Whether a speaker who advocates for abortion should be honored at a Catholic university is stirring up a lot of debate and protest these days. (President Obama is scheduled to give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17.)
There’s certainly no reason to not let someone speak at a university on whatever topic they advocate or believe in. Universities are supposed to be laboratories of inquiry where all ideas are examined and weighed. But to give a speaker an honorary degree is another thing. That sort of honor should be reserved for those who espouse the same values as the institution. So my solution is: Let the man speak, but hold off on the honorary degree.
More attention is being focused on the abortion issue by this speaking engagement than umpteen years of January 22nd protest marches on Washington on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that fateful 7-to-2 decision in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court that removed criminal penalties from abortion procedures and put them under a new “right of privacy” some still do not see in our constitution. Maybe this attention can be a plus for Catholic values. It has certainly made me do some thinking.
The two camps, I feel, can be broadly defined by one criterion: Whether a fetus is a human being with all the same rights as a person, or whether those human rights do not start until you’re born. The pro-choice, pro-abortion camp seems to treat a human embryo as a mass a tissue, an appendix or tonsil, a foreign growth that can be clipped out with no thought and experimented on at will. The pro-life, anti-abortion camp knows that life is a continuum that can’t be parsed into phases of various value, 13 weeks one way, 13 another.
I know what I have always believed — that life is life at every stage — but I don’t yet know how to put that belief into terms the other camp could feel in their hearts. I also think that many of them are only thinking of their own pleasure and convenience, and so have a long way to go before they ever consider the aftereffects of their sexual behavior. This is something to work on, because the two sides are highly polarized and seem to only yell at each other while brandishing hateful signs.
Hey, I know – Obama should turn down the honor and just make the speech.