Bill Clinton Gets Honorary Doctorate from LMU; Pope Francis Invoked to Justify It

Not only did Bill Clinton deliver the commencement address, but he also received an honorary doctorate from LMU.   Fr. Allan Deck, S.J., rector of the LMU Jesuit Community defends this decision as follows, “LMU, precisely because it is a Catholic and Jesuit University, seeks to follow the inspirational leadership of Pope Francis in promoting a culture of encounter that requires an openness to meet people cordially where they are rather than negatively in a judgmental way.”

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Fr. Deck’s defense of violating the teaching of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, as noted earlier, attacks a straw man.  While it is true that a culture of encounter requires an openness to meet people cordially where they are, it does not require inviting them to give a commencement address nor does it require giving them an honorary doctorate.  Indeed, Pope Francis’s particular emphasis on the authority of local conferences of bishops does not exonerate but exacerbates LMU’s action.  If Pope Francis is right that abortion is a “crime” and an “absolute evil,” surely we must, with respect, disagree with Fr. Deck.

Encountering and dialoguing with those who facilitate serious injustices is one thing.

Celebrating and honoring them, in the highest manner institutionally possible, is quite another.

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Protest Letter about President Clinton as 2016 Commencement Speaker

Dear President Snyder,

We alumni, donors, parents, faculty, students, and concerned friends object to your decision to honor President Bill Clinton as LMU’s 2016 commencement speaker on May 7th. If you as President of LMU treated a 21 year old intern in your office as he did, you would be fired as president and never honored in any way at LMU. Why should the standards be lower for a President of the United States? If LMU cares about sexual harassment, it should not honor someone repeatedly and credibly accused of such activity.  Moreover, it is inappropriate in an election year to honor the spouse of a leading candidate thereby politicizing an event that should be unifying.  Finally, President Clinton’s steadfast support of abortion on demand, including even partial birth abortion, is incompatible with LMU’s Jesuit emphasis on social justice for all human beings.

We protest your decision to give an honorary doctorate to President Clinton.

 RenewLMU 

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To support this effort please sign below and circulate this petition.  We also welcome you to include your own comment. 

LMU Jesuit Rector Defends Giving an Honorary Doctorate to President Bill Clinton

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,” Fr. 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.”  

By contrast, the U.S. Catholic Bishops teach, “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.

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.  The answer is obvious.

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.  

Only 24% of LMU Faculty are Catholic!

We have wondered for years about the percentage of Catholic professors at LMU.  Now we know. In the essay, “Is Loyola Marymount University Losing its Catholic Identity,” an LMU professor points out in a recent essay.
“Like many institutions of higher education in the United States, Loyola Marymount University wrestles with questions of religious identity. These discussions—at least as they relate to faculty composition—can now be better informed thanks to a recent “Faculty Climate Survey.” Of the 392 professors who took the Faculty Climate Survey, 94 (24 percent) indicated that they are Catholic. The percentage of Catholic professors at LMU is well below the standard articulated by Pope St. John Paul II in Ex corde ecclesiae, ‘the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.’”

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This dearth of Catholic faculty will soon worsen, because the most senior faculty are almost all Catholic. In the Department of Theological Studies as well as in philosophy, Catholics make up all four of the most recent retirements as well as the two most senior faculty. In the history department, two Jesuits recently retired as well as a religious brother. In mathematics, four of the five most senior members are Catholic. In classics, in the College of Business Administration, and in political science, Catholics constitute two of the three most senior members. Simply to maintain 24 percent would require that every retiring Catholic in the university be replaced with another Catholic.”

If the status quo continues, what will happen next? As LMU loses more Catholic faculty to retirement, the “secular majority view” on campus will grow even more strident. The campus will be increasingly shackled by a pall of orthodoxy, secular Group Think.   Tenured faculty ultimately shape the destiny of a university because they outlast Deans, Provosts, and Presidents. If LMU’s faculty composition is like everywhere else, the university will eventually be like everywhere else.

“Symbolic ties will probably be the last to be cut. Already, the change in our university logo from a depiction of Sacred Heart Chapel to the current logo, below, is not without significance. Our current logo contains, we are told, subtle religious symbolism. Indeed, the symbolism is so understated as to be completely unnoticeable to the untutored eye, a perfect icon for the future of LMU.”
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“Sacred Heart Chapel will need to move into greater conformity with wider university culture. The Eucharist will be permanently removed so that the space can be used for theatre, concerts, and yoga. The final argument about religious identity will be about whether distinctively religious art should remain. A compromise will be struck whereby the pieces considered offensive—such as the central crucifix and the statue of Mary—are removed, but the stained glass windows remain intact, a silent reminder of a long lost tradition.”

The essay, Is Loyola Marymount University Losing its Catholic Identity,” is a must read for anyone who cares about LMU. It contains not just bad news, but numerous suggestions for increasing the Catholic identity of the faculty. Please post a link to this essay on social media and circulate it to friends and family.  LMU needs to act decisively and quickly to prevent a further collapse in the percentage of Catholic faculty. Now is the time.

Professor James Hanink Retires from LMU

Among the most notable recent retirements at LMU, Dr. James Hanink stepped down after decades of service.  A faculty colleague had this to say about him:

Professor James Hanink served since the 1970s at LMU, excelling especially in the classroom.  He assigned numerous essays for students to write and returned them promptly with oceans of red ink as suggested improvements for the next round.  His students reported that they were both challenged and edified by his teaching which stretched them to think more concretely about questions both metaphysical and practical.  His stories and jokes lightened the philosophical load.  Jim’s scholarly productivity was steady and focused on questions interesting to philosophers in the analytic tradition (such as Elizabeth Anscombe) and the continental tradition (such as Edith Stein).  With his colleagues, he generously read and commented on drafts of papers as well as seminar presentations.  Jim was well known, on campus and off, for his concern for the Catholic identity of LMU, especially as it related to issues of justice for human beings waiting to be born.  This concern for the most weak and vulnerable in the human family also manifested itself in terms of Jim’s personal involvement with the Mother Teresa’s sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, and Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement. 

 

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“Catholic Fundamentalist” and other offensive slurs

Calling people, to their faces or behind their backs, terms of disparagement, ridicule, and mockery because of their race, sex, or religious belief is condemned at LMU.  An unfortunate exception to this rule is to speak of someone as a “Catholic fundamentalist.” What does the term mean?  No Catholic is a fundamentalist in the Protestant sense of accepting as fundamental that the Bible and the Bible alone is the sufficient and inerrant guide of faith. No Catholic is a fundamentalist as the term is sometimes used of Muslims to denote someone who advocates violent jihad against non-Muslims.  No Catholic is a fundamentalist as a matter of self-description, and no Catholic takes it as a compliment to be called one.  So what does the term mean? If you agree with Pope Francis rather than the New York Times editorial board about marriage, life, or “gender ideology,” you too may count, in the eyes of some, as a “Catholic fundamentalist.”  The term “Catholic fundamentalist” is used as a way to marginalize, stigmatize, and ostracize people with Catholic religious beliefs about controversial issues.    This hateful slur is a way of shutting down rather than stimulating dialogue.  If LMU is serious about creating an inclusive learning environment, if LMU is to become a place welcoming to all, then “Catholic fundamentalist” will go into the category with other charged epithets which are never said by loving and just people.  LMU’s rhetoric is inclusive.  Is LMU’s practice inclusive?


Top Vatican Reporter John Allen Jr on LMU

John Allen, Jr. is one of the most respected reporters on matters Catholic in the English speaking world.  Formerly of the National Catholic Reporter and more recently of the Boston Globe, Allen’s reporting is acclaimed, by liberals and conservatives alike, for its balance, objectivity, and fairness.  In the middle of a recent essay, Allen offered these words about LMU:

A widely read recent piece in Catholic World Report …raised sobering questions about whether LMU can, or will, remain “Catholic” in anything but name. …  [O]nly 24 percent of faculty at LMU are now Catholic, and they tend to be the oldest members of the faculty. The increasingly non-Catholic ethos on campus, [the author] argued, shows up in a variety of ways, and he predicted that if things continue unchecked, “the process of secularization will be completed within a generation.” To be clear, the essay was neither alarmist nor antagonistic, but a rather straight-forward reading of the situation.