John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 2, 2013
Note: Following are Garvey’s prepared remarks.
President Garvey Greets Chen Guangcheng
He Praises Chen's 'valiant advocacy for human rights in China'
Thank you all for coming. On behalf of The Catholic University of America, I am delighted to welcome Chen Guangcheng as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at our Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. Mr. Chen’s valiant advocacy for human rights in China has awakened the world to the barbarity of China’s one-child policy, and to the cruel reality of forced abortions in China. He has actively campaigned for the rights of women, the poor, and the disabled.
Mr. Chen’s commitment to protecting the rights of the poor and vulnerable resonates with our mission at The Catholic University of America. As a Catholic institution we have a particular commitment to the message of the gospel, which teaches that the poor and the vulnerable are especially worthy of our kindness and mercy. We believe that all people are created with equal dignity because they are children of God. The lesson of the Declaration of Independence has its roots in this faith – that God’s children are endowed by their Creator with inalienable human rights. As Pope John XXIII wrote in Pacem in Terris 50 years ago:
Any well-regulated and productive association . . . in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual . . . is truly a person . . . endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties . . . These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. (Pacem in Terris)
More recently and more locally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirmed this commitment to human rights in a statement on faithful citizenship in 2007. The conference wrote:
Human Life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society . . . Human dignity is respected and the common good is fostered only if human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met. (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States)
We greatly admire Mr. Chen’s bravery in defending basic human rights in China. We consider his work as an advocate consonant with the academic mission of a Catholic university. By virtue of our faith, we are dedicated to supporting the international struggle for the recognition of human dignity and the protection of basic human rights. We welcome the opportunity to support Mr. Chen in his advocacy.
We also see it as a benefit to our academic community. We were founded by the bishops of this country for the purpose of serving “the Church, the nation, and the world.” Our founders selected Washington, D.C. as a home for The Catholic University of America because of its status as a center for national and world politics. Among their goals was creating a place for the Church to reflect on the domestic and international political challenges of the day. We believe Mr. Chen’s work will play an important role in helping us fulfill that aspect of our purpose.
As a Catholic institution, we are also deeply committed to the moral formation of our students. We aspire to provide moral exemplars in our teachers and scholars. Mr. Chen’s heroic moral witness provides a model for the kind of courageous commitment to protecting human dignity and advancing human rights that we hope for in our students. His fortitude and perseverance are virtues we hope our students will imitate.
As President of The Catholic University of America, I am delighted to welcome Mr. Chen to our campus. We have great hope for his advocacy, and offer our enthusiastic support for his defense of basic human rights in China and around the world. We look forward to a wonderful, fruitful partnership with Mr. Chen, the Witherspoon Institute, and the Lantos Foundation. Thank you.