As dean, Garvey also defended Boston College law professor Scott Fitzgibbon when he spoke out in favor of Maine’s Question 1, which restored the state’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In a 2009 campaign ad, Fitzgibbon predicted a “flood of lawsuits” if state recognition of same-sex “marriage” were not repealed. This drew criticism from homosexual activists as well as their allies among college faculty and staff.
Believer in the power of academic freedom
In response, Garvey issued a statement noting that some had been angered by the professor’s position and reiterating that Boston College does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. He explained that the professor is “free to express his views,” noting that other professors have supported a view contrary to Fitzgibbons and are free to express that view publicly.
He did not refer to Catholic teaching or the Catholic identity of the school, but rather invoked “intellectual freedom,” an oft-mentioned ideal of his.
In a 2002 letter, Garvey tried to allay concern that Boston College’s Catholic identity will require “a certain orthodoxy,” claiming that “no school that regulates ideas can justly call itself a university.”
Garvey also expressed faith that free argument would resolve the questions surrounding the Terri Schiavo case in a 2005 dean’s column in BC Law Magazine. He said he was unsure what to think of the case, writing “as in abortion cases, the courts seem more eager to end life than the elected branches.” However, he also noted the argument that medical decision-making should be private.
He “heartily” endorsed John Stuart Mill’s argument about liberty of thought and discussion as a way forward.
In that same piece, he also described himself as someone “dead set against abortion.”
As dean, Garvey was criticized by the Cardinal Newman Society in 2007 when Boston College’s law school gave an honorary degree to Rep. Edward J. Markey, a pro-abortion Democrat from Massachusetts. The U.S. Catholic bishops have said Catholic institutions should not honor “those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
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In 2008 others criticized the college for inviting as commencement speaker then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Critics felt he was a symbol for torture practices like waterboarding.
Garvey debated whether to avoid such controversies in his column in the Spring / Summer 2008 edition of BC Law Magazine. Noting the disputes both over Mukasey and over pro-abortion speakers at Catholic schools, he said it was “a high price to pay” to stop inviting prominent people “because their actions are bound to upset one faction or another.”
Rather, he announced, Boston College had decided no longer to give medals or degrees at graduation “to make it easier to invite people of the stature of the Attorney General without having an annual disagreement to mar the day.”
Garvey succeeds Fr. David M. O’Connell as CUA president.