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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Apocolocyntosis of Thomas Monaghan

It never ceases to amaze me that we are told--at least, implicitly--that those who are the purported leaders of the conservative (or orthodox) movement are never to be criticized. I have written elsewhere of the elitism of this crowd and how, in reality, they are indistinguishable from the liberal set in terms of holding on to their status as "leaders" for right thinking. Lest I be accused of disagreeing with much of their work, I acknowledge that much of it is to be praised. One need only think of the contributions to scholarship and the public square that these individuals have brought to bear in shaping culture and public policy. Nevertheless, these folks are not without their warts. In fact, I know that some of them can't bear to be criticized or to be poked fun at--especially by fellow conservatives. Apparently, what is happening in the blogosphere is now blowing the lid off of the conservative establishment and their icons, thus exposing them to their own faults and lapses in judgment or deviations from principle. (Surely there would be no lambasting of the sort found by critics of Fumare if we kept our criticism to Ted Kennedy and Cardinal Mahony! Yet some apply a different standard to the so-called "good guys.")

Let's be clear. No one is perfect. All of us make mistakes. But all of us are held to a high standard--in our families, our Church, our professions and, yes, even on the Boards which we sit. When a standard is not met, one should be prepared for criticism. The flip side to this is that the person in such a position should be prepared to do the work necessary to execute his responsibilities. Falling back on one's exalted status as a Cardinal-Archbishop, multi-millionaire, public intellectual or Washington power broker does not = doing one's job.

What accounts for the Board of Governors real or perceived inaction? What has come out in small group discussions or through other venues is that they are rightly concerned with the financial well-being of the institution. But this as the ultima ratio of the decisions concerning the law school is an inversion of a true hierarchy of values that one would expect of an authentically Catholic institution. It smacks of a pragmatism and lack of faith and--even more--a decision to ignore a basic tenet of the law: pacta sunt servanda. In the instant case, part of this pragmatism is probably a desire to "keep Tom happy." The divinization of Thomas Monaghan because he is dedicating his fortune to solid Catholic causes is completely misplaced and will not serve as a cover to the injustices that have been committed to get to the end. As classic Catholic moral theology teaches, "the end doesn't justify the means." A catalogue of this principle being jettisoned by the powers that be in this controversy--and others like it--is not appropriate here. Suffice it to say, its evidence is indisputable and attested to by individuals with impeccable credentials as well as the "regular joes" whose credibility also is beyond reproach.

I have always been curious why the Board must be treated with "kid gloves." The bottom line is that this controversy has been raging in earnest for almost two years. At various points the Board could have done some due diligence (e.g., meeting with the faculty after the no confidence vote). Instead, there has been a desire to circle the wagons and protect their powerful clique. Critics of their actions are called "insulting and counterproductive." I have no reason to believe that the Board will make friends with Fumare (specifically me and Cas), nor do I much care at this point. What I do know is that TM and the individual members of the Board are human persons, as such I see no need for apotheosis.

I pray that the Catholic Church is not a hobby to be enjoyed, but rather a Faith to be lived.