One theme that has sprung into being keeps cropping up rather regularly, almost as if left-leaning Catholics were receiving talking points from somewhere--but as everyone knows, only right-wing conservatives get talking points; liberals are all highly independent thinkers who just happen to reach the same conclusions within moments of each other, which makes it convenient for them to post the same thoughts on multiple Internet conversations all at once. This theme goes as follows:
- Mary Ann Glendon was ambassador to the Holy See during the Bush administration.
- The Bush administration condoned torture.
- Mary Ann Glendon did not resign her position.
- Therefore, Mary Ann Glendon wholeheartedly approves of the intrinsic evil of torture, and her refusal to accept the award from Notre Dame is a purely partisan act.
- Thus, Catholics who were already inclined to applaud ND for honoring Obama may continue to do so in perfectly good conscience.
That said, however, this notion that the fact that Glendon didn't resign as ambassador sometime during the Bush administration removes her credibility to object to ND's choice to honor the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had is pernicious nonsense. If we are going to claim that only those who wholeheartedly and enthusiastically accept every action of a presidential administration, even actions which for a long time were kept secret or outright lied about, may serve in that administration, then I think we've pretty much made it impossible for any Catholic at any time to serve in any high-level government position. And if we're going to insist that Glendon must have approved of torture, or else she would have resigned her post, then what are we to make of all those "personally opposed, buts..." serving presently in this administration--should we now insist that if they don't resign their positions they must necessarily accept the president's views on infanticide?
Moreover, as some have pointed out already, there is a difference between the Bush administration on torture and this current administration on abortion. If Bush had been elected on the strength of his promise to torture our enemies, if a strong "pro-torture" faction existed which pumped countless thousands of dollars into his campaign, if Glendon in order to serve in the administration had to quell any moral qualms she had about torture and come up with some kind of, "Well, I'm personally opposed to torture, but..." formulation in order to get the post, if her job required her to gloss over Catholic teaching on torture on a constant basis, then perhaps the comparison might be valid. But there is not (as of yet, anyway) a strong, vocal "pro-torture" movement; even in the Republican party itself there are plenty of people who abhor it. There is no such thing as the "National Enhanced Interrogation Rights Action League (NEIRAL);" there is no "Planned Bauerhood" group which celebrates torture as a right and raises money to support it. President Bush did not campaign on a pro-torture platform; the tactic used was to deny torture was happening, and when that didn't work anymore to quibble about "enhanced interrogation" and insist firmly that whatever was going on, if something were going on which they didn't admit, it wasn't torture, because we don't torture people, etc.
So it is perfectly possible to suppose that many Catholics who worked in positions in the Bush administration do not now, and never did, approve of torture, because it is a fact that the Bush administration did not commit itself openly to torture or insist that its appointees pass a "pro-torture litmus test" as a condition of their employment. Similarly, it is theoretically possible for a Catholic to hold a post within the Obama administration and yet to be vocally and openly pro-life (though thus far Obama hasn't even tried to appoint such a person, not even to Glendon's former post as ambassador to the Holy See). But it is not possible to claim that a Catholic university can honor the most pro-abortion president America has ever had with an honorary degree while simultaneously showing in a clear and unequivocal way their disapproval of abortion; and it was beyond disingenuous for Father Jenkins to claim that awarding the Latare Medal to Mary Ann Glendon was a sufficient act of "equal time" that would provide that unequivocal clarity.
To her credit, Glendon recognized both this reality and the clear fact that Notre Dame was ignoring the bishops' instructions in their 2004 letter, Catholics in Political Life, and thus declined the honor. People who think that this is a partisan act, or that her former position as ambassador to the Holy See somehow makes her a torture apologist, are the ones guilty of a partisanship which won't allow them to see the naked evil of Barack Obama's views and actions on abortion for what they really are.