorate at ND. That kind of generosity is extraordinary and even holy, and an honorary degree can be an expression of gratitude, as are my daily prayers for those donors. Second, I dont think the U.S. or its government is bad. I am proud to be an American, but, to use some words from Neil Youngs latest album, Living With War, America is beautiful, but she has an ugly side. Raising concerns about government policies and politiciansand the Catholic institutional honoring of themisnt necessarily railing. Torture and abortion, for instance, strike me as worthy of protest.Third, there is a tendency in some Catholic intellectual circles to labeland dismissa feistier or more distinctive Catholicism as prophetic or sectarian or purist. Catholicism has a distinctive ethos of engagement that, as you recently put it in America (5/8/2006), excludes both capitulation to the world and a puritanical rejection of the world and its flaws. That engagement, though, does not exclude a reasoned, even severe critique of how an institutions pursuit of external goods can undercut its pursuit of internal goods. My judgment is that, too often, Catholic colleges and universities pander to their constituencies and the publiceven when, in the case of prosperous, distinguished universities such as BC and ND, they dont need to. The Secretary Rice controversy is, I hold, an example of such needless acquiescence. I also dont think that that judgment is sanctimonious.In regard to ND, I can see merits in arguments for and against allowing productions of the Vagina Monologues, but I was primarily disappointed in the grounds of Father Jenkins decision. It struck me, and others, as insufficiently attentive to particularly Catholic understandings of academic freedom, the nature of truth as something (and Someone) both sought and revealed, and the need for organic, visible bonds to the church as it exists today in all of its glory and shame.I saidand impliednothing about white hats and black hats, because I, too, think that the situation at ND is more complex than is often portrayedespecially in the blogosphere. ND and Father Jenkins are clearly the best hope for a genuinely great Catholic research university; ND aloneperhaps BChas the resources and the will to be that kind of university. I, like you, just want them to do better, but I think that people like John Cavadini have made the more convincing arguments about how to do so.I also maintain that ND struggles with a particular mix of self-regard and insecurity: constantly affirming its greatness and yet being naggingly aware that it isnt perceived to be on the same level as, say, Stanford or Duke (two universities that combine academic excellence with substantial Division I athletic success). Now, as Dave Barry might say, I am not making this up: this past Tuesday, I received a generic fund-raising letter from NDs executive vice-president and its vice-president for University Relations stating that in 2007 the minimum annual donation required from most alumni to enter the football ticket lottery would increase from $100 to $200a decision sure to cause more unrest than the Vagina Monologues controversy! More telling, though, was the following paragraph from that letter:In the past few decades, however, Notre Dame has experienced stunning and unprecedented growth. The profile of our student body has risen dramatically. Promising research programs have blossomed in each of our colleges. And, perhaps most tellingly, we have joined the ranks of the nations top-20 universities.That last sentence, I suggest, says it all: better students and more research are great, but whats really notable is our rankinga U.S. News ranking, mind you.

I have long thought that honorary degrees ought to be reserved for persons of outstanding scholarship and intellectual achievement. Samuel Johnson comes to mind as having been a worthy recipient. Raymond E. Brown SS gathered a number of awards on this basis. If institutions wish to honor persons for achievements in other fields, say, politics, or business, or humanitarian activity, they could give medals. In giving medals, they should make it clear what about the person they are honoring, that and only that. No one is beyond reproach in all matters. Neither an honorary degress nor such a medal should be thought of as awarded to any person as such, but always to a person in some particular respect.

There is minimal objection to the CNS by bishops. http://www.mirrorofjustice.com/mirrorofjustice/2006/03/bishop_vlazny_v.h... may lead some to believe that the CNS is not overwhelmingly backed by bishops. My quess is that it is and the bishops are very grateful that the CNS takes their continued disgraceful behavior off the front pages. Perhaps the valid question should be whether most bishops should be ipso facto banned from any Catholic College because of their continued neglect of children? The Vaginal Monologues and the appearance of Rice sink into non-significance when compared to the continued arrogance of the American bishops. Who keep out of trouble with the cover of the CNS.

Dear Chris,Thanks for your post. I do not want to eliminate all prophetic discourse -- or all concern for purity from our moral discussion. I do, however, think we need to think more carefully about how prophetic discourse is related to practical reasoning or casuistry. (II have a big article coming out in the Villanova Law Review--their GIannella Lecture -- on "Prophecy and Casuistry: Abortion, Torture and Moral Discourse," which attempts to sort through when it it is appropriate to use each type of discourse.) To be honest with you, I really wasn't sure what John Cavadini's statement meant. I also don't know what this sentence of yours means: "t struck me, and others, as insufficiently attentive to particularly Catholic understandings of academic freedom, the nature of truth as something (and Someone) both sought and revealed, and the need for organic, visible bonds to the church as it exists today in all of its glory and shame."This is very beautiful, puffy, pink language. It's also very abstract. I'm not sure I understand what you mean --I get a color, a mood, a sense, but nothing concrete; certainly not a plan of action. If I can't understand what it means, chances are other people can't too. It conveys a mood, not an action plan. So what's the action plan? How would you have written a closing statement about the discussion on the play (necessarily brief) that comes out the way Jenkins did, doesn't suffer from the flaws you see, and isn't so abstract?

Action plan indeed. Further Jenkins did note that discussions did accompany the performances. How does that differ from those who disagree with him? Further, it might be of interest to read Cathy's elaboration of all this in America http://www.americamagazine.org/gettext.cfm?articleTypeID=1&textID=4770&i..., Cathy, I would advise caution on sourcing Augustine. He did indeed allow sinners into the church but they had to be orthodox. They could sin but they could not disagree. He, Athanasius and some others created the church of dogma over the church of the Way. Orthodoxy became more important than morality.

Dear Cathy,I imagine that, by this point, we may be testing each others and our fellow bloggers patience. I will limit myself to two points and one suggestion.First, you mention the two realms of prophecy and casuistry. I think that a third one, at least, is missing: imagination. Since you mentioned your Villanova Law Review article, let me plug one Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way: Handing on the Faith to the New Athenians in the American Catholic Churchthat my wife, Deborah, and I wrote for a forthcoming book, tentatively entitled Handing on Catholic Faith in 21st Century America: Challenge and Hope, edited by dotCommonweals Robert Imbelli and published by Herder & Herder. Taking our point of departure from the controversy over pro-choice Catholic politicians and their reception of communion, we argue that abortion is not so much a moral or political failure, but an imaginative or cultural one. Morality and embryology are necessary, but not sufficient, pillars in any rejection of abortion. Consider, for example, the recent name-change of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) to NARAL Pro-Choice America; its website address is even simpler: . Their literature and lobbying speak more of choice and reproductive freedom than of abortion. NARAL knows its audience and its culture, and so shapes its message to tap into the foundational American mythos of freedom. Details of embryology and abortion procedures are never willingly mentioned. We propose, using the work of N.T Wright and the Irish Jesuit Michael Paul Gallaghers Clashing Symbols, a mode of engagement with abortion on the level of imagination. Abortion will be ended most effectively by striking at its mythic root and by fosteringvia art, literature, cinema, liturgy, witness of life, and other meanswhat John Paul IIs Evangelium vitae called a contemplative outlook (#83) capable of seeing life as a gift and of being attentive to the needs of those suffering around us (e.g., unwed or poor mothers). I would add that such a project will draw heavily on what the Jesuit historian John OMalley in Four Cultures of the West has called the third (humanistic) and fourth (creative) cultures, more than on the first (prophetic) and second (academic-professional) ones.The problem with abortion and, on a much smaller scale, honorary degrees and Catholic universities, then, is addressed not so much through prophetic resistance (or railing) or hard-headed, casuistic realism, but through the imaginative worldviews that give rise to those problems. This is the point I made in my original postings critique of the honorary degree process: the main problem is not prophecy (judgment for/against Secretary Rice, President Bush, or the administrations of BC and ND) or practical reasoning (how to hold together internal and external goods, traditions and institutions), but imagination (what kind of Catholic university do we hope to be, and how do our honorary degree policies give concreteand not abstractshape to that vision?)Second, this imaginative approach thus allows one to approach the matter of Catholic identity at its vital core. Rather than being a color, a mood, a sense, but nothing concrete, certainly not a plan of action, this imaginative approach is actually fairly concrete. For BC and ND, this would mean practicing virtues of simplicity, non-violence, and truthfulness in such a way that dubious practices of honoring dont even get off the ground; an ethos is created in which members of the university community know, by and large, that we do (or dont do) things this way here. For ND and the Vagina Monologues, this would mean acting corporately in such wayse.g., personnel and financial commitments to preventing violence against women; personnel, intellectual, and creative commitments to a Christian humanismthat the VMs banality and intermittent decadence are seen not as a threat to be defended against, but as a waste of time for intellectually, culturally, and religiously serious people. Thats a tall order, and I grant that it doesnt translate always into immediate action plans, but its the only way forward. Otherwise, were fated to forever putting out fires, without ever getting to their sources; we treat symptoms, not causes. Father Jenkins beautifully and cogently set out that kind of vision in his inaugural address and in his January faculty address, but his final statement seemed to settle for a mode of engagement that was insufficiently deep. I suspect that such engagement, however well-intentioned, wont do much so long as one action plan is left untouched: faculty hiring. Everything hangs on this one hook; administrators, students, and trustees come and go, but only faculty remain. On simple demographic terms, ND is losing the critical mass or preponderance, in Father Jenkins words, of Catholic and other sympathetic faculty capable of sustaining the Catholic intellectual tradition that is to be put into dialogue with the Monologues. The humanities, in particular, are lacking in this vision, and are often hostile to it, as evidenced by the comments of some ND faculty in those departments. Until Father Jenkins and his leadership team step into the minefield of faculty hiring (and departmental and decanal prerogatives), the entire VM controversy is a futile one with a predictable end. This is one all-too-concrete action (or inaction) plan.And, now, one suggestion. I worked at Commonweal and know how hard the editors strive to maintain in their pages a civil, courteous tonethey have sharpened and cooled many drafts of the articles and reviews Ive written for them. They fail sometimes, as do we all, but Id hope to avoid such rhetoric as very beautiful, puffy, pink language (or my first postings supine succoring of the state). These phrases may be entertaining and even true, but they are not helpful in our common vocation to bringing Christian wisdom to bear on the issues of the day. That vocation requires all the prophecy, practical reasoning, imagination, and, especially, charity that we can muster.

Dear ChrisFirst of all I think the debate is a fruitful one as it helps clarify ideas. And within limits, a little expressive language can be ok. I understand Chris, that you are concerned about charity. Which makes one wonder about your statement: " Whether it be a seemingly silly flap over BCs commencement, or NDs recent attempts to curry favor among academic elites..." You can't have it both ways. Obviously, Cathy has been a supporter of Jenkins' position.As far as your corporate action plan which all would agree to, the problem remains what to do here and now. Further, in a pluralistic world where three quarters of the God fearing world are not Catholic, it seems rather insular to see a solution in better faculty hiring. Does that mean that you believe that stressing 'identity' is more important than 'engagement?'

As my original e-mail to Michael Perry appears to have prompted this string, I wanted to clarify (as Michael Perry already has over at MOJ) that my original note to him included the line:"I'm sure there is a long history of similar awardees and speakers, I picked these ones up after perusing the Cardinal Newman Society website for a few moments (http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/)."In other words, I was NOT attempting to "lift[] language" without citation. (Even in the case of sending a private e-mail to Michael Perry!)I would also clarify that my interest in the prior protests of the "protesting BC professors" encompassed the 150 professors that signed the letter, not the two that originated the letter.Given that, I'm not sure why the "question on the table" isn't the question of whether a statement by such a large bloc of the BC faculty portends future adherance to "the moral values of the Catholic tradition" by the BC faculty.Because if it does portend that adherance, as the letter seems to indicate, isn't that the really big news here? If it doesn't portend that, then the protest just appears to be one among many protests against the war made by just another group of faculty. But imagine if the BC faculty really is using this opportunity to make a stand on ALL of "the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions." That would really be an issue for Catholic universities to deal with.Hence my interest.

Thanks Chris. About the language: Here's my problem. My legally trained self is at tension with my theologically trained self. As you know, I am not unfamiliar with --or unappreciative of -- theological language, even of the most abstract kind. "Beautiful, pink, and puffy" is my shorthand way of referring to abstract theological language. It conveys a reality, an ineffable reality, but it does not, by itself, structure a practical decision making process, or still less, call for a particlar practical decision in a particular case. When theologians involved in a dispute over a practical decision --such as whether to ban or not to ban the Vagina Monologues -- invoke such langue, it does not really function, in my view, to determine a particular result in that practical decision. Concrete practical arguments, grounded in that reality, need to be made. To invoke abstract theological claims as the direct ground for one's decision about the play, suggests that those who disagree with your conclusion about the play reject the abstract theological claim as well. "So and so supports the play --therefore she must deny the truths contained in the abstract theological language." I personally think you are expecting too much from the Closing Statement: it announced a decision on the play, it didn't set forth a whole program.

Elizabeth Brown corrects and nuances the Cardinal Newman Society's list of bad Catholics: http://www.mirrorofjustice.com/mirrorofjustice/2006/05/message_from_el.html