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

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Michael Novak Laments Ave Maria's Loss Of Jackson Labs

Michael Novak loves Ave Maria. No problem there - there are some good things about Ave Maria. But sometimes Novak's cheerleading for Ave Maria is giddily over-the-top, in my opinion. And other times, Novak's love for Ave Maria has made him say some very foolish things; in this last example, Novak brushed off the occasion of two law professors being denied tenure undeservingly and on false pretenses, a potential career killer, because the professors were "generously" given a paid year on leave of absence. Novak then insinuated that the dismissal of the third professor, a tenured professor who was terminated for entirely bogus sexual harassment claims, was likely justified and that criticisms to the contrary may be illegitimate.

Fortunately, Novak doesn't stoop as low as that in his most recent Ave Maria article, "Postcard from Florida," but I still find his article disappointing. Novak first praises the new marble Annunciation relief that was placed on the Ave Maria oratory. I'm sure that the sculpture is quite beautiful, but I was amused at Novak's accolades:
Trumpets! Jubilation! That is the mood I felt on watching the last few large blocks of heavy marble being lifted into place on the gothic archway, as the light of the fading sunset reddened the pure white stone, and bystanders and workers cheered in relief after days and days of suspense. The total weight of the marble exceeds 60 tons. One mistake, one sagging line, and the whole project might have been ruined for a long time.
Heh. Is it wrong for me to think that the whole project has been ruined for a long time because of its unfortunate placement on an ugly piece of church architecture?

Novak's article becomes more disappointing when he discusses Ave Maria's loss of Jackson Labs. Novak first says that AMU Professor "Waldstein recently delivered a stirring public defense" of Jackson Labs. I guess Novak didn't read my rebuttal of Waldstein's position. Novak then gives this reason for lamenting the loss of Jackson Labs:
Jackson Labs seems to be moving elsewhere. Some of the faculty here regard this as a great opportunity lost. These visionaries are longing for opportunities to pioneer a new way of addressing new technologies and new empirical methods of inquiry. They hope not to bury their heads in the sand regarding these questions, and not to avoid them, but to study the issues from a fresh Catholic point of view. Indeed, most of those at AMU hope to make the university an institution of exploration and creativity, not simply an institution of retreat from the world.......
On the scientific front, let us hope we shall have another opportunity to engage the best scientific explorers in the nation "up close and personal."
Novak misses the point, like so many others. The issue is not whether Catholics can engage with Jackson Labs; the issue is whether it is morally permissible to cooperate with Jackson Labs by selling a land interest for a new facility and by publicly encouraging and inviting Jackson Labs to expand to Ave Maria. And contrary to Novak's claim that moral concerns about Jackson Labs are "speculative" because the concerns are about non-existent human embryonic stem cell research that might happen in the future, moral concerns aren't speculative as they rest on Jackson Labs's current practice of marketing services and resources specifically for HESC research and conducting HESC research workshops and demonstrations.

Luckily for those who supported the Jackson Labs facility in Ave Maria, with the Ave Maria deal falling apart, they can now avoid having to resolve the moral quandaries raised by their cooperation with Jackson Labs.