Georgetown, Seriously?

I know, I know, on Saturday I said that I would probably do a post yesterday on Christological prophesies in the Old Testament, and on the issue of typology, but I didn’t. I’ll get to it eventually, but there are a lot of other things I want to talk about in the meantime.

One of those things just appeared in my inbox this morning, with the title “EVENT: Vice President Biden Award Ceremony.” My first thought was, “Seriously?” Is Georgetown really going to make a point of a “Vice President Biden Award Ceremony” in the wake of the Notre Dame fiasco, coupled with its own shameful performance, in covering up the name of Christ to appease the White House? I suppose I should preempt this discussion by saying that I love Georgetown. It’s a great school (at least, the law school is – I didn’t go there for undergrad), and they’ve been wonderful to me academically. But it’s religiously anemic. There’s a single Bible in our chaplet, but also a Koran and numerous other religious texts, as well as prayer rugs, and signs pointing to Mecca. They’ve sold out as a “Catholic” law school long ago.

Just to recap. Here’s the 2004 Bishops statement on the subject,”Catholics in Political Life,”:

“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.” (emphasis in original)

Two things separate this from the Notre Dame situation, but they’re on different sides of the scale. First, Vice President Biden is a self-proclaimed Catholic. This is important because Fr. Jenkins defended honoring Obama by saying that he understood the 2004 ban to extending only to Catholic politicians because it says “Catholics in Political Life.” It’s a dumb argument, as the folks at Catholic culture were quick to point out. The Catholics in political life being talked about are almost certainly us, and those among us in positions to give awards, particularly. The ban says should not honor “those,” not “those Catholics,” or anything of the sort. Fr. Jenkins’ interpretation also eviscerates the plain spirit of the rule: why would it be better to award someone who opposes Catholic social teachings, just because they also deny Catholic theology? It’s a sort of “it’s okay to be pro-choice, as long as you also renounce God” argument which turns arguments like “natural law is truth apparent to non-Catholics” and “make believers of all the world” on their head.

Nevertheless, if one ignored the obvious spirit of the rule (as well, incidentally, as the letter of the rule), you could come to Fr. Jenkins’ conclusion. But not in this case. Biden famously proved his religious reverence by saying: “The next Republican that tells me I’m not religious, I’m going to shove my rosary beads down their throat.” He’s publicly identified himself as Catholic, and if Fr. Jenkins and those like him are right that Catholics should be held to a higher standard than non-Catholics (even on issues of natural law), so be it. By that standard (or any other reasonable Catholic standard), Vice President Biden fails to live up to the clear and unambiguous teachings of the Magisterium (here’s a brief summary of his record, if you’re not already aware).

There is one substantial redeeming factor, however. The body of the e-mail announcing this award ceremony says that the award is “for his work as the champion of the Violence Against Women Act.” VAWA is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary, and Biden does deserve a lot of credit for championing the bill. I think that someone could reasonably say, Biden doesn’t deserve any credit for his cowardly position on abortion (“life begins at conception, but end it if you really want to,” more or less), but deserves a lot of credit for being at the forefront of an important move to protect women from domestic violence.

Nevertheless, I’m still drawn back to a central point. Georgetown decided that, in the wake of these two scandals (the Obama/Notre Dame incident, and the covering of the IHS), to move ahead with honoring Vice President Biden for something good he did a decade and a half ago. I can’t escape the idea that they’re trying to say something without really saying it.

Edit: The Violence Against Women Act was ruled, by a 5-4 vote in 2000, unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Edit 2: The Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law is hosting this event, if anyone’s wondering. (And it is Georgetown University Law Center, not the undergrad, who is behind this).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *