I previously mentioned the Christianity Today interview last month with Dr. Francis Beckwith on the decision of his institution (Notre Dame) to not only invite President Obama to speak at their commencement service but to also receive an honorary doctorate in law. Dr. Beckwith has since written a compelling essay in First Things on the matter. Here’s the upshot, but do read the whole thing:
Why then would the University of Notre Dame bestow an honorary doctorate of laws on someone who for his entire public life has enthusiastically fought for a segment of the human population, the unborn, to remain permanently outside the protections of the law? Not only that, he has also demanded that our legal regime require that his fellow citizens, including Catholics, underwrite the destruction of these prenatal human beings. And not only that, he is right now preparing to remove by executive order protections that were put in place so that pro-life physicians, nurses, medical students, and others in the health care field may not be forced to participate in abortions or be discriminated against for refusing to do so or even harboring such beliefs.
Unless the university does not believe that the Church’s understanding of the moral law is true and knowable, it can no more in good conscience award an honorary doctorate of laws to a lawyer who rejects the humanity of the proper subjects of law than it could in good conscience award an honorary doctorate in science to a geocentric astronomer who rejects the deliverances of the discipline he claims to practice.
At some point, a Christian university must recognize that the truth it claims to know matters, even if the truth is unpopular, and even if the propagation and celebration of that truth may put one’s community at odds with those persons and centers of influence and power that dispense prestige and authority in our culture.
Dr. Beckwith is the author of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, which has received high commendations as a serious, weighty pro-life apologetic.