In my “real life”, for my sins no doubt, I am an attorney. Before I raise an argument in court before a judge or a jury, I always make sure it can pass the giggle test. It has two components: 1. Can I make the argument with a straight face; and 2. do I think a judge or a jury can hear the argument without giggling. The giggle test has saved me a lot of embarrassment over the years in court.
Jenkins of Notre Dame has obviously never heard of the giggle test. In defense of the decision of Notre Dame to invite Obama to be the commencement speaker on May 17, 2009, and to receive an honorary degree, he has raised the defense that this is all OK because Obama is not a Catholic.
“Because the title of the document is ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ we understood this to refer to honoring Catholics whose actions are not in accord with our moral principles,” Jenkins writes. “This interpretation was supported by canon lawyers we consulted, who advised us that, by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in ‘defiance’ of it.”
“Moreover, fellow university presidents have told me that their bishops have told them that in fact it is only Catholic politicians who are referred to in this document.”
Analysis to follow momentarily, but first an observation. How stupid does Jenkins believe his fellow Catholics are? Pretty stupid if he believes they will swallow this lame defense.
In his comments Jenkins states that he has consulted certain unnamed canon lawyers who stated that only Catholics who recognize the authority of the Church can act in defiance of it. Henry VIII, all is forgiven! Martin Luther, it was all a big misunderstanding. Chancellor Hitler, you can safely ignore Mit Brennender Sorge. Using Jenkins’ “logic”, one can assume that a Catholic pro-abort politician can be honored at any Catholic institution in this country if they first renounce the Catholic faith.
Canon Lawyer, Edward Peters, at his stunningly good blog In the Light of the Law, eviscerates Jenkins’ defense.
“Does Jenkins really think that Catholic bishops would countenance a Catholic institution honoring a philanthropic murderer, or a free-speech crusading pornographer, or a right-to-privacy pimp, provided merely that the awardee was not a Catholic? Really, that’s too bizarre for words.
But speaking of words, Jenkins’ unnamed canon lawyers (assuming, by the way, that they were answering the question Jenkins thought he was asking, and that Jenkins understood and is accurately conveying their response) tell him that “by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in ‘defiance’ of it.” Huh?
What’s this “by definition” stuff? What definition? A definition of “defiance”? The word “defiance” is not in the Code. Even the Latin pertinacia does not seem to apply to our facts, so, what exactly is Jenkins talking about here? I don’t know, but whatever Jenkins or his canonists hope it means, the sentence he/they put so much stock in was obviously not drafted to stand up to close textual parsing. Else, all a Catholic would have to do to avoid the charge of acting in “defiance” of Church authority would be to decline recognizing Church authority in the first place!”
Jenkins should think seriously about the giggle test before he opens his mouth again in defense of the indefensible.