In May of last year, Joseph Bottum gave account in “At the Gates of Notre Dame” of the perfect storm set in motion by the University of Notre Dame’s public veneration of President Obama, which brought preexisting tensions between public Catholicism and university life to a head. Notre Dame’s heavily symbolic gesture to the pro-abortion president was the embodiment of scandal, and, as Bottum argued, Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins presumed to play American Catholics with his agnosticism towards the right to life as the “signpost at the intersection of Catholicism and American public life.”
In a story broken by Catholic Culture.org, it appears that in the case of John H. Garvey, Catholic University of America’s new president-elect, there remain a few stones that will soon need overturning, with the memory of the Notre Dame scandal a mere year old. In 2007, as dean of Boston College Law School, Garvey presided over the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Rep. Edward J. Markey, whose strongly pro-abortion views were a matter of public record. Garvey praised him as a model politician and friend of the Law School, even in the face of Markey’s open dissent from Catholic teaching.
After a bit of digging, a few more items of concern come to light. According to the Washington Post, Garvey authored a law review essay in 2003 arguing the Church has “no credibility” in its policies aimed at eliminating sexual abuse. Another more egregious moment demonstrated what appears to be a lukewarm angle on the culture war. Last September, when B.C. Law professor Scott Fitzgibbon’s appearance in a pro-marriage television spot caused anger amongst some B.C. Law students, Garvey penned a decidedly cool response, defending Fitzgibbon on free-speech grounds, but failing to mention that Fitzgibbons’ view was in line with B.C.’s (neglected) foundation in Catholic tradition.
Time will eventually test Garvey’s intellectual fortitude—perhaps with a ‘Notre Dame moment’—but it would be of great benefit to Catholic University to administer a Jenkins-proof litmus test with a view to avoiding another scandal.