By Patrick B. Craine
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 15, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic University of America, the national university for the Catholic Church in the United States, announced Tuesday that they had hired John H. Garvey, dean of Jesuit’s Boston College Law School, to serve as their 15th president.
Announcing the appointment, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, who chairs CUA’s Board of Trustees and who led the search committee, praised Garvey as "an accomplished jurist, scholar, and teacher,” adding that he is “a man of strong faith in Christ and a very committed member of the Catholic Church.”
The move has sparked concerns among some Catholics, primarily due to Garvey’s record of support for pro-abortion politicians. At the same time, the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), which is dedicated to promoting the faithfulness of America’s Catholic universities, has received the news with optimism.
“Archbishop Vigneron has publicly assured Catholics that Father O’Connell’s outstanding efforts to strengthen Catholic identity will continue,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of CNS. “I am sure that is meant to be not only a promise, but a welcome challenge to President Garvey, who no doubt understands that CUA is much different from Boston College.”
Garvey will enter his new role on July 1st, replacing Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who is leaving to serve as coadjutor bishop for the Diocese of Trenton.
Critics have pointed to the fact that Garvey’s law school hosted pro-abortion Rep. Edward J. Markey for a commencement address in 2007. Announcing Markey’s acceptance, Garvey praised the congressman as one of the Law School’s “most distinguished graduates.” Garvey added that Markey’s “career of public service reflects the very best values and traditions of the School.”
According to some the award was a violation of a 2004 directive from the U.S. Bishops, "Catholics in Political Life," which stated that Catholic universities “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
In 2002, Garvey’s school also hosted former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci as commencement speaker. A talk by Cellucci at a Boston Catholic high school had been blocked by the Archdiocese of Boston in 1991, reports the New York Times, because according to Bishop Roberto O. Gonzalez, Cellucci had been “publicly and consistently in favor of abortion.”
Garvey has also been a supporter of pro-abortion senator and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry. According to Catholic World News, Garvey gave $250 to the Kerry Committee in June 2002, $1,000 to John Kerry for President, Inc. in March 2003, and $500 to the latter in April 2004.
There have also been concerns that, as dean, Garvey espoused an approach to academic freedom in conflict with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution laying out the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities.
In a 2002 letter on the Law School’s response to the sex abuse crisis, Garvey sought to abate concerns that the school “will require a certain orthodoxy.” “No school that regulates ideas can justly call itself a university,” he argued.
In September 2009, he defended a professor for his public stance in support of true marriage in a StandForMarriageMaine.com television ad. He wrote, however, that the professor’s “public statements represent his own opinions … and do not state any official position of Boston College Law School."
"We also have faculty members who hold a contrary view, which they too are free to express publicly,” he continued. “Many have done so while referring to themselves as BC Law professors. ... Others have taken controversial positions on such subjects as abortion, euthanasia, and the treatment of detainees.”
In Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II wrote that a Catholic university must guarantee academic freedom “so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.” He went on to lay down in a canonical norm the requirement that “all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching."
At the same time, the Eagleionline, a student paper for the BC law school, reports that Garvey’s nomination for a high-level position at Notre Dame Law School was vetoed by “a vocal minority of faculty” over the fact that he was “too Catholic, too conservative, and too elitist.”
The paper also reports that shortly after he was hired as dean in 1999, he made the following complaint when the faculty opposed his efforts to bring on two new faculty members: “This faculty will not hire a conservative or a Catholic.”
Archbishop Vigneron emphasized that they chose Garvey precisely because he is committed to advancing the vision of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The archbishop said that the committee sought someone who, “by building upon the achievements of Bishop O'Connell, will advance the mission of CUA so that it will shine out as exemplifying the nature of a Catholic university in service to the Church and to the nation.”
“We have found that person in Dean Garvey,” he continued, describing Garvey as “a man of strong Catholic faith with rich experience and a proven record as a scholar and a leader in higher education.”
“I can imagine the excitement and freedom that comes with leading a seriously Catholic institution in partnership with America’s bishops and the Vatican,” said Reilly about Garvey’s appointment.
“CUA has already turned the corner on Catholic identity and rejects practices like honoring pro-abortion politicians, hiring vocal dissidents, and hosting The Vagina Monologues,” he added. “These are the old, failed practices of secularizing universities. CUA is on a better path, and Catholics can be grateful to John Garvey for leaving a prestigious post to carry on the exciting renewal of the nation’s Catholic university.”
LifeSiteNews spoke with a representative of the Catholic University of America, but did not receive a response by press time.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Boston College Jesuit Law School in Disarray Over Prof's Defense of Marriage
Another Catholic College—Boston Law School—to Showcase Pro-Abortion Speaker