New York’s Fordham University has found itself at the center of some controversy lately surrounding its decision to honor Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer with the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. The award is meant to honor those “whose work exemplifies outstanding standards of professional conduct” and “promotes the advancement of justice.” But according to Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly, who is also a graduate of Fordham, Justice Breyer’s support for abortion rights makes him an unsuitable candidate for the prize.
Mr. Reilly has gathered over a thousand signatures calling for the award to be rescinded, claiming that giving it to someone who is so staunchly pro-choice is an “affront” to the Church’s teachings. And Fordham University is after all, a Catholic university. Still, some question why Justice Breyer is being singled out when former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both supporters of abortion rights, also received the award with little if any opposition. Mr. Reilly simply dismisses the inconsistency by saying that those awards must not have been brought to the society’s attention.
Not to worry though, Mr. Reilly’s particular brand of orthodoxy is equal-opportunity. It seems that Boston College’s decision to host an event that featured Sen. John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, was also inappropriate in his view. Despite the fact that Sen. McCain has a strong record of opposition to abortion, it seems his support for stem-cell research is enough to disqualify him from any recognition by Catholic universities. Still, we can’t help but wonder: if Mr. Reilly would limit his list of potential honorees so strictly, would there really be anyone left to recognize?