Dr. Paul Kengor - Guest Columnist -
In May 1995, his first year as Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge was invited by Gannon University, a Catholic college in Erie, Pa., to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree. But the distinguished Republican and native son had a problem: he was a pro-choice Catholic. Erie Bishop Donald Trautman expressed his "concerns." Governor Ridge declined the degree. "The last thing I would want is for those differences to distract in any way from this wonderful day of recognition for Gannon's class of 1995," said Ridge. His spokesman explained that the decision "came from the governor." Ridge did the right thing. He did the character thing.
That wasn't the only case. As far back as June 1974, shortly after Roe v. Wade became law, the famous Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty refused an invitation and honorary degree from the University of Santa Clara because of an abortion controversy involving the university. Mindszenty did the character thing.