As I noted elsewhere, Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn was scheduled to speak this evening at the University of Notre Dame. I just returned from the talk. It was outstanding and powerful. Mr. McGurn, who I had the privilege to speak with after his lecture, offered a principled defense of his point of view while being charitable to those with whom he disagrees.
The Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture has published the text of the talk online, which you can find here. The following are some excerpts:
The precipitate cause of our gathering tonight is the honor and platform our university has extended to a President whose policies reflect clear convictions about unborn life, and about the value the law ought to place on protecting that life. These convictions are not in doubt. In July 2007, the candidate spelled them out in a forceful address to a Planned Parenthood convention in our nation’s capital.
Before that audience, he declared that a woman’s “fundamental right” to an abortion was at stake in the coming election. He spoke about how he had “put Roe at the center” of his “lesson plan on reproductive freedom” when he was a professor – and how he would put it at the center of his agenda as president.
He invoked his record in the Illinois state senate, where he fought restrictions on abortion, famously including one on partial-birth abortion. He said that the “first thing” he wanted to do as President was to “sign a Freedom of Choice Act.” And he ended by assuring his audience that “on this fundamental issue,” he, like they, would never yield....
In the past few weeks, we have read more than once the suggestion that to oppose this year’s speaker and honorary degree is to elevate politics over the proper work of a university. In many ways, we might say that such reasoning lies at the core of the confusion. As has become clear with America’s debates over the destruction of embryos for scientific research, over human cloning, over assisted suicide, and over other end-of-life issues, abortion as a legal right is less a single issue than an entire ethic that serves as the foundation stone for the culture of death.
With the idea that one human being has the right to take the life of another merely because the other’s life is inconvenient, our culture elevates into law the primacy of the strong over the weak. The discord that this year’s commencement has unleashed – between Notre Dame and the bishops, between members of the Notre Dame community, between Notre Dame and thousands of discouraged Catholic faithful – all this derives from an approach that for decades has treated abortion as one issue on a political scorecard. This is not the road to engagement. This is the route to incoherence, and we see its fruit everywhere in our public life.
Twenty-five years ago, on a similar stage on this campus, the then-governor of New York used his Notre Dame platform to advance the personally opposed-but defense that countless numbers of Catholic politicians have used to paper over their surrender to legalized abortion. Eight years after that, the school bestowed the Laetare Medal on a United States Senator who had likewise long since cut his conscience to fit the abortion fashion.
You can ride the whole thing here.