By Michelle Boorstein
A pro-choice White House is already providing new challenges for Washington-area Catholic leaders.
First, Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl was asked to comment on the University of Notre Dame’s recent controversial decision to give the president an honorary degree. Earlier this week, some Catholics alerted the archdiocese that Vice President Joe Biden was given an award by a pro-choice organization at another Catholic school — Georgetown University.
On Wednesday, Biden was given an award by Legal Momentum, which was founded as NOW’s legal defense group and is a non-profit focused on advancing the rights and education of women and girls – including reproductive freedom. The award was part of an all-day event marking the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which Biden wrote. The day was co-sponsored by Legal Momentum and Georgetown University Law Center’s Journal of Gender and the Law.
Wuerl wrote to the school, said archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs, “expressing concern that it happened and noting the confusion that happens by having an event by entities that are at odds with Catholic teaching.” It wasn’t clear if Wuerl would have been satisfied if Georgetown had addressed the issue publicly beforehand.
Gibbs noted that the circumstances were very different than those at Notre Dame, where it is the school itself that is honoring Obama. In Biden’s case, Georgetown was merely acting as the host. Even so, Wuerl has been known to have moderate responses to these controversies. When asked about the Notre Dame event, which has spurred a small but intense movement of angry Catholics, Wuerl said the school should not have honored Obama but that he was not in favor of rescinding the invite.
Georgetown Law Center issued a statement last night saying the school “is proud of its Catholic and Jesuit identity and its core values of respect for and service to others. As part of its educational mission, the Law Center routinely organizes and hosts conferences about critical legal and policy issues providing for a free exchange of ideas and perspectives. While students and faculty may invite speakers and host events, the views of the speakers are not endorsed by nor do they necessarily reflect the views of Georgetown.”