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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cardinal Comments on Rice Expulsion

ROME (AP)--Why would the internal struggles of a law school in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States matter to an elderly Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Rome? Well, if that school fashions itself as the bearer of a tradition that safeguards the dignity of the human person and the common good and affirms Catholic legal education's traditional emphasis on the only secure foundation for human freedom--the natural law written on the heart of every human being, then surely it would interest this 98 year old canon lawyer and Prince of the Church. Giovanni Cardinal Marotta, who made international headlines last June for calling Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy a "fat drunk," is one of the most senior officials of the Catholic Church and an acute observer of things legal and political. The tumultuous events surrounding the Ave Maria School of Law over the last year have not only gained the attention of legal and educational observers in Michigan, but now also at the very epicenter of Catholicism--Rome. Cardinal Marotta is known for his quick wit, his penchant for pithy Latin phrases, and his delight in controversy. He is also a long time collaborator and friend of Professor Charles E. Rice.

It seems that the recent firing of Professor Charles E. Rice is what aroused anger in the elderly Cardinal. "Administratio Ave Mariae Instituti Iuris delenda est! Carole, ad multos annos! Oremus pro invicem." he was quoted as saying from his residence at the Villa Santa Zita just outside Rome. The Dean and President of Ave Maria School of Law, Bernard Dobranski, fired Rice in a August 11, 2006 Letter and cited Rice’s "baseless and personal attacks on the Board [of Governors]" of the Ave Maria School of Law over recent controversies at the school. The alleged attacks are attributed to a letter sent by Professor Rice on May 5, 2006. Shortly before this letter, both the law school's faculty and the school's Alumni Association Board of Directors had both issued Resolutions of No Confidence in the Dean's leadership and failure to address substantive questions regarding a possible relocation of the school to Florida.

"His Eminence has always been a great champion of the natural law and had worked closely with Professor Rice on a number of projects," says Marotta’s former student, Fr. Hilario Lim, J.C.D., canonist and member of the Roman Rota, the Catholic Church's Supreme Tribunal. "Hearing of what the Dean did to Professor Rice is--I am speechless. I can't say any more than that. Truly it is a sad day." Cardinal Marotta had worked with Professor Rice on developing a comprehensive natural law Jurisprudence curriculum for Roman seminaries and canonical schools that incorporated the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and recent Magisterial documents. "I recall the times when His Eminence would be trading barbs with Professor Rice. It was very humorous," said Lim. "On one occasion, they were working on a syllabus to be used in some of the Roman seminaries. Suddenly--and without warning--His Eminence took off his pectoral cross, rolled up his sleeves, and challenged Rice to a boxing match. I was stunned. It seemed to come out of nowhere! Needless to say, Rice took the challenge and the two took the sparring outside—right out on the veranda of the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith! Quite a crowd gathered—including Cardinal Ottaviani himself." (Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was the then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and one time superior to Cardinal Marotta.) "It looked like Rice was going to have his way with His Eminence," Lim continued, "but it was the other way around. Everyone had a great time and His Eminence bought Professor Rice a Guiness afterwards. What a wonderful friendship."

It seems that Cardinal Marotta is the most recent in a long line of supporters of Professor Rice. What the outcome of this latest controversy will be no one knows, but what is known is the love and devotion students, colleagues and people have for Professor Charles E. Rice.