Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rabble-Rousing and Abortion

Fordham University has given its prestigious Fordham-Stein Ethics Award to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. The very conservative Cardinal Newman Society, a self-appointed watchdog over Catholic colleges, is outraged. Breyer authored the majority opinion in 2000's Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck down Nebraska's partial-birth abortion law. His career extends more than 30 years during which he wrote extensively on a wide range of legal issues, taught at Harvard Law and the Kennedy School of Government, and assisted in the Watergate investigation. None of this is good enough for Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society and a Fordham alumnus, who asked Fordham's president, Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J., to rescind the award. A spokesman for New York's Edward Cardinal Egan said that the cardinal had spoken to Fordham to ensure "that a mistake of this sort will not happen again."

Reilly has made a career of hunting down colleges that are not truly Catholic according to his lights. His litmus test is quick and sure. Unfortunately, it is as narrow as it is incomplete. A look at the society's website does not readily show any concerns other than abortion. Whether hounded by zealots like David Horowitz pursuing leftists hiding in the ivory tower or self-proclaimed defenders of the faith like Reilly, the university, including the Catholic university, is not tasked to forward the blatantly political agendas of these groups. Reilly is a Senior Fellow at the Capital Research Center, a conservative think-tank that targets non-profits. Ralph Reed eventually came clean and left the Christian Coalition to become the political operative he always wanted to be. Patrick Reilly is well advised to do the same. Fordham and the nation's other 27 Jesuit schools are models of concern for a just society. Reilly and his allies also would do better to support, even in disagreement, these great schools.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined with Breyer in Stenberg before she was recognized by Fordham in 2001. Her selection drew no protest, but then again, conservatives had just won the White House. Other Fordham-Stein recipients include two former chief justices, Rhenquist and Burger, and several other justices, including Potter Stewart and Sandra Day-O'Connor, who shared a panel with Breyer at Fordham last spring.


  • It is sad to see such complex issues like modern ethics reduced to a single denominator - abortion. The economic crisis has kept the current presidential election from devolving to a "vote your values" speech from the pulpit, and I think that is a good thing.

    The Cardinal Newman Society representative sees the award recipient as a "mistake" based upon Justice Stephen Breyer's position in Stenberg v. Carhart?

    How do we think Alvernia would do in the 'truly Catholic' department? Would failure mean that disfavor would somehow rain down upon us? Would his displeasure at all impact our enrollment, our mission, or the courses offered for study?

    It is disappointing to read of a person that would seem to be blessed with an education, and in a position to educate others, choosing instead to behave in such a narrow-minded fashion. Another opportunity for further understanding, discussion or compromise on a very complex issue, lost to the extremists.

    By Blogger kobe2, At October 31, 2008 11:26 AM  

  • Why would the author refer to David Horowitz as a zealot? Can't the author appreciate that Horowitz may have had an epiphany of sorts in coming to terms with the falacy of the left's positions. Read Radical Son and you will know why. And to suggest that Horowitz is seeking out leftists "hiding" in the corners of Academia is absurd. They are all over the place including Fordham that used to be rather balanced as I recall.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 21, 2009 5:07 AM  

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