Trinity President McGuire gets AAUP honor for criticizing 'religious vigilantism'
Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, will collect the Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors in the District.
The AAUP's top award is given "in recognition of an outstanding contribution to academic freedom." McGuire was selected for her 2009 Commencement speech at Trinity. She called out the "religious vigilantism" of those opposed to the selection of President Obama to speak at the commencement of University of Notre Dame.
Here is the pertinent passage. (Visit the link for audio.)
"Today, a half century of progress for Catholic higher education is at risk of slipping back into those insular, parochial pre-Vatican II days. On this very day, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, a drama is unfolding that will affect the future of all Catholic colleges, and, indeed, will affect the place of Catholics in American life. As has been a tradition at the University of Notre Dame, the president of the United States is speaking at their commencement today. Notre Dame has invited many presidents in the past without fear or favor regarding their political positions. But the announcement of President Obama's appearance at the Notre Dame Commencement triggered one of the angriest and most aggressively hostile efforts to block a commencement speaker ever endured by any American university. The fundamental issue is about the Church's teachings on the right to life and the contrary policies of the Obama Administration. But there's more to the Notre Dame case than the obvious clash between religious dogma and secular politics.
"This is not about bishops exercising their rightful responsibilities to call Catholic institutions to fidelity to Church teachings. Nor is this about the right of individual Catholics to voice concerns about institutional actions. Disagreement and passionate argumentation are a normal part of university life, and religion sharpens the edges of any debate about university activities. For all Catholic universities, close and continuous dialogue with our bishops is an essential part of our stewardship of the Catholic intellectual tradition; Catholic college presidents frequently must exercise prudential judgment in making sure that the local bishop is not surprised by the appearance, if not the reality of dissent from Church teachings in university activities.
"But something else is at work in the Notre Dame case.
"The real scandal at Notre Dame today is NOT that the president of the United States is speaking at commencement, albeit causing some controversy among Catholics. The real scandal is the misappropriation of sacred teachings for political ends. The real scandal is the spectacle of ostensibly Catholic mobs camping out at Notre Dame for the specific purpose of disrupting the commencement address of the nation's first African American president. This ugly spectacle is an embarrassment to all Catholics. The face that Catholicism shows to our new president should be one marked with the sign of peace, not distorted in the snarl of hatred.
"The religious vigilantism apparent in the Notre Dame controversy arises from organizations that have no official standing with the Church, but who are successful in gaining media coverage as if they were speaking for Catholicism. The media love nothing more than a good Catholic versus Catholic fight, a self-destructive civil war that has no winners save the anti-Catholic underground that finds joy and vindication in watching Catholics strangle each other with litmus tests about fidelity. The self-appointed "watchdogs" of Catholic higher education also afflict Catholics in political life, acting as grand inquisitors who appear to want nothing more than to drive all Catholics away from public office. They have established themselves as uber-guardians of a belief system we can hardly recognize. Theirs is a narrow faith devoted almost exclusively to one issue. They defend the rights of the unborn but have no charity toward the living. They mock social justice as a liberal mythology.
The AAUP citation notes, "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. . . Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."
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Daniel de Vise
June 10, 2010; 10:08 AM ET
Categories: Administration | Tags: AAUP Meiklejohn, AAUP award McGuire, Patricia McGuire Trinity
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