Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fr. Jenkins discovers canon law. Not.

Update, 22 April 2009: Bp. Darcy's letter of today correcting Fr. Jenkins purported "canonical defense" is a must-read.

Original post:

Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins continues to flail about for an adequate response (though short of resigning, there isn't an adequate response) to his monumental gaff of bestowing an honorary doctor of laws degree on a president who has spent his entire political career seeing to it that millions of human beings are excluded from the protection of law. Jenkin's latest lunge is for the life ring stamped "canon lawyers we consulted". Figures.

It is paradigmatic of the theological Left to ignore canon law when it poses the slightest inconvenience for its plans, but to hide behind canons (or at least behind canonists, even anonymous ones) when they afford some cover (however thin) for obvious blunders or malfeasance. And so Jenkins, invoking unidentified canon lawyers, holds that the USCCB's 2004 statement, "
Catholics in Political Life", merely restricts Catholic institutions from honoring Catholics whose public record evidences disdain for fundamental moral principles.

Is the man serious?

Does Jenkins really think that Catholic bishops would countenance a Catholic institution honoring a philanthropic murderer, or a free-speech crusading pornographer, or a right-to-privacy pimp, provided merely that the awardee was not a Catholic? Really, that's too bizarre for words.

But speaking of words, Jenkins' unnamed canon lawyers (assuming, by the way, that they were answering the question Jenkins thought he was asking, and that Jenkins understood and is accurately conveying their response) tell him that "by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in 'defiance' of it." Huh?

What's this "by definition" stuff? What definition? A definition of "defiance"? The word "defiance" is not in the Code. Even the Latin pertinacia does not seem to apply to our facts, so, what exactly is Jenkins talking about here? I don't know, but whatever Jenkins or his canonists hope it means, the sentence he/they put so much stock in was obviously not drafted to stand up to close textual parsing. Else, all a Catholic would have to do to avoid the charge of acting in "defiance" of Church authority would be to decline recognizing Church authority in the first place!

Likewise, watch how Jenkin's claim that bestowing an honorary doctorate on the pro-abortion movement's most powerful politician ever does not "suggest support" for the politician's pro-abortion record, can be parsed into a defense of Jenkins: an honorary doctorate of law does not "suggest" support for a politicians' legal philosophy, no, instead it screams it. Therefore, Jenkins is not guilty of "suggesting" support. Aren't word games fun?

Seriously, what I wonder is, why, amid the canon lawyers Jenkins claims to have consulted, not one, it seems, pointed out the most obvious solutions to their client's problem:

The USCCB's statement applies only to "Catholic institutions", right? Well, all Jenkins and the ND board need do is declare that Notre Dame is not a "Catholic institution", and poof! all these problems disappear. Notre Dame could confer honorary doctorates in law on anybody it wants after that, even on people who have built a career out of denying unborn babies the protection of law, and nary a bishop would say a word about it.