LMU’s Defense of Giving an Honorary Doctorate to President Bill Clinton

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.  

3 thoughts on “LMU’s Defense of Giving an Honorary Doctorate to President Bill Clinton

  1. If Bill Clinton is a suitable candidate to be honored by a Catholic university, why not Bill Cosby? “In conferring this honor LMU does not endorse all of Mr. Cosby’s past actions,” defenders could say, “Rather, the University recognizes the extraordinary service he has given to society through his outstanding contributions to entertainment, breaking barriers for African-Americans in media, and promoting education for all people.”

    Neither Cosby nor Clinton have been convicted of sexual harassment nor of any other crime. Yet even the Washington Post asks, What’s the real difference in terms of sexual abuse between Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby?

    To paraphrase an argument made elsewhere, to award Bill Cosby an honorary doctorate is to act as if sexual assault “doesn’t really matter all that much if gets ‘balanced out,’ as it were, by some other ‘good’ things. So no matter what else he’s done in his life that might be wonderful, you wouldn’t give him a medal of ‘honor’ even on the chance he might be guilty of sexual assault.” For this reason, Fordham, Marquette, and the University of San Francisco quite rightly rescinded the honorary doctorates they gave to Cosby.

    To award Bill Clinton an honorary doctorate is to act as if partial birth abortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, and sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t really matter all that much if gets ‘balanced out’ by some other ‘good’ things.

    Honoring President Clinton provides evidence that LMU’s promotion of Jesuit social justice is selective and conditional upon whether it will be applauded by liberal elites. LMU doesn’t take the “crime, an absolute evil” of abortion (the words of Pope Francis) seriously—certainly not as seriously as other forms of sexual assault against women, which is precisely what abortion is, since LMU would never consider awarding any honor to Bill Cosby.

  2. Note: Fr. Deck cannot bring himself even to *mention* Bill Clinton’s support of abortion on demand, including partial-birth abortion. Nor does Fr. Deck tell us how promoting abortion and advocating same-sex unions helps civil society. Sadly, it is characteristic of LMU leadership, including Jesuits, not to mention that since Roe v. Wade abortion has been the gateway to the death of over 55 million unborn babies. Once upon a time, the Clintons spoke of their desire for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” They’ve dropped the “rare,” and they dare not acknowledge that abortion kills the unborn baby. They’re pleased, of course, that abortion is legal. But Augustine and Aquinas and good Pope John XXIII (among other popes, including Pope Francis) are united in teaching that a gravely unjust “law” is no law at all but rather an act of violence. Indeed, it is a principle that Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. often articulated. At some point silence becomes complicity.

    Dr. James G. Hanink

  3. The Clinton’s represent our nation as both a past President and a current Presidential candidate, both proponents of abortion. “In the Christian View, our treatment of children becomes a measure of our fidelity to the Lord himself.” That statement, by Pope John Paul II, says it all. We are a nation that murders our most vulnerable citizens, those in the womb. No one, most especially a Catholic University, should be giving Bill Clinton anything!

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