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NY ENCOUNTER/ CUA President John Garvey Defends Freedom in the University

Catholic universities do not give up their freedom in remaining faithful to their mission; instead they are "first amendment actors creating public culture"  

New York Encounter: Opening Speech New York Encounter: Opening Speech

The new president of Catholic University of America, John Garvey, gave the keynote speech at the New York Encounter cultural festival, which opened on January 14 at the Manhattan Center in New York. After a thirty-five year career as a lawyer, last year he took up reins at the Catholic university founded in 1887 by all the bishops of the U.S. to offer graduate degrees in the pontifical faculties of theology, philosophy and canon law.

One year after President Obama was offered an honorary degree at Notre Dame, Garvey dissected the issue which created a firestorm in the Church and the university community. To the accusation of the hierarchy limiting academic freedom in this case, Garvey drew the distinction between allowing debate and dialogue on one hand, and on the other conferring an honor or award as happened at Notre Dame. Garvey cited the U.S. bishops statement "Catholics in Political Life" from 2004, which offered clear guidelines for Catholic institutions in regard to politicians: "The Catholic community and 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."

Further, Garvey stated that the problem was one of "ambiguity" in conferring the honor. President Obama was praised by Notre Dame for certain qualities: "A community organizer who honed his advocacy for the poor, the marginalized and the worker in the streets of Chicago, he now organizes a larger community, bringing to the world a renewed American dedication to diplomacy and dialogue with all nations and religions committed to human rights and the global common good. Through his willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate, he is inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow."