Lessons for Law School Deans Regarding Catholics in Political Life
Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 8, Spring 2009
46 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2009 Last revised: 25 Nov 2009
Date Written: December 31, 2008
In the fall of 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated a statement titled Catholics in Political Life, which included this provision: "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."
Since the statement's adoption, a number of Catholic institutions, including law schools at Catholic universities, have extended invitations to speakers and honorees who are pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage. In several instances, the local bishop issued a public or private rebuke to the law school for doing so. These episcopal criticisms often lead to a news story and an outcry from students, alumni, and area Catholics, bringing further embarrassment to the school.
My hope is that this essay will help law school deans and other university administrators navigate the tensions inherent in making these invitations, all with an eye on avoiding awkward situations. The essay begins by recounting the history of the statement's passage by the USCCB. It then collects a number of examples where bishops and universities have clashed over invited speakers and honorees. Finally, it offers lessons for law school deans, urging them to pursue dialogue with stakeholders before making invitations that could come within the statement's scope.
Keywords: Catholic Law Schools, USCCB
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation