In recent years, protests erupted when left-leaning Democrats who support abortion access were honored by Catholic universities and colleges at commencement ceremonies, since that position violates the church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception.
Now, it’s a prominent Republican’s turn.
House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to receive an honorary degree and speak to graduates Saturday at the Catholic University of America – and at least 100 academics from church-related universities around the country are protesting the visit because they say the recent GOP budget Boehner guided through the House will harm the poor, elderly and vulnerable.
“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the professors write in their letter. “From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”
The professors go on to criticize Boehner for his support of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Women Infants and Children nutrition program specifically, while backing $3 trillion worth of tax cuts for the wealthy.
Boehner was raised Catholic in Ohio; the signers of the letter did not ask him to forgo giving the address or demand that Catholic University withdraw its invitation.
“The Speaker will be delivering a personal, non-political speech at the Catholic University of America that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations,” Brendan Buck, spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement. “He is deeply honored to have been invited by CUA to address the school’s graduating class, and is looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops.”
In 2009, many Catholics protested the University of Notre Dame’s decision to grant an honorary degree to President Obama because of his abortion-rights advocacy, and there were demands that the invitation be withdrawn. Notre Dame did not relent, but commencement was picketed by pro-life demonstrators.
Judging by coverage in the CUA student newspaper, The Tower, students are largely supportive of the decision to invite Boehner and honored to have the 3rd-highest-ranking elected official address them. The newspaper editorialized that snagging Boehner was a point of pride for the school.