NEW YORK, NY, October 29, 2008 ( – At a dinner tonight, October 29, in New York City, despite the disapproval of New York Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan and thousands of individuals concerned for its Catholic identity, Fordham University will bestow the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize on Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer is the justice who wrote the widely criticized majority opinion that overturned laws banning partial-birth abortion. 

A joint Fordham Respect for Life – Cardinal Newman Society petition was presented today to Fordham President Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J. in a final attempt to prevent the award from being given.

Justice Breyer, whose judicial career shows a consistent promotion of abortion, wrote the majority opinion in the 2000 Supreme Court decision Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck down state laws banning the barbaric procedure of partial-birth abortion.  In 2007 he also joined the dissenting opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart which upheld a different ban on the procedure.

In his dissent of the Breyer opinion in Stenberg, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “I am optimistic enough to believe that, one day, Stenberg v. Carhart will be assigned its rightful place in the history of this Court’s jurisprudence beside Korematsu and Dred Scott. The method of killing a human child – one cannot even accurately say an entirely unborn human child – proscribed by this statute is so horrible that the most clinical description of it evokes a shudder of revulsion.”

In cooperation with Fordham’s student-run Respect for Life club, The Cardinal Newman Society posted an online petition to its website ( on September 29.  Since then, thousands of Fordham alumni, students, and others have joined in protest of this year’s Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize.  Notably, the entire Sisters of Life religious order in New York signed the petition.

Fordham University students and alumni have been very vocal, expressing their dismay with the Catholic university’s decision to honor Justice Breyer.  One protesting alumnus went so far as to return his Fordham graduate school diploma to President McShane.  Fordham faculty and staff, including Jesuits, have expressed their support for the petition as well.

In September, The Cardinal Newman Society wrote to Cardinal Egan, alerting His Eminence to the problematic awards ceremony with Justice Breyer. According to a statement from the New York Archdiocese, after learning of Fordham’s intention to bestow the ethics award upon Justice Breyer, Cardinal Egan spoke to Fordham University officials to ensure “that a mistake of this sort will not happen again.”

Sheldon Momany, the president of Fordham Respect for Life, led the on-campus drive for signatures last week.  “We hope that we have helped initiate discussion throughout the University community which will lead to positive policy changes for the future,” said Momany.

In their 2004 document, “Catholics in Political Life,” the US Bishops stated: “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.”


  Fordham University
  Stephen Freedman, Ph.D.
  Senior Vice President/Chief Academic Officer
[email protected]
  718.817.3040 (p)
  718.817.3050 (f)


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