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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The AMU-Golisano Controversy

I'm only catching up now on the recent Ave Maria University news. I'm particularly interested in the controversy over the $4 million donation to AMU in order to build an athletic complex from an apparently pro-choice billionaire, Tom Golisano. It also appears that the complex will be named after Golisano. (AveWatch has more analysis here, here, and here.)

When I first heard this story, my impression was that AveWatch was making a bigger deal about this than it really was. I don't think that there is anything problematic about a Catholic school accepting a donation from a pro-choice donor - after all, why should a school turn down help if someone offers it? Maybe the donor has had a personal change of heart, and even if he hasn't, why do the donor's private views matter to the school?

After additional thought, I realized that other factors might make this situation more problematic. First, I think the propriety of accepting a donation would depend greatly on the individual donor, whether the donor's pro-abortion views are prominent and well-known, and whether the donor has actively advanced his pro-abortion views. Accepting a donation from, say, Planned Parenthood might cause some scandal if the knowledge of the donation became public. In the particular case of Golisano, I'm not sure how well-known his views are or how active he has been in furthering abortion - not very much, I don't think, although I might be wrong.

But the more important factor, I think, is whether the school gives public honor to the pro-abortion person. This is the problem of Obama at Notre Dame: as the U.S. bishops have stated, a school should not honor those who act in defiance of moral principles if the honor would suggest support for their actions. In the Golisano case, it appears that the building will be named after him, which is an honor (and, I think, a greater honor than an honorary degree, such as in the Obama case).

If AMU is erring in honoring Golisano, there is much irony considering the fact that AMU has directly criticized Notre Dame about the Obama controversy and is using it to solicit donations. (See here and here. AMU's solicitation letter reads "To protest the honoring of the Pro Abortion Politicians at Catholic Universities and to help AMU lead the next U.S. generation to the teachings of the church, enclosed is my gift of $25 or $__")

What do you think? Is the Golisano donation no big deal? Or is it problematic and hypocritical? I'm interested in a reasonable discussion, so I'll be watching the comments. (And no, I'm not interested in the Marielena de Stuart story - I don't know all the facts and I think she gets too worked up about things sometimes).