By Steve Jalsevac
November 6, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Noted Princeton Professor Robert P. George says he is “not pleased” with TIME's Amy Sullivan's “selective” use of a quotation from him in her article “A Tale of Two Priests.” As well, contrary to the impression given in Sullivan's article, George opposed the way the Kennedy funeral was done and strongly supports Archbishop Burke's emphasis that Canon 915 requires that pro-abortion politicians be denied communion.
LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) received a response Friday evening from George to questions about the Sullivan article and the inclusion of the quotation that seemed to indicate he opposed Archbishop Burke's statement that pro-abortion politicians should not be given a Catholic funeral. George told LSN there is much more to the story.
In one paragraph in the TIME article Sullivan wrote, “Even some leading conservative Catholics may find they cannot support Burke's latest salvo.” In the the next sentence Sullivan tied George to that negative view of Burke's statement by writing, “When told of the Archbishop's assertion that pro-choice Catholics should not be permitted funeral rites, Princeton professor Robert George was taken aback: “That's a very different, and obviously graver, claim than that with which I would have sympathy. I haven't heard before any bishop say that pro-abortion politicians should not be given a Catholic funeral.”
George responded to LifeSiteNews that he “was quoted accurately, though selectively.” He also revealed he had expressed concerns via email at the beginning to Sullivan about how his comments might be presented. As a result of Sullivan's response, he told LSN, he “accepted what I took to be her assurance of fairness and non-partisanship in her message of October 5th. I should not have been so trusting.”
Asked for his overall impressions of the TIME article, the renowned U.S. political philosopher and strongly pro-life Catholic was blunt. He stated, “The article strikes me as quite partisan. It is not objective reporting. The author is grinding an axe. Perhaps she honestly believes that this is fair and objective reporting, but my own judgment is that it quite plainly isn’t. It represents the kind of partisan presentation that I was worried about when I wrote my message to her of October 2nd.”
George had given Sullivan additional relevant quotes for the story that in his opinion should have been included, especially regarding his views on Cardinal O'Malley's participation in the Kennedy funeral and other comments on Archbishops Burke's statement. He told LSN:
Here is what she did not include in the article, but readers should, I think, have been told: I said that I thought Archbishop Burke was right to deny pro-abortion politicians communion pursuant to Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law. I also said that I thought Cardinal O'Malley made an error of judgment in permitting a large public funeral for Teddy Kennedy and personally participating in it. The error was precisely in failing to see the scandal that would be given. I am disappointed that she omitted these points and mentioned only my surprise at learning (from her) that Archbishop Burke has taken the position that Kennedy should not have been given a Catholic funeral at all—even a private one.
George says that at the time he was not aware that Burke had made the statement and that “it goes a step beyond where I would go on this issue.” “At the same time,” he adds “I did not suggest that the Archbishop’s position was unreasonable; and I acknowledged that it is certainly not my call to make. I am not a bishop or a canon lawyer. Raymond Burke is both.”
Lastly, Robert George noted that he provided Amy Sullivan with an essay by him “strongly defending Archbishop Burke on the communion question.” He explained that “it began life as a lecture for the Pontifical Academy of Life at the Vatican in 2007.” The essay, Political Obligations, Moral Conscience, and Human Life (.pdf), was included with his reponse to LifeSiteNews and is also republished as a Special Report (html).
Note: George is a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, George earned a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford University. He is the author of numerous books and served on the President’s Council on Bioethics under President Bush. George was an informal adviser and speechwriter for the late outspokenly pro-life Democrat and Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey.
See related LSN article: