This past weekend graduating college seniors across the nation listened as commencement speakers offered words of wisdom and inspiration to them. The choice of sports figures or entertainers normally does not provoke protests or cause controversy in the elite world of academia.
However, when commencement speakers come from the world of politics there is often debate and dissent especially when they address graduates from Catholic institutions of higher learning. Such was the case at the Catholic University of America with their choice of Speaker of the House John Boehner to address the class of 2011.
In a letter sent directly to Boehner and signed by 83 Catholic University professors and academics from Boston College, Fordham University and other Catholic schools it was claimed that he had ignored his moral obligation to protect the poor. The letter called his legislative record of helping the poor "among the worst in Congress." The Republican Boehner is a practicing Catholic and a graduate of Catholic schools including Xavier University.
The letter was highly critical of his leadership in the House of Representatives crafting the 2012 budget that makes substantial cuts to many social welfare programs. However, unmentioned by the learned academics was Speaker Boehner's championing the issue of school choice for economically poor children and his leadership in restoring the Washington, D.C. voucher program previously cut by the Obama Administration. Also completely unnoticed by the Catholic scholars was the Speaker's courageous leadership in the effort to cut off all federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the nation.
Their critical letter lacks a certain amount of credibility in light of the fact that these enlightened Catholic scholars have never addressed any concern about Catholic politicians who have pro-abortion voting records and whose views drastically depart from the church's fundamental teaching on the sanctity of human life. Sadly they sent to no letter to Pennsylvania's Democrat Senator Robert Casey also a practicing Catholic and graduate of Holy Cross who addressed the class of 2011 at Villanova University.
His record on protecting human life is certainly worthy of a similar critique and challenge as was Speaker Boehner's record on supporting the poor. Over the last few years Casey has voted against a bill to de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business, voted against repealing the Obama Administration's health care law that funds abortions, voted for judicial nominees committed to supporting Roe v. Wade and also voted against the "Mexico City Policy" allowing the U.S. Government to pay for abortions overseas. In the words of Pope Benedict: "Freedom to kill is not a true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being into slavery."
The challenge to a Catholic politician to inform his public policy decisions with his Catholic faith by Catholic academics and scholars is a welcome addition to the call to faithful citizenship of every Catholic including even the Speaker of the House. Yet while they may have presented a valid critique of Boehner's public policy decisions that adversely affect the poor of our nation they ignore his support for the fundamental right to the life of the unborn. In doing so their silence especially in the face of Catholic politicians who promote the culture of death gaining the platform at Catholic colleges is deafening but speaks volumes about their own political and partisan priorities. Tragically these scholars forgot the fundamental teaching of the faith that an unborn child killed by abortion will never know what it is to be either rich or poor.