Catholic University Professors Blast Pro-Life Boehner on Commencement

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2011   |   11:05AM   |   Washington, DC

Speaker John Boehner, the pro-life Republican who heads the House of Representatives, is slated to deliver the commencement address at Catholic University, but a group of professors there have blasted him in a new letter.

More than 75 professors from CUA and other colleges have signed a letter criticizing Boehner and saying they don’t like that he will deliver the graduation speech because the Republican-supported budget he moved through the House supposedly hurts the poor.

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the letter claims, according to the New York Times. “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.”

They criticize Boehner’s policies as “anti-life” — which pro-life advocates find offensive in light of his strong pro-life record on abortion issues.

UPDATE: Boehner, during his weekly news conference, responded to a question about the criticism.

“I’m a big believer that in a country like ours those who have the opportunity to succeed and do succeed have a responsibility to help those who can’t compete. I’ve always believed this,” Boehner, a Catholic, responded, according to The Los Angeles Times. “I believe the actions that I’ve taken in my years in Congress uphold the values of my faith.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told the Times in response: “The speaker will be delivering a personal, nonpolitical message at the Catholic University of America that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations. He is deeply honored to have been invited by C.U.A. 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.”

He noted that an editorial in The Tower, the student newspaper, shows students disagree with the liberal professors.

“Politics and speaker policy aside, choosing Boehner as the commencement speaker is not only something we can brag about to our friends and relatives, but it moves the University in the right direction, towards presenting itself as a competitive institution in the District and on a national level,” the paper wrote. “Snagging the third most powerful person in the American government is no small feat for our campus. It is a great accomplishment, one that every student, not only the class of 2011, should be proud of.”

John Garvey, the president of Catholic University, made the decision to invite Boehner and had the support of the Board of Trustees and prominent bishops and cardinals who serve on it.

The issue of graduation speakers at Catholic colleges is usually one that frustrates pro-life advocates as colleges select speakers who violate the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church. The most prominent example came when pro-abortion President Barack Obama gave the graduation address at Notre Dame and received an honorary degree from the college considered to be one of the top Catholic universities in the nation.

Leading pro-life groups have praised Boehner for pushing pro-life issues in the House.

“We are encouraged that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have made the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ a priority,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said.

Last year, he was awarded by both the National Right to Life Committee and Americans United for Life.

During his acceptance speech, Boehner said, “America is a nation that is built on freedom, but without respect for life that freedom is in jeopardy When we reaffirm our commitment to life we reaffirm our commitment to freedom. We should always err on the side of life and respect the dignity of human life. We have a moral obligation to defend the defenseless and there is nothing more defenseless and more innocent than an unborn baby. The defense of life and the defense of freedom are necessarily linked and, if we accept that, we can’t accept the current agenda in Washington.”

“I never sought to be recognized as a leader of a movement or wear my pro-life credentials on my sleeve. I just voted for what I thought was right and spoke out on what I thought was right. But, if you believe in the right to life, being quiet isn’t good enough,” the GOP House leader continued.