Jonah Goldberg on Rice & BC

That settles it. The flap at BC over honoring Condi Rice as commencement speaker has now entered the immortal realm of the Rorschach Test. Jonah Goldberg has issued a columnon the controversy. His opening salvo:

How is academic freedom like Catholicism? Well, if you are a left-wing academic, the answer is obvious: both can be used like a club on people you dont like.

You can guess where this is going. Before Goldberg lands on his predicable conclusion--

Whether the cudgel is racism, sexism, academic freedom or even Catholicism, the intent is the same: Voices the Left likes are privileged on Americas campuses. Voices the Left dislikes are to be smashed, with whatever tool is available.

--he throws himself a few softballs. Like this one:

When a professor at Columbia University proclaimed that he hoped America suffer from a million Mogadishusreferring to the battle made famous by Black Hawk Downand declared that the only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military, he was immediately defended by the left on grounds of academic freedom.

What could possibly be different between this scenario and the Rice controversy at BC? Here's Goldberg's version of events:

In a letter distributed by the heads of the Catholic schools theology department and signed by about 200 faculty members, we are informed that, On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rices approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston Colleges commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the universitys work. The letter, titled Condoleezza Rice Does Not Deserve a Boston College Honorary Degree, cherry-picks quotes from Pope John Paul II to argue that Rices policies should disqualify her as a commencement speaker.

Cherry picks quotes from John Paul II? No. The 250-word doesn't once quote the late pope. More:

One can respect honest disagreement over the Bush administrations foreign policy. But this high-minded rhetoric is a bit hard to take considering that B.C. is fairly selective about where it will draw such lines. For example, Mary Daly was for decades a distinguished professor at Boston College, despite the fact she exceeds even the right-wing parody of a left-wing academic.

Wrong again. It's hard to know what Golberg means by "distinguished professor at Boston College." Daly never held the title of distinguished professor. She was Professor Daly. That's it. It's no secret that she was hardly beloved within the BC theology department. Daly went too far out for many theologians, and this ultimately isolated her.

In case you're interested in reading the actual statement, here it is:

Condoleezza Rice Does Not Deserve a
Boston/> College/>/> Honorary Degree

We, the undersigned members of the faculty at
Boston/> College/>/>, strongly disagree with the decision of the universitys leadership to grant Condoleezza Rice an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and to invite her to address the 2006 commencement. On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rices 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 universitys work.

As a matter of moral principle, Rice maintains that U.S./> foreign policy should be based on
U.S./>/> national interest and not on what she calls the interests of an illusory international community. This stands in disturbing contrast with the Catholic and humanistic conviction that all people are linked together in a single human family and that all nations in our interdependent world have a duty to protect the common good of the entire human family.

On the level of practical judgment, Rice has helped develop and implement the strategic policies that have guided the United States/> in the tragic war in
Iraq/>/>. Pope
John/> Paul II and the United States Catholic bishops opposed initiating this war on ethical grounds. We also believe the policies that have shaped the wars ongoing conduct cannot be justified in light of the moral values of the Catholic tradition or the norms of international law.

For these reasons, we object to
Boston/> College/>/> honoring Condoleezza Rice at its 2006 commencement. Doing so contradicts the universitys Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic identity.

References are to Condoleezza Rice, Promoting the National Interest, Foreign Affairs 79 (Jan./Feb. 2000), and to Pope
John/> XXIII, Peace on Earth, no. 98.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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