Ireland's prime minister Edna Kenny isn't the first abortion-rights proponent to be honored by the college. In Scott Brown, delivered the commencement address at the Boston College School of Law. In 2007, the law school invited Edward Markey—a Massachusetts Congressman with a 100% abortion rights voting record in Congress—to speak at its commencement. In 2006, Mr. Markey joined 54 other Catholic Democrats in the House in signing a "Catholic Statement of Principles," reserving the right to disagree with the Catholic Church on important issues like abortion. Mr. Markey is now running for John Kerry's vacated Senate seat. There has been an uneasy relationship between the church and the wider Boston College campus community as well. In 2009, when college administrators placed 40 crucifixes on classroom walls throughout the Boston campus, a number of faculty members were furious. In interviews with the Boston Herald and InsideHigherED.com, one professor described the display of crucifixes as offensive, while another found it "insensitive" and "indicative of a bias toward one way of thinking, elevating one set of ideals above others, honoring one group of people in preference to the rest." Complaining about the crucifixes,2010, the pro-choice Republican senator from Massachusetts,
Boston College Chemistry professor Amir Hoyveda wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Herald, saying that he could "hardly imagine a more effective way to denigrate the faculty of an educational institution."
Boston College pro-choice law students have formed BC Law Students for Reproductive Justice. On their website as of May 16, the Boston College pro-choice law students vow to "promote awareness of reproductive issues in order "to ensure that future lawyers will be prepared to successfully defend and expand reproductive rights."
In a sense the professors and students are continuing the tradition of the longtime proponent of abortion rights, the late Rev. Robert Drinan, who was dean of Boston College Law School for 14 years (1956-70) before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. While a congressman, Drinan could be counted on to vote for increased access to abortion, just as earlier, while a dean, he had helped counsel Catholic politicians on how to accept and promote abortion with a clear conscience. In 2011, the Boston College Law School held a symposium to honor Drinan.
Yet Cardinal O'Malley's refusal to countenance the college's support for Prime Minister Kenny may be a sign that things are about to change. In April, Pope Francis chose Cardinal O'Malley as one of eight cardinals to advise him on running the church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy. This honor brings with it a responsibility to ensure that Catholic colleges and universities are faithful to the Catholic mission. The cardinal's Boston College boycott is a good start.