Did you see that coming? Gonzaga University is taking heat for honoring Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Having more than one serious knee-jerk reaction to this contro-versy, I have to chime in.
It seems some conservative supporters of the local Jesuit university are upset , not about Tutu speaking on campus, but about his having the honor of delivering the commence-ment address and receiving an honorary degree.
One could say Tutu is being honored, but face it, this may be the 514th greatest honor ever for the diminutive icon and Nobel Peace laureate. It’s obvious, to anyone who pays attention, that Gonzaga and its graduates are the ones being honored by what could be one of Tutu’s last speaking engagements on this continent. And most of us who were on his side in the long struggle against Apartheid in South Africa are only resentful that we won’t be able to get within hailing distance of one of the great heroes of our time.
Critics of this “honor” point out that Tutu, an Anglican archbishop, has worked in opposition to certain matters of Roman Catholic doctrine. I’m reminded of a great man of even smaller stature whom many of us heard speak at Gonzaga years ago. The man was not only a Catholic archbishop, but a cardinal, as well. Dom Helder Camera of Brazil was every bit as controversial with Gonzaga donors, because his calling as a churchman had identified him with liberation theology and socialism. He may be best remembered for his statement, “When I feed the hungry, I am called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I am called a Communist.”
Interestingly, this flap coincides with Vatican sanctions against one of my favorite Catholic organizations, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Dis-Tutu crowd in Spokane must feel like they have friends in high places, as the top nuns in the U.S. are under attack for taking social justice positions that line up better with Archbishop Tutu (and Jesus, from my biased perspective) than with the Pope.
If you hate the idea of Tutu getting to Gonzaga’s bully pulpit, count your blessings. There are plenty of Catholics you would like even less, some of whom I’ve heard at G.U. And if you’re real nice and generous to the school, maybe you can get Rick Santorum for next year. – RN