Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Notre Dame and Obama

“Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions”.

These words were written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement in June, 2004. They should be at the center of the debate over the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at this year’s graduation and receive an honorary law degree. These words are the result of other Catholic institutions giving such honors or platforms to those who have acted in defiance of our fundamental moral principles before 2004, so this isn’t the first time the Church has encountered this. This situation is heightened, of course, because it involves the current President of the United States who is also the most powerful advocate of abortion and embryonic stem-cell research in the world.

I have seen, heard, and read different reactions of people to this– Catholics, non-Catholics, etc.. A parishioner and Notre Dame alumnus already regrets the contribution he gave his alma mater earlier this year. A Catholic commentator on a news cable network used this situation to present his laundry list of criticisms against the Church which he said is on “life support”. A commentary in yesterday’s Post referred to those Catholics who are protesting Notre Dame’s invitation as “conservative”. The author did not make a big point of it, but this is exactly how many in the media work: they use a catch word or phrase that immediately paints a biased picture. And, the image that was created with one word: “those crazy conservative Catholics are at it again!”

I would offer a couple of words that are more accurate and less polarizing: faithful and principled. First, we who object to Notre Dame inviting President Obama to speak at graduation and giving him an honorary degree are faithful Catholics. Faithful, mainly, because the U.S. bishops have said that Notre Dame shouldn’t do this! But, and this goes to the core of being a Catholic, more than that, we are faithful to the culture of life. President Obama has distinguished himself as a big proponent of the culture of death as a state senator (e.g., voted against the Infants Born Alive Act), as a U.S. senator (e.g., had the highest pro-abortion rating of any senator), and now as the President of the U.S. (ordered taxpayers to fund abortions overseas and embryonic-destructive research). In short, the University of “Our Lady” has invited the leader of the culture of death in the free world to speak to their graduates and to honor him with a degree. Catholics who are faithful to the culture of life are outraged by this.

Dr. Janet Smith (former professor at Notre Dame) made a compelling comparison in her letter to Notre Dame’s president:

“If someone like George Wallace had been elected president of the United States–no matter how much good he had done–no matter how many causes “near to Notre Dame’s heart” he had elevated, Notre Dame would not have invited him to be the commencement speaker nor given him an honorary degree, for the world would not have believed that Notre Dame remained “firm and unwavering” in its opposition to racism and would not have thought that Notre Dame was hoping to spark a national dialogue on racism. It would have thought Notre Dame had lost its mind and faith.”

Second, we are principled Catholics. It’s the principle of the thing! The principle of this thing has been very clearly laid out by the U.S. bishops: “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions”. The fundamental principle is that a Catholic institution should not give a platform to someone who advocates the culture of death. This is not just because they might promote an agenda that is opposed to the culture of life in their speech, but because it scandalously gives tacit approval of their actions.

Finally, some people have asked if there would be protest among Catholics if former President George W. Bush were speaking at Notre Dame, mainly because of his support of the war in Iraq which the Church has opposed. This recalls many of the debated issues in recent elections; we remember what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2003 (as Cardinal Ratzinger) - “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion”. While the Church opposes the war in Iraq, it does not condemn war as an inherent evil which it does with abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. Catholics are not obligated by the Church to oppose war and capital punishment in every case as they are obligated to oppose abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, racism, etc. in every case. So, it would be logical to say that Catholics are not obligated to oppose someone like Bush (in favor of war and capital punishment) speaking at Notre Dame as they are obligated to oppose someone like Obama (in favor of abortion and embryonic research) speaking there.

Please click on today’s title to join in the opposition.


At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get daily emails from a group called Lifenews, and they put together an interesting compilation of Obama’s “accomplishments” since taking the Oath of Office (take note- this all occurred over the short period of 71 days):

1/5 - picks pro-abortion Tim Kaine (VA Gov) as the chair of the Dem. Party.
1/6- picks Thomas Perrelli, the (atty. who rep’d Terri Schiavo’s husband to kill his wife), for high ranking position in the Justice Department.
1/22- Releases statement supporting for Roe v. Wade decision that has resulted in at least 50 million abortions since 1973.
1/23- Forces taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations. Decision to overturn Mexico City Policy sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations.
1/26- Obama’s nominee for Dep. Sec. of State, James B. Steinberg, tells Senate that taxpayers should be forced to fund abortions and says limits on abortion funding are unconstitutional.
1/29- Obama nominates pro-abortion David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General.
2/12- Obama nominates pro-abortion Elena Kagan to serve as Solicitor General.
2/27- Starts the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions.
2/28- Nominates pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius to become Sec. of Health and Human Services.
3/5- Obama admin. shut out pro-life groups from attending a White House-sponsored health care summit.
3/9- Obama signed an executive order forcing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.
3/10- Obama announces the creation of a new foreign policy position to focus on women's issues. He names Melanne Verveer, an abortion advocate, to occupy the post.
3/10- Reverses an executive order to press for more research into ways of obtaining embryonic stem cells without harming human life. The order Obama scrapped would have promoted new forms of stem cell research.
3/11- Signed an executive order establishing a new agency w/in his administration known as the White House Council on Women and Girls. Obama's director of public liaison at the White House is Tina Tchen, an abortion advocate.
3/11- Obama administration promotes an unlimited right to abortion at a United Nations meeting and denies negative effects of abortion.
3/17- President Barack Obama makes his first judicial appointment and names pro-abortion federal Judge David Hamilton to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is from Notre Dame's website-

“From its earliest days, Notre Dame’s distinctive mission has set it apart from other institutions of higher education. The difference lies not so much in terms of subject matter and academic disciplines as in the perception of how those disciplines ought to serve God and humanity. At the very heart of Notre Dame’s mission is its profound faith heritage and aspiration to be at the center of Catholic intellectual life—to be a bellwether institution in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, while remaining guided and elevated by the moral imperatives of the Catholic faith.”

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

So glad you brought up the topic…

One of the elements that I find so insulting is Obama’s acceptance of this invitation. Because he “can” come to speak does not mean that he should. It’s a slap in the face to so many who find his not only his views but his actions repugnant.

When told that Bishop John D’Arcy won’t attend w/Obama as the speaker, the White House spokesperson “shrugged it off.” Yeah- it’s no big deal that a leader of the Catholic faith for a Catholic University is absent so the president of the free-world-of choice can once again open his mouth.

It not only saddens me that those at Notre Dame are choosing this, but it sickens me that Obama cares so little for our beliefs that he finds his words more important than our sensibilities- more important than our faith. In this, I don’t care about being polarizing- you can call me conservative (though I do prefer faithful and principled) over being a disrespectful egomaniac any day!

At 4:27 PM, Blogger fran said...

I had thought about writing a letter to the editor regarding yesterday's commentary in the Post.

My "beef" with it was the title itself, "Why Notre Dame Should Honor Obama." Maybe I am off track here, or just parsing words, but just because an honorary degree is being conferred, does not, in my opinion, equal giving honor to the person.

The article even stated, "He will receive an honorary degree because it is the custom, not as a blessing on any of his decisions." So, what's to honor? Does being the president of the United States automatically make him deserving of honor? I don't think so.

The title of the commentary should have read, "Why Notre Dame Should Invite Obama, at least until something honorable is actually accomplished.

And to anyone who thinks their religious views are polarizing, I would ask this. Wasn't Jesus polarizing?

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

One of my favorite thoughts when one accuses another, especially our clergy, of being "radical" is that Jesus was RADICAL. He challenged the thinking, and the world is better for it. It is ironic to me that the words “conservative” and “radical” have come to be attached to certain designated beliefs that seem so far different from His teachings.

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When it is said that “sin separates us from God,” what does that mean? I’m perplexed with this idea. If I am full of sin, sin not confessed- maybe even sin for which we are unrepentant, does it mean God isn't with us? I don't understand the concept. Please explain.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

fran, is this the article to which you were referring?


The title on the website was why ND should WELCOME Obama. Is that different from what was in the print edition?


As much as I loathe loathe LOATHE Obama I disagree with your take on his acceptance of ND's invitation as a slap in the face from a disrespectful egomaniac. I can't find fault with him for accepting an invitation from a prestigious school. He won't be there to promote or defend his views on abortion et al - his speech will boil down to the standard "today is the first day of the rest of your lives, go out and do good." [I doubt Obama understands the bases for the Church's position on dignity of life issues...heck, if Pelosi, a "devout" Catholic doesn't, why would he?]

The fault lies with the person who issued the invitation. There is a time and place for students to hear from those whose views may challenge what they're taught, but commencement isn't it. Having a controversial person at a graduation ceremony can disrupt what should be a dignified and joyous occasion.

I duly signed the petition, however I doubt at this point that it is feasible for the invitation to be graciously withdrawn or declined.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger fran said...

Yes CBC, the print edition did in fact say "honor." I had it right in front of me when I posted my comments earlier. I think it was a poor choice of words.

At 6:06 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

fran, I suppose someone's conscience at the WP was pricked if they changed the title for the web edition.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger fran said...

Maybe so, Cynthia, it is interesting that the wording would have changed, isn't it?

You may have read today's piece (WPost) by Michael Gerson. The fourth paragraph reads,

"If you cannot honor the man, then honor the office. If you cannot honor the office, then one more democratic bond has been severed."

While I know (think) that the word 'honor' references the honorary degree which Obama will receive, I find it odd that the phrase "honor the man," is used. I have never thought it my duty to honor any president. Giving or receiving an honor (noun) is one thing, but to honor (verb)connotes something very different.

I will respect the man as well as honor the office of President of the United States. I will reserve honor, in the truest sense, for God.

Part II

Gerson also points out how Obama's support among Catholics has eroded. He lists many of the issues which have caused this change. He then goes on to say that there are other issues which could chip away at further support, and lists them.

He concludes by saying that if these things come to pass THEN "Obama's Catholic supporters would feel betrayed and discredited - and rightly so. The Catholic hierarchy and Catholic health professionals would feel assaulted by the president and they would be correct. And President Obama would not need to worry about future invitations from Notre Dame."

My questions are: - Why must it take all of this for Catholics to feel betrayed? Why would it take all of it for Notre Dame to withhold consideration of an invitation? Hasn't enough been done already to warrant a 'non-invitation?' If erosion is already apparent, why continue to further it?

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I agree that ND is at fault here, but if ND is unwilling to withdraw the offer, Obama should be the gracious leader he likes to portray himself to be. He should graciously withdraw.

One of the news shows read from an op-ed piece- a cap and gown is not given to an office, it is given to a person. Mind you, he is being given an honorary Law degree. So, what goes through the mind of someone who would stand before so many whose core values have been directly offended by the laws he supports, has and will enact? On a day of importance and achievement, why does he think his words so important that it justifies offending the people who have earned the honor of hearing someone speak whose actions aren’t offensive? (I guess it’s probably worth taking note that Indiana went blue this last election cycle for the first time since 1964)

Narcissism in a force in politics, but there is an abnormally HUGE gap between the true value of this president’s achievements and his own estimation of them. When Obama’s name was first thrown about in the pre-election period (what was that- like 12 years ago???), people said, “Who is he?” Now we’re finally hearing people say, “Who does he think he is?”

From the White House-
"Notre Dame is one of the first universities President Obama will visit as president and he is honored to address the graduating class, their families and faculty of a school with such a rich history of fostering the exchange of ideas."

He has spoken at enough of these kinds of events that he understands (as you mentioned) that a commencement isn’t an exchange of ideas. He is offering himself before all as an example of who he is and his accomplishments for all those there to presumably emulate. He very well knows his “accomplishments” offend a cornerstone of our faith- dignity for life. He has defended his beliefs, expressing his understanding that others (that’s “us”) believe that life begins at conception. He has acknowledged we believe this. He knows it and his acceptance of the invitation is proof that he doesn’t care. I see his acceptance to speak as one of two things (maybe both) arrogance, or a thumbing of his nose.

Kind of off this point, but shows a pattern of behavior as well as the enormity of his ego-
During his campaigning days, Obama wanted to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. It would have been a great backdrop to suggest he had the same kind of values and suggest future achievements to the likes of Reagan and Kennedy. The difference between Obama and those two is that they earned that right to speak there. Kennedy was facing issues and dealing with pressures of nuclear war. Reagan’s pressure on the Soviets literally brought down the Berlin wall. But with his consuming desire to bolster his numbers, Obama was so audacious to suggest it appropriate to stand on hallowed ground for all to listen to him speak. The Germans suggested he find another place to stump.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Why would anyone feel "betrayed" by Obama? He has done exactly what he said he would do.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

“Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
-US Bishops

I was a little conflicted with this article- at least the beginning. I don’t think “outrage” is unwarranted. He (Gerson) wrote another piece on party-line politics and really drove home the point about how what Obama has done is different from what others who have occupied the office did.

"If you cannot honor the man, then honor the office.”
-Michael Gerston

The Office of the Presidency is being used to exclude ideas of anyone who disagrees with the administration, and evil is perpetuated. A balance of power hardly exists. I love the ideals upon which our government is set up to work, but it’s hard, for me, to look at what’s happened thus far and honor this Office.

“A commentary in yesterday’s Post referred to those Catholics who are protesting Notre Dame’s invitation as ‘conservative’…they use a catch word or phrase that immediately paints a biased picture. And, the image that was created with one word: ‘those crazy conservative Catholics are at it again!’”

There was a piece written in the Post yesterday about Catholic “branding.” It addressed several incidents in which the faithful have been tagged as extreme. I liked the final paragraph written there-

“While the struggle to claim middle ground may prove contentious, those with faith in Catholicism know that such grappling with human motivations generally strengthens the Church. Such would be my hope as a result from this struggle to reclaim Catholic freedom of expression.”

At 6:27 PM, Blogger fran said...

For the anon caught in the Notre Dame chat (sorry)...

To be separated from God, due to sin, does not mean that He is not with us. It means that our state of sin puts a strain on our relationship with Him.

Compare it to an argument with one's spouse, a rift in a friendship, or a disagreement with one's child. Those people are still very much a part of one's life, but the relationship is momentarily altered. Usually, such situations are remedied by talking, apologizing and asking for forgiveness - much like the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I watched a little bit of the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict to commemorate JPII’s death. One element of JPII’s life that was so much emphasized was his commitment to youth. JPII talked so much about the importance of educating our youth properly and sending out the next generation to be prepared to spread the Church’s message of hope. Especially in light of the topic at hand, I thought it was worth taking a moment to remember what JPII did for our youth. He inspired new generations to vocations and he inspired countless others to be courageous in so many other ways in sharing Jesus’ message. His example is one worth emulating- imagine that commencement speech.

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would Catholics feel betrayed by Obama? He promoted himself as one like Lincoln- the “savior of the Union .” Anyone who bought that image of compromise and openness to the exchange of ideas was sold "waaay" short on that bill of goods. I’d imagine there are Catholics who thought, perhaps, their views would be heard and were floored by the idea that birth control be part of the stimulus package to “help the poor.” I imagine there are many liberal Catholics with deep commitment to many kinds of social reforms who had a different vision of how Obama would “help the poor.”


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