Fordham draws more criticism for awarding ethics prize to Justice Breyer

Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Stephen G. Breyer


Fordham University’s plans to award Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer an ethics prize at a Wednesday night dinner in New York continue to draw criticism for honoring the justice who has supported abortion rights to the point that he defends partial-birth abortions as constitutionally protected.

Archbishop of New York Cardinal Edward Egan has reportedly called on the university’s leaders to ensure “a mistake of this sort will not happen again,” the Associated Press reports.

The Cardinal Newman Society is one group leading the campaign against awarding Breyer the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. The group claims more than 1,100 Fordham alumni and others have signed a petition to the university administration calling for the award to be revoked.

The petition cites Justice Breyer’s majority opinion in the 2000 case Sternberg v. Carhart that struck down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion and also notes that the justice dissented from a 2007 Supreme Court decision upholding the ban.

“Fordham is honoring Justice Breyer for his leadership on legal ethics,” Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly told CNA. “Not only was Justice Breyer's decision defending partial-birth abortion clearly unethical from a Catholic perspective—in accord with the truth to which a Catholic university must commit itself—but by legislating from the bench to protect a false 'right to choose,' Justice Breyer is no model of legal ethics either.”

According to The Ram, the student newspaper at Fordham, the campus pro-life group Fordham Respect for Life reports that several Jesuit priests, faculty, and staff at the university have expressed support for the protest.

“Alumni and faculty are now much more aware of the problem and have expressed their displeasure with the situation,” a Fordham RFL student said, speaking of the petition. “We think that we have brought the matter to people's attention.”

The student added that the group feels its media campaign to pressure the administration has been “very successful.”

“And we hope that we have helped initiate discussion throughout the University community which will lead to positive policy changes for the future,” the student continued.

Sheldon Momaney, president of the Respect for Life Club, explained the reasons for the protest to The Ram:

“We would never deny that Justice Breyer is a man of great intellect, a good lawyer and that he contributed a lot to jurisprudence," he said.

"We're interested in the teaching of the Church, which says that the right to life is a fundamental right, from which all other human rights extend. Justice Breyer had multiple times in his career when he actively opposed the right to life. His behavior is not in line with the teaching of the Church - he's not Catholic, so it's nothing about him personally.

“But the onus is on the University in this case, not on Justice Breyer. They are just plain denying their mission statement and the unchanging teaching of the Church.”

The university’s mission statement reads in part: “Guided by its Catholic and Jesuit traditions, Fordham fosters the intellectual, moral and religious development of its students and prepares them for leadership in a global society.”

Jennifer Portillo, Respect for Life Club treasurer, also weighed in:

“Justice Breyer has consistently supported decisions that allow for late-term abortions.  Condoning the ending of any life goes directly against the value of justice that Catholicism pursues.  Fordham must commit to being 'the hottest Catholic school in America,' by being a true Catholic institution.  It is the responsibility of the student body to object to an award that blatantly disregards Fordham's stated values, and it is for this reason that I support Respect for Life's cause.”

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