The National Catholic Review

I guess I must repeat the question: What is it about President Obama that drives otherwise sane people crazy?

Our friends at National Review Online have run a "symposium" on the subject of Notre Dame’s decision to award the President an honorary degree and to invite him to give this year’s commencement address. Of course, the editor, in the header, refers to Obama as "our most anti-life president" without actually proving the point.

Most of the contributions to the symposium are, well, unbalanced. George Weigel shows his cosmopolitan touch by asking with Lenin, "What, then, is to be done?" and suggesting that alumni stop giving large gifts, a suggestion he claims is not really cynical. Tell that to the sophomore who will lose her scholarship because someone takes Weigel’s advice. In a funny aside, the Catholic News Agency called attention to the Symposium and referred to Weigel as "the biographer of Pope John Paul II" when, of course, he is "a biographer" of the late pontiff. There are others. All truly great men require several biographers because a jewel has many facets and no one historian can see them all.

Candace de Russy begins her essay by thoughtfully detailing the etymology of the word "perfidy" which she then applies to Notre Dame for its decision. In addition to calling upon students to boycott the ceremony she suggests:" Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend should explore means by which to formally strip Notre Dame of its Catholic identity." Now, we all suffer from the occasional bad word choice, but I suspect Ms. De Russy really does think that Catholic identity is the kind of thing that can be so easily stripped off, like a set of second hand clothes. Alas, some intellectuals only spout second hand opinions, so this mistake is as understandable as it is common.

Patrick Lee compares the Notre Dame decision to a supposed offer of such an honor to a segregationist in 1960. Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society, writes that "there’s more to the outrage. Beyond the matter of propriety, Catholics rightly suspect betrayal by a Catholic institution. With all of the possible honorees who could have been selected, Notre Dame chose the individual who is today the most dangerous proponent of the Culture of Death in the United States." Betrayal? Most Dangerous? Where is the evidence for these claims?

I was pleased to see that my friend and intellectual sparring partner Rick Garnett offered a thoughtful post which at least acknowledged that his opposition to the choice did not require the kind of judgmental jiu-jitsu his colleagues indulged. "It is not to question President Obama’s accomplishments or to deny that his election was, in many ways, historic." Garnett thinks the decision was wrong precisely because Notre Dame Catholic identity is so strong and this imposes a special obligation upon its decision makers. I think Garnett is wrong, but he is reasonable and you could sit down and have a scotch with him to argue the matter respectfully.

Alas, the ranters are in the lead on this one. Not only do they not persuade, but they do not invite the kind of dialogue that will change hearts or minds on the issues they claim to care about. But, they have created a caricature of the President that is simply not credible. I wish he saw things differently on an issue like embryonic stem cell research, but most of our fellow citizens agree with him, not me, and one of those fellow citizens, Sen. John McCain, had promised to take exactly the same course of action on stem cell research. Could any of these ranters acknowledge, as Garnett does, that the man’s election was historic, that perhaps African-Americans should be permitted to be especially proud of his victory, that on some of his policies, such as aid to the poor, immigration reform and promoting universal health insurance, Obama is closer to the Church’s positions than his political opponents? No. He is evil they say. Fortunately, they say so in ways that are quickly growing tiresome. Their echo chamber is getting more vicious but it is also getting smaller. That, I suppose, is the silver lining.



Anonymous | 3/25/2009 - 1:38pm
Professions of Faith, and praying outside abortion mills, giving money to homes for poor unwed mothers, and the like continue to save babies. Words and actions together have worked. Where would we be, had we not had a pro-life movement? The results of those who support the choice of death is more death. The results of those who are personally opossed but not willing to lift a finger to help, is more death. The easy way to figure this out is look at where the money goes from those who promote abortions. To people like Pelosi, Dodd, Kennedy, and all those who are personally opposed to abortion. God willing, maybe some of these infants will seek mercy for me at my judgement. I have not enough
Anonymous | 3/25/2009 - 10:27am
Nancy, there was already law on the books in Illinois and federally which protected infant life. The law he opposed went beyond this protection. It was a trojan horse. Since when is lying for God permissible?
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 9:29pm
President Obama opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Bill.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 6:22pm
Michael, There is also that little point about the NRO hosting a symposium on morality -- that journal is not only rabidly pro-war, it also publicly defends and endorses torture, a non-negotiable and intrinsically evil act. And then there's Weigel who a few weeks ago was deriding Americans for not ebing bright enough to see how great Bush's war actually was.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 5:11pm
taad, God cares about results, not profession. All the hysteria has not saved one "little person" (the English translation of fetus) (but rave on if you like).
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 3:43pm
Yes I am insane! Better to be insane and go to Heaven and sane and go to Hell for permiting the murder of children. I stand proundly convicted of the first!
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 3:37pm
I see raw Politics overriding the beliefs and teaching of the Church. This is celebration of a man that has no problem with the most vicious type of (partial-birth) abortion. This is a man that openly mocks religious people (see Pennsylvania). I can only take from this support that the liberal-wing of Notre Dame Admin puts their politics above all else. Unfortunately, many actually believe that Obama is the messiah. Someone special enough to ditch your beliefs, turn your back on innocent life, and embrace somebody that mocks people that believe in God.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 2:52pm
Probably the most offensive item in Obama's pro-abortion agenda is his taking aim, along with his fellow Democrats, at a "conscience clause" designed to protect doctors, nurses and others from being forced to participate in procedures like abortion that violate their consciences. The claim that inviting Obama is a means of opening up dialog with him is so outlandish that it is worthy only of scorn. And yes, Mr. Tracey is correct. The only redeeming feature of Winters' remarks is the link to the NRO Symposium.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 1:39pm
Once again, we see the pro-life movement, increasingly desperate as their arguments -- unchanged since 1973 -- have failed to move public or political opinion, attempt to convert people to their perfectly pure perspective at the point of a gun. The 20th century's 'Great' Pope, John XXIII, said that the church's teachings need to stand on the basis of their arguments rather than on the mere power of the church's authority: that is, he understood the difference between authority and authoritarianism. The 'condemn Notre Dame' crowd and their hierarchical supporters clearly don't see the distinction, and their cause will be damaged, once again, because of it. No one will say of them, as they did of Christ, ... the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Mt. 7:29)
Anonymous | 3/26/2009 - 12:35pm
taad, by profession, you misunderstand what I mean. God does not give politicians who say they are pro-life any credit for simply campaigning on the issue and doing nothing to grant rights to the unborn. Anyone who can read a judicial opinion and count on two hands knows that Roe is not going down anytime soon. Renquist was against Roe, but Alito and Roberts are not. In Carhart v. Gonzalez, they joined middle of the roader Kennedy - not Scalia and Thomas who wanted to jettison Roe. There are at least 13 pro-abortion states that would stop any right to life amendment, so the only possible action is federal law recognizing the rights of the unborn at some stage in pregnancy. The other reason Roe will not be overturned judicially is that to do so would gut all civil rights legislation. While this may disappoint those who wail at the thought of "judicial activism" most of us with a 12th grade education know that federal protection of minority rights vis-a-vis state legislative majorities (the tyranny of the mob) is a central tenant of our Republic.
Anonymous | 3/26/2009 - 12:28pm
taad, I have never bought the personally opposed pluralistic argument. It seems weak from either perspective. I am not sure it satisfies even the faithful who are on the fence (although maybe the polling says otherwise). I would prefer a more spirited defense of choice (not abortion itself). They are not the same thing. The latest Guttmacher study showed that 72 percent of women who get abortions do so because they cannot afford a child. Banning abortion won't change that, it will multiply the tragedy. Supporting the Catholic position on living wages and the option for the poor might - and I am quite willing to take the money from higher income taxpayers who disagree with that in order to give higher child deductions to families. What Biden and Pelosi should point out is that there is no legislation to "allow abortion" so there is nothing to support or oppose. National Right to Life has not offered a bill, which to be constitutional would use the Congress' 14th Amendment power to grant legal status to the unborn at some point during pregnancy. Until such a law is advocated, Catholic politicians and voters have a free hand.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 3:47pm
They are ranters, they are insane, but we, dear Brutus, are rational, calm, and loving. Ipse dixit.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 12:02pm
Michael Sean Winters, Bless you and thank you for your link to the NRO symposium, "Should the University of Notre Dame honor our most anti-life president?".. The articles in the symposium were truly excellent. I would advise readers to click on the link to the NRO Symposium and forget about reading the rants in your post. It would save readers valuable time, which would be better spent reading the excellent symposium entries. In reading your frequent posts, the link to NRO Symposium is the only piece of worthwhile information which I can remember coming across. By way of background I am a '55 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Notre Dame and the father of 2 ND PhD's. I used to be very proud of my Notre Dame connections but since the days of the Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame and now the Obama invitation I am ashamed. I no longer wear my Notre Dame ring.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 11:57am
Why are they so vocal on this? They actually believe that abortion kills babies. Why are you so incredulous? I think it's because you don't think anyone actually believes it. You think your ideological opponents just pick a position on the basis on who is on the other side. Assume they think that these are real killings, then their actions make sense.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 11:53am
If they wish to further marginalize themselves, who are we to stop them? They are, in fact, insane, as they are repeating a behavior that has not worked and expecting a different result. Until they see that, they cannot be helped. Form their perspective, I am sure they are totally sane - however that perspective is flawed. Until they accept that the Church is wrong on embryology and that ESCR is not murder (since nothing but the Chorion dies - if the blastocyst where a "whole being" the stem cells would die too - they don't) they are stuck in their anger. The news cycle should take care of that - no matter how hard they try to keep this non-issue alive. Until they accept that there is a major difference between legislative provisions to legalize abortion (which some countries face) and the American situation where the abortion regulations in existence were found constitutionally flawed, they will continue to poison the well on this issue. Until they realize that the year is not 1972 they will continue to focus on pro-choice politicians, which is easier than accepting that the burden of action is on them to come up with a change in status for the unborn is on them - and that continued inaction on this issue is their fault (not Obama's or Biden's).
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 2:00pm
Michael Binder has accurately described the shambles of the Pro-Life Movement (circa 2009) in two sentences: ***If they wish to further marginalize themselves, who are we to stop them? They are, in fact, insane, as they are repeating a behavior that has not worked and expecting a different result.*** T'was ever thus.
Anonymous | 3/24/2009 - 9:58am
What was it about President Bush that drove otherwise sane people crazy? President Bush was the most pro-life President in recent history. As far as social programs, there is nothing in Catholic teachings that say these goals must be done at the federal level. President Bush funded more local groups rather than a bloated federal bureaucracy. President Obama's attacks against unborn children puts him at odds with our most fundamental beliefs.

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