A New York Catholic university law school’s choice of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to receive an ethics award prompted a strong case of Cardinal Edward Egan vs. Fordham University because of Breyer’s support for abortion.
Breyer, who is to receive the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize at a dinner in New York City Wednesday night, has violated Catholic teachings with key opinions regarding abortion, according to Egan and other anti-abortion advocates.
Their stance against honoring Breyer, who is Jewish, focuses on the fact that he wrote the majority opinion in a 2000 case that struck down a Nebraska law banning the so-called "partial-birth" abortion procedure. He also dissented in a case last year that upheld a federal law banning that procedure.
Egan voiced his opposition after the Cardinal Newman Society, an anti-abortion group that also is a watchdog for Catholic universities, raised objections this month.
Egan, whose position as archbishop of New York traditionally makes him the unofficial spokesman for U.S. Catholics, talked to Fordham officials in an effort to ensure "that a mistake of this sort will not happen again," archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told the Associated Press Monday.
William Treanor, dean of Fordham’s School of Law, had issued a statement on the university’s Web site announcing the award that “Justice Breyer has devoted his life to the public good. As a jurist, his opinions have been marked by thoughtfulness, balance, rigor, and a commitment to justice and liberty.”
But Fordham Respect for Life, a group of anti-abortion students, organized a petition pushing for revocation of the award, according to LifeNews.com. More than 1,100 have signed the petition.
Breyer will be the seventh justice to receive the award from Fordham's law school. Five of the six previous recipients from the Supreme Court voted in support of abortion rights, and their awards drew no apparent protest, according to The Washington Post.
But the Cardinal Newman Society has become increasingly vocal in fighting the efforts of Catholic colleges and universities such as Fordham to honor those who do not agree with the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion stance.
Although Egan, like other Catholic prelates around the globe, has criticized Catholic elected officials and candidates who support abortion rights, archdiocesan spokesman Zwilling told The Washington Post that this is the first case he is aware of in which the cardinal has objected publicly to giving an award to someone over the abortion issue.
The Cardinal Newman Society alleged that Fordham not in step with Catholic bishops, who adopted a document entitled Catholics in Political Life in 2004.
“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” the document says. “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
The Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize is an annual award from Fordham law’s Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. It is intended to recognize someone who “exemplifies outstanding standards of professional conduct, promotes the advancement of justice, and brings credit to the profession by emphasizing in the public mind the contributions of lawyers to our society and to our democratic system of government,” according to the university’s Web site.
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