The U.S. Catholic Bishops teach, “Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. … 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.” A politician’s extraordinary service does not constitute an exception to this principle, since any politician who is being considered for an honor presumably has exemplary service in at least some respects.
In the Loyolan, Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, the rector of the Jesuit Community at LMU and a trustee, defends giving President Clinton an honorary doctorate. “In conferring this honor LMU does not endorse all of Mr. Clinton’s past or current policies nor condone all his actions,” Deck told the Loyolan, “Rather, the University recognizes the extraordinary service he has given to civil society and his lifetime connection to Catholic and Jesuit higher education as a Georgetown University alumnus.”
Fr. Deck’s response to RenewLMU’s criticism attacks a straw man. No one thinks that to grant an honorary doctorate is to endorse all of a politician’s policies or to condone all the politician’s actions. Nor is the question whether the politician provided extraordinary service or attended a Jesuit university. The question is whether President Clinton’s policies and actions violate fundamental Catholic moral principles about partial birth abortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, and sexual harassment in the workplace.