Seton Hall University Regrets Award to Pro-Abortion Judge

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 22, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Seton Hall University Regrets Award to Pro-Abortion Judge

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 22, 2004

Newark, NJ ( — Seton Hall University now regrets giving an award to a judge who previously overturned a ban on partial-birth abortions. After receiving sharp criticism from the pro-life community, Catholics, and even its own Archbishop, a spokesperson for Seton Hall University has said the University will reconsider future awards.

Maryanne Trump Barry, a judge with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Philadelphia, received the 12th annual Sandra Day O’Connor Medal of Honor, sponsored by student groups and presented on University Grounds by O’Connor herself. Both Judges have handed down ruling striking down partial-birth abortion bans.

"As we have always stated, Seton Hall’s commitment to the gospel of life is absolute," Natalie Thigpen, a spokesperson for the university said in a prepared statement yesterday. "The conferral of awards to people who publicly espouse views that are contrary to the university’s fundamental Catholic identity is a serious lapse."

An earlier statement from the university merely stated, "The award that will be given at the Law School is not a reflection of University policy. The University regrets whatever confusion or misunderstanding this has caused."

The University has not discussed prior award recipients who are pro-abortion, including New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, or of the pro-abortion namesake of the award, Associate Justice of the Supreme court Sandra Day O’Connor.

Pro-life and Catholic organizations criticized Seton Hall’s handling of the complaints, saying the statements did too little, too late.

"In this case, everybody knows both justices’ involvement," said Larry Cirignano of, a Catholic organization that promotes voting. "It was not a secret, it was never taken into consideration, and when it was taken to their attention, instead of canceling it, they adamantly went on. … It hasn’t been something that came out of the blue. Their Catholic identity should be in question."

Fr. Peter West of Priests for Life believes the institution’s actions in presenting the award to pro-abortion Judge Barry speak louder than its words.

"The Gospel of Life as well as common human decency requires that we not honor those who devalue and fail to protect innocent human life," Fr. West told "Partial-birth abortion is one the most horrific attack on a human being imaginable. By honoring those who would keep such a procedure legal shows that Seton Hall University Law School has given mere lip service to ‘the Gospel of Life’ while continuing to betray it in deed."

James Goodness, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark, which includes the Catholic university, said Archbishop John Myers "is extremely upset by" the award.

"The Archdiocese was not notified of the Law school’s intent to present this award, nor were we involved in any way in the selection of any individual for an award," Goodness wrote.

In fact, Bishop Myers, president of the school’s governing boards, publicly denounced the ceremony in his column in the Catholic Advocate, the Archdiocesan newspaper.

"I find this action profoundly offensive and contrary to the Catholic mission and identity of Seton Hall Law School, Seton Hall University, and the Archdiocese of Newark," wrote Myers. He added that he is "proceeding in a way both to clarify the situation and to see that it does not occur again" and is "determining the appropriate action to be taken."

According to Goodness, University officials approached the law school about the award prior to the ceremony, but Law School Dean Patrick Hobbs insisted that the even continue as planned.

The award is made possible by the Seton Hall Women’s Law Forum, the Seton Hall Law Review and the Seton Hall Legislative Bureau, and will take place on Friday at the Seton Hall School of Law. According to the University, the award "honors women who have distinguished themselves in the fields of law and public service."

Related Sites:
Seton Hall University –
Priests for Life –