The National Catholic Review

Cardinal Francis George has now entered the fray regarding Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address this year. A total of nine bishops have issued statements on the matter, which have sadly come precariously close to disrespecting the President and more than amply shown how out of touch the bishops are with the culture in which they live.

Cardinal George said, according to the Catholic News Service (oops - my bad! This was a headline in the CyberNews Service, which uses the CNS acronym as well. My apologies to the headline writers at Catholic News Service.) headline that "‘Notre Dame didn’t understand what it meant to be Catholic’ When They Invited Obama." Note the quotation marks. The Cardinal was making the point that when you are Catholic, what you do affects everyone else in the Church, and that the outcry over the invitation should have been anticipated by Notre Dame, that the sensus fidelium should have told them that inviting Obama would cause a scandal and that Catholics have an obligation not to cause scandal one to another.

Fair enough, but the loudness of a protest has nothing to do with its veracity or, in this instance, its coherence with the sensus fidelium. Most Catholics are, I suspect, proud that their President is coming to a Catholic university, that the visit is an honor.

Cardinal George might also have noted that the controversy may be boiling in the Catholic world, but it barely merits a mention in the mainstream culture. Smart, informed people I know look quizzically and say, "Oh, what’s that?" when I tell them I have been writing a lot about the Notre Dame controversy. Indeed, historians may sadly look back on this episode as the beginning of a re-ghettoization of the American Catholic Church.

Let’s be clear. That is what the critics want. They do not want to give a platform to anyone who disagrees with them. They say that abortion is the only issue that warrants such a hardened stance because it is an intrinsic evil, but the last time I checked, using artificial birth control is also considered an intrinsic evil. They do not want students at a university – of all places – exposed to ideas that are different from theirs. They are Catholic fundamentalists with a brittle and cramped notion of Catholic identity. Sadly, the bishops appear to be listening to them.

Let us also be clear that the pro-life movement has been unable to change the culture in the past thirty years on this issue. They have not only failed to change the laws, they have failed to find ways to lower the abortion rate. And, like their pro-choice counterparts, they are suspicious of efforts to reduce the abortion rate not because they will fail but because they fear they will work and deny both extremes their funding and their raison d’etre.

Cardinal George said that he intended no disrespect for the President. Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop D’Arcy also said they had great respect for the President. Yet, all three persist in calling him "pro-abortion." President Obama does not refer to himself that way and would argue the point that there is a distinction between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice. That may be a distinction without a difference, but it requires an argument, not an assertion. More disturbing is the failure on the part of these moral and religious leaders to recognize what respect entails. If anything, it means referring to someone as they refer to themselves. I do not think a bishop would call Mr. Obama a "negro" and if they did it would be considered rude, even though that is precisely how Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle would have referred to Obama at his birth in the early 1960s. Why? Because black Americans do not refer to themselves that way anymore. The bishops need to stop referring to Obama as "pro-abortion." It is disrespectful.

I confess, however, that I fear the American hierarchy is unaware how irrelevant they are becoming to the culture they wish to change. An ABC poll released yesterday showed Obama’s approval rating at 66 percent. The Church can never compromise an essential tenet of its faith, of course, no matter what the polls say. But, the idea that Notre Dame’s decision to invite the President of the United States is a "moral outrage" only shows that our bishops are once again out-of-touch with their flock and ineffectual at persuading their culture. It is very sad.



Anonymous | 4/4/2009 - 11:57am
Marion, (and anyone else who reads the comments here), I wrote comment #48, not #49. The name of the writer of a comment appears UNDER it, not over it. And comment #49 is misleading. The Church today discourages the death penalty in most circumstances, since there are other ways to punish a criminal and remove him as a danger to society, and since there is often a danger that he has been unjustly convicted. The Church has not made any official pronouncement condemning the death penalty in the same vehement, uncompromising terms in which it has condemned abortion. And let's face it. In past centuries the Church did not oppose the death penalty. It simply has changed its teaching as western civilization has become more humane.
Anonymous | 4/3/2009 - 7:41pm
Mr. Farrelly asked, ''Since Mr. Bush not only supported but encouraged the death penalty in direct contradiction to right-to-life Catholic Church teachings, should he have been prevented from speaking at any Catholic venue because of his 'pro-death' stance.'' Look: We've all read the newspapers. Hit-and run deaths vs. drive by shootings vs. Drunk driving. Drunken fist-fights, somebody is hit on the head and dies. Domestic dispute - he wails on her; she fatally stabs him. Or he wails on her; she waits until he is in bed asleep and douses his sheets with gasoline and lights a fire. Big difference; one lady will probably walk; the other will get life, no parole. A pair of warehouse owners arm themselves and lie in wait at night for burglars who have been breaking into their property nightly. When the burglars begin to carry items out, the owners shoot the men in the back. Legimtimate self-defense? No, the courts say so, and the Church says so. We know the difference between instances of accidents, legitimate self-defense and malicious non-self-defense. The Church distinguishes between an unlawful taking of the most vulnerable human life imaginable for which there can be no possible basis or justification whatsoever vs. the taking of human life for which there had once been a valid argument (a communal form of self-defense, capital punishment was once allowable based on the right of a community to defend itself from wrongdoers, and where there is due process of law for the accused.) I'm glad the Church isn't quick to condemn and exclude people who hold wrong ideas, and does so only in cases which the idea in question is so inimical to the sanctity of life as well as to fundamental values of fairness and decency, that it cannot be overlooked.
Anonymous | 4/3/2009 - 3:00pm
Jim Lackey makes a good point in saying the same standards of respect should be observed for President Bush as for President Obama. Soooo...Since Mr. Bush not only supported but encouraged the death penalty in direct contradiction to right-to-life Catholic Church teachings, should he have been prevented from speaking at any Catholic venue because of his "pro-death" stance?
Anonymous | 4/3/2009 - 12:26pm
Michael Binder's contribution (#47)is a classic case of attempting, however feebly, to refute an argument that someone (in this case Bernie Tracey) has not made. This entire controversy is about honoring, with an invitation and an honorary degree, a man who has made it a priority to enable abortion by every means at his disposal as President, and who campaigned on his intention of doing so. This is what Tracey has argued, with complete accuracy. Most of the Binder comment is, to be kind, factually challenged.
Anonymous | 4/3/2009 - 9:16am
Jack, Thank you for the wisdom of your post #16. To view the honorary law degree being given to the president at commencement as a scandal may reveal the limitations of one's faith rather than a mistake being made by ND. Jesus hanging on the Cross was seen as a scandal. The ND situation must be viewed as an opportunity for developing a dialogue that deepens the faith for all concerned. Human beings first learn by observation of others behaviors and then mirror what is observed through the internal emotional reaction to what is observed. If our observation is restricted to what is repulsive or to what is pleasing then our vision is myopic and reality is limited. The president is a man of color, married and obviously he has been blessed with a strong intelligent woman. They have been blessed with two beautiful children who are obviously being raised in an environment of love. This is certainly different form his early life experiences. That is the other part of this picture. Now the rest of the world can see that in the most visible and powerful nation people of color have significance and, consequently, have hope. Outside of the abortion rights agenda other policies seem to promote providing care for those who are most in danger of getting an abortion due to socio-economic factors. This also provides hope. We must first give others the sense that they belong and they have purpose in this life and that starts with creating an environment of safety that supports life. We must show women that it is safe to bring children into this life. I do not think the women who voted for him did so because of his pro-choice/pro-abortion stance, rather, I believe they voted for him because they see hope and they see that he truly cares for their welfare. ND is an opportunity for the meeting of pro-life human beings where they obviously exhibit a pro-life choice.
Anonymous | 4/3/2009 - 7:19am
You simply can't give President Obama any wiggle room at Notre Dame University. We all know where he stands on Life issues. Throw the bum out, a slap in the face might humble this ignorant, self-serving, egotistical, defiant, conceited, arrogant, irreverent public servant. If he's so united and desires peace, let him then turn the other cheek.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 4:51pm
"Notre Dame didn’t understand what it meant to be Catholic When They Invited Obama" More accurately put--Strike the word "Catholic" in the sentence above and replace it with the word "Republican".
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 4:16pm
It is one thing to engage in discourse or dialogue about and with those holding opposing viewpoints. That would be of educational benefit. However, it's a quite different thing for a university that claims to be Catholic to bestow the honor of delivering a commencement address AND confer an honorary degree to someone who's views are in direct moral opposition to the most fundamental beliefs of the Church. President Obama was not invited to Notre Dame to debate and discuss the merits of his moral, ethical and political points of view. Instead, he has been granted the singular honor of speaking to a captive audience who will have no opportunity to challenge him. That has nothing to do with educating students and is in direct defiance of the USCCB. Any distinction that may have been conferred on the university by having the President of the United States speak has been erased. Perhaps the ivory tower crowd of academia sees the prestige, but outside their world there is a different attitude. Perhaps Fr. Jenkins should show some consideration for the glory of the Catholic Church and her faithful. What exactly constitutes being ''pro-abortion''. If the goal of removing all restrictions on abortion doesn't qualify, I'm at a loss. Those precious lives still in the womb are not offered a ''choice''. As a former Protestant who chose the Catholic faith, I am saddened by those who have forgotten or simply refuse to acknowledge the truth and the beauty that is the Church. I would say to those who disagree with the doctrine of the Church that they are by definition not Catholic, but protestant. There are over 30,000 protestant denominations. Many believe as you do. Please stop trying to re-make Christ's Church in your image. It is not our job to change the Church, but it is the Church's job to change us.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 1:19pm
Excuse me, but what came first, the Catholic Church or President Obama? The Church's teachings are 2,000 years old, yet you want them to change because of the current culture! And how is it disrespectful to call someone "pro-abortion?" "Pro" simply means "in favor of," according to Webster's Dictionary. Are you saying he's not "for" abortion? Based on his record, he certainly is. Personally, I don't like that Notre Dame has asked Obama to speak at its commencement; however, I know plenty of Catholics who voted for the man because they looked beyond the abortion issue. They saw the potential for him to help the economy and strengthen our security, and they were able to keep abortion out of politics. I don't know whether that is right or wrong, but that's the way it is. But just as Catholics had the free will to vote for Obama, they also have the free will to oppose his commencement speech and honorary degree at Notre Dame! If Catholicism in its purist sense respects all life, then a Catholic school hosting a man who is not 100% pro life sends the wrong message. As do you.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 1:03pm
From the Winters article: ''They (Catholics who object to Pres. Obama being honored at the University of Notre Dame) are Catholic fundamentalists with a brittle and cramped notion of Catholic identity.'' If Mr. Winter's above-quoted remark was not ''disrespectful'' to faithful, pro-Life Catholics, then neither should the description of proponents of abortion-on-demand (such as President Obama) as ''pro-abortion'' be considered ''disrespectful.'' If, however, the remark did indicate Mr. Winter's disrespect to faithful, pro-Life Catholics, the question follows: how can the article's author seriously hope to persuade his readers to respect someone else by disrespecting them? A little thought, a little reflection would be in order before the publication of what appears to be a not-quite-thought-out early draft.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 12:22pm
Dear Tim Warneka, Shouldn't a "Servant Leader" exhibit the quality of humility, and wouldn't a humble, Catholic "servant leader" respect and follow the teachings of the Church and her leadership? Our American bishops clearly taught in 2004 (long before the 2008 election, mind you) that Catholic Institutions SHOULD NOT honor or give platform to pro-abortion politicians. Yet here we are five years later and you express your concern that the Bishops are divisive because they are calling out Notre Dame and its president, Father Jenkins, who in his hubris is acting in open defiance of their 2004 Statement. I think your comment exhibits a fair amount of hubris, in that you publicly announce your opinion that the American bishops are not approaching this issue correctly. You, like most American Catholics, know more than the bishops. That, in my opinion, is not a very good quality to exhibit in a true servant leader in our Church today.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 11:40am
Mr. Winters... Certainly our president deserves our respect for the office of the presidency, as does any president. And as such, we should act accordingly in a manner worthy of the office, much like we would to a sitting judge. That being said, we are not compelled to agree, glorify, support, cherish, or even cheerlead for our president. IN this country, we have the right to protest (peacefully) and NOT agree with any policy of our president. AS a church, we are not a democracy, and we are not secular. We need to support our Pope at every turn. A Catholic university is in the unique position of having to function in a secular world and yet follow the Church's teachings, morals, and values. While it may be an honor to get a sitting president to speak at a commencement for an university, a school must balance that with a particular president's agenda, values, and timing. Is this president being asked to participate in a debate on certain topics, or rather being revered (rather than simply respected) and given an honorary degree? It seems irresponsible for the president of arguably the most well known Catholic University in the country to seemingly support the most well known anti-life president of our time. It is one thing to respect the office of President and another to respect the policies or views of the President. Thankfully, as a Catholic, I can pray for our President and pray for the president of Notre Dame, and hopefully God will have a way of working some good in this somehow.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 11:09am
What they're saying about Mr. Obama isn't disrespectful - it's simply the truth. He is pro-abortion and we need to keep reminding him at every turn that his immoral actions in supporting things like abortion and homosexuality isn't missed by conservative Americans.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 11:05am
America has long been a magazine for LEFT WING cafeteria Catholics who like to think they have the one true understanding of the "faith" of Christ. But Christ gave the keys to Peter and His Apostles. The Notre Dame president is plain wrong and will not listen to any person of higher authority of the Church. We will all have to answer for our actions at sometime, as will this president of Notre Dame. What does if profit a man to gain the whole world but suffer the loss.....
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 10:59am
Is there anything new here among the pro-life commenters? The fact of the matter is the Mexico City policy was merely a "gag order." Lifting it merely allows family planning workers to mention abortion. The truly "Catholic" view is to be opposed to family planning aid rather than dictating the script. The really truly Catholic view is to support an economic system in developing nations so that no one would even consider family planning - although methinks that many on the list would regard that as "socialist." The decline in abortions, or rather the rate of abortions, has to do with a lack of repeat business as well as rising economic circumstances for the poor due to both a rising economy and generous government assistance (the latter being something else that the pro-life crowd calls "socialist"). As far as FOCA and the Illinois legislation - if you refuse to believe these are canards you are free to - however only your own camp believes your slant on this. The bottom line is that as long as the pro-life movement keeps overturning Roe a priority it will get nowhere, both in terms of protecting the unborn and reversing the electoral tide which is leaving them in deep water.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 10:49am
The conflict at Notre Dame is not about disrespecting the president. It is about ABORTION. Nor is it about the separation of church and state, discretion, discernment, practical wisdom, etc., or the many other items brought up by Bishop Quinn. It is about ABORTION. Neither is it about black/white race relations, or Catholic right versus Catholic left, or Democrats versus Republicans. It is about ABORTION. Mr Winters may need to fill up space but he should stick to the issue, ABORTION. If he wants something to talk about he can talk about arrogance, i.e., the arrogance of Notre Dame, a "Catholic" university honoring one of the most Pro abortion politicians of our time. Bernie Tracey, BSEE Summa Cum Laude,'55 Notre Dame
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 8:57am
Mr. Winters, Just for the record, you should correct the second paragraph of your blog post where you refer to Catholic News Service being the source of the headline about Cardinal George's comments. It was not ours. Jim Lackey Catholic News Service
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 7:57am
May God continue to bless our bishops and their courage to stand up and be heard. Notre Dame's actions are disgraceful.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 7:44am
Well-said, Michael! As a Catholic, I believe it is an honor for the President of the United States to visit a Catholic University. The University of Notre Dame is appropriately taking the lead in inviting this historical man to their campus. As an expert in Catholic Servant Leadership, I am concerned at the division some of the Catholic bishops appear to be interested in sowing. This type of division was unnecessary before the presidential election. It certainly has no place in today's world. Peace, Tim Warneka
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 10:01am
Mr Winters ,they were in a ghetto for a reason and a good one.They were different.They had dangerous ideas that ran against the current.They still do.If you fear the lonely road I understand but please dont berate those who choose to walk it.You must also apply the same level of respect to President Bush before you place a bar for others with President Obama.Not one of your better efforts!
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 6:25am
Thanks for your cogent argument – wonderful as usual! After much deliberation, I voted for Obama, agreeing that with a financial crisis looming that threatened to spike the abortion rate dramatically, and the unlikelihood that McCain would be able to score a legislative victory on this, prudence would have to be the pro-life by-word for the next few years. Besides, McCain was hardly the pro-life crusader he was desperately made out to be. He supports stem cell research, and before picking Sarah Palin - enough said - to woo us over, he REALLY wanted Lieberman or Graham...both pro-choice. It's clear what his priorities are, and I’m not sure he has a pro-life bone in his body! Yet I appreciated the bishops who spoke out against Obama's presidency as strongly (and sometimes stridently) as they did, because although prudence might be important in a vote for president, it would be squandered if we didn't have pro-life voices defending the voiceless at a time when many Catholics (in appearance only) seemed to be withdrawing their support from the unborn. That's why I can’t support the ND invitation. (In fairness, I wouldn't have invited McCain, either.) Obama is president and we've given him a big responsibility - in that sense, he already has his "platform." But we have a responsibility too: to make clear, even if it means being stingy with our universities’ honors, that our votes were not a full-throated "hoorah" and that this issue is worth being stingy about. It's not just that Obama is pro-choice: as Poster 8 remarked, this follows a landslide of insults to the pro-life movement (including dismissing moral theology as "politics"). ND’s timing is what’s tragic. I fear that if the Catholic public doesn't rally around our bishops now (since when are the bishops supposed to rally around the Catholic public?), then those of us who voted for Obama will have failed to make the complex statement we wanted to: that we can be prudent AND principled at the same time.
Anonymous | 4/2/2009 - 12:00am
''Cardinal George said that he intended no disrespect for the President. Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop D’Arcy also said they had great respect for the President. Yet, all three persist in calling him ''pro-abortion.'' President Obama does not refer to himself that way and would argue the point that there is a distinction between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice.'' Actions speak louder than words. President Obama's record in the Illinois legislature his short time in the US Senate and his first three months in office tell you exactly what he can be ''called''. I wasn't aware of a right or left wing in the Catholic Church, only right or wrong. It is our right as active obedient members of this church and the Body of Christ to express our outrage at this intrinsic evil; abortion. We don't want the symbols of our church denigrated and we expect our leaders and institutions to exemplify those beliefs.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 11:24pm
It is so easy to disrespect the helpless. To keep silent those without a voice is no great feat. And ''our'' president is a champion for the eradication of the unborn and even others if his legislation had been approved in his home state of Illinois. I am not one to disrespct the office of the president but the holder of that office holds not an iota of respect from me. May God have mercy on ''our'' souls.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 9:46pm
Mr. Winters: Your convoluted logic should offend the President, not the words of Cardinal George. Do you actually believe your own words:"President Obama does not refer to himself that way and would argue the point that there is a distinction between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice. That may be a distinction without a difference...."? Your shabby manipulation of the English language should not grace the pages of America. Distinction without a difference says it all. Your statement that 9 bishops are out of touch with their culture is very encouraging. My understanding of Catholicism is that the bishops should be out of touch with the materialistic, anything goes culture in which we live. Please read Fr. Cleary's letter to the President for an example of how to write a logical,articulate,and inclusive defense of human life in our democracy.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 9:45pm
What has become increasingly clear is that there are many Catholics who consider abortion, especially late term, as rather naughty, but a mere bagatelle in the larger picture of ''progressive'' politics. They are sophisticated, educated, and quite eager to be looked on favorably by non-Catholic liberals, and not to be associated with embarrassingly outspoken pro-lifers. They appear to include the editors and at least some of the writers of America magazine. Given that mindset, they might at least acknowledge this explicitly, and make intellectually coherent arguments to support this position. In this respect, Mr. Winters does a very poor job. Making a fuss over the Notre Dame invitation and honorary degree has two alarming problems, in his view: disrespects the President 2. it shows that the Bishops (and others) are out of touch with American culture. The flimsiness of these arguments is disappointing, coming as they do from someone given blogging privileges in a Jesuit magazine. After sixteen years of loud abuse heaped on Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, we are all pretty used to the idea that a President can be disrespected, and that he will be if he upsets people. And the Bishops, though they have made and continue to make mistakes, are really not required to get their moral bearings from any secular culture, let alone the increasingly vulgarized contemporary culture of the United States. Archbishop Quinn in his article does a more competent job, but ultimately his argument comes down to ''What will people think of us?'' Scarcely a more respectable stance than that of Winters' irrational screed.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 7:58pm
Stop disrespecting our President? I see a man who deserves no respect whatsoever. In the Illinois state senate he championed a bill to deny health care to a baby born alive who survived an abortion. He condemned the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing partial-birth abortion. He has already signed executive orders overturning previous orders restricting abortion. No, Barrack Hussein Obama deserves no respect whatsoever, and most certainly he does not deserve an honorary degree from a Catholic university, nor should he be allowed to speak at their commencement ceremonies.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 6:05pm
Is not disrespecting the president a great American tradition? We no longer bend the knee to politicians. [Good Lord - look at them!]. There is the fine Irish tradition: We get our religion from Rome, and our politics from Hell.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:34pm
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:33pm
Mr. Winters, The bishops' moral outrage isn't sad. What is sad is your nonsensical insistence that our 100% NARAL approved president is not pro-abortion. If you can't make this connection, well, I'd say you're out of touch with reality. Sincerely, Ed DeCosta
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:30pm
Dear Mr. Winters, How heavy my heart is. During Lent you are crucifying our Lord and His Church. I will be praying for you daily. How sad that you disrepect Holy Mother Church and the successors of the Apostles which are the Bishops. Our Bishops are not out of touch, you are. People do not want it to be legal to murder babies in the womb. Please make a daily Holy Hour and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. I am tired of people thinking they are god and can determine whether the Truths of the Catholic faith are right or not. Jesus is the Way, the Truth,and the Life. If you do not accept the teachings of the Church and the leadership, you are not a faithful Catholic. Lastly, we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful. I want to hear Jesus say, Come my good and faithful servant. Lastly, you lost all credibility when you said he is pro-choice not pro-abortion. He has overturned Mexico City Policy so now we will fund the murder of God's innocent children, unlimited abortion, taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research, threat of FOCA, removal of conscience clause, etc. Now with a straight faith, you are going to tell me that he is not pro-abortion? 66574A
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:24pm
The bishops need to stop referring to Obama as "pro-abortion." It is disrespectful. Perhaps when the POTUS respects life, which is much more important than a national leader. Pro-abortion pretty well sums it up in a nice nutshell to me.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:18pm
My sentiments exactly Mr. Winters! How can the leaders of our Church expect to enter into constructive dialogue with the President, or anyone else who disagrees with them, if they just focus on attacking their own ideological principles? The President so eloquently has said that ideology and politics should never meet. Unfortunately, it seems that politics (whether the Bishops admit to call it that or not) has crept its way into the Church and horribly undermined the credibility and the ability to identify with the Bishops, who are supposed to be the leaders of our Church. When did this partisanizing of the Catholic Church here in America begin? I really would like to know. Because it's just so proposterous that the Bishops think they are being faithful shepherds and spokespersons for the Church by advocating such blatant theocratic and ideologically centered philosophies. *sigh* Things within the Church here in America just continue to deteriorate everyday it seems...
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 5:11pm
And what, precisely, is the differance between pro-abortion and pro-choice? And what, precisely, is disrespectful in standing up for the littlest, voiceless ones who cannot be heard if not spoken for? Would you want to be aborted? (Do you REALLY know what happens to that tiny person who is slaughtered,do you?) Abe Lincoln observed that it was easy to know that slavery is wrong because no man would want it for himself.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 4:40pm
“Let us also be clear that the pro-life movement has been unable to change the culture in the past thirty years on this issue. They have not only failed to change the laws, they have failed to find ways to lower the abortion rate.” Right. And why is that? It’s because of opposition from people like Michael Sean Winters to making abortion illegal. The sensus fedelium refers to the sense of the faithful, not the sense of the unfaithful. It is no doubt true that the sensus haereticum favors giving honor to President Obama’s political work.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 3:47pm
''The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. [Catechism, para 25]'' ''This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. [John 15:12]'' Why do so many people think the problem of abortion gives license to violate the most fundamental principle of our faith? Thank you Michael.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 3:19pm
It's not a problem that President Obama is being given a speaking platform as such. The problem is that the university is bestowing on him on the double honor of an honorary degree and a chance to address the graduating class during commencement ceremonies. Such honors from a Catholic university should surely be reserved for those who do not publicly oppose vital Church teachings. Whether or not one adopts policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions, if one affirms abortion as a right, works to see it protected by law, etc., then one is pro-abortion in deed. We Catholics are not consequentialists who think semantics are unimportant as long as one achieves numerical results. Rather, upholding evil is always evil, regardless of whether one also works to do some good in other areas. At best, Mr. Obama holds the contradictory positions of being pro-abortion and anti-abortion, the former of which is never excusable. I do not think the bishops are so out of touch as they are often accused of being. Rather, their detractors are more interested in detracting than understanding. It's a lot like the way in which our Holy Father was accused of being out of touch on the condoms issue in Africa. Most who actually study the matter find differently. To be fair, the bishops are not charged with persuading the culture alone. If the culture remains unpersuaded, a large share of the blame must fall to all of us.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 2:57pm
How can anyone say the pro-life movement has failed to change the culture or lower the abortion rate? The latter is clearly wrong if you consult the statistics. The rate has been falling slowly but steadily for three decades, regardless of what party holds power; and that points to a change in our culture rather than change in our laws. The baby boomers thought on this topic that while abortion might be evil, it's neccesary; my generation tends to think that abortion might be neccesary, but it's evil. The number of women giving birth out of wedlock is just one indicator of how times have changed. Thirty years ago how many of those pregnancies would have ended in abortion? My brother got his admissions letter from ND two days ago and he will be attending in the fall. We are very proud of him and we love ND. But that doesn't change the fact that Fr. Jenkins made a serious mistake in deciding to honor President Obama. President Obama is just as committed to the abortion license as, for instance, George Wallace was to segregation. The president's understanding of basic human rights is as deeply damaged as Wallace's was and a Catholic school should not bestow any honors on either one, no matter how powerful they became or if they were otherwise inspirational figures. I believe Wallace eventually recanted his position; let's pray President Obama does the same. In the mean time I am glad the bishops are speaking out. The president of the USCCB hardly belongs to the ''fringe'' and neither does Cardinal DiNardo. I'm not sure to what extent they can be considered "out of touch" but they certainly are not out of touch with the 227,000 people (as of today) who have signed the Cardinal Newman Society's petition
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 2:47pm
How is authorizing the destruction of embryonic human life for research purposes *not* "pro-abortion." On this one issue, at least, the label fits like a glove.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 2:44pm
Bishop D’Arcy termed Notre Dame’s decision to invite the President a preference for “prestige over truth,” and declared that he would, instead, mount a “defense of the truth about human life” by declining to attend the commencement and thereby lend implicit support to administration policies regarding life issues. Mr. Winters prefers prestige (“the visit is an honor”), and that is his right. He’s far from alone in that preference. But he disparages those who take the other view as lacking “veracity” (is he saying that the “truth about human life” isn’t actually truth?) and “coherence.” This high-brow name calling is followed by sarcasm. The critics “do not want students at a university - of all places - exposed to ideas that are different from theirs.” But of course the issue is not exposure to “ideas different from theirs.” The students of Notre Dame are in no danger of lacking access to such ideas, and hardly need a presidential speech to help them out in that regard. Ready access to a sympathetic treatment of church teaching may, of course, be another matter. Mr. Winters is intent upon fencing off “the pro-life movement” as a highly-suspect “they.” “They have not only failed to change the laws, they have failed ways to find ways to lower the abortion rate, they are suspicious . . . they fear. . .” There’s no “we” here. Mr. Winters is apparently content to toss tomatoes from the sidelines while others try in vain to stem the tide of abortions, making no discernable effort of his own. Except, perhaps, to supply Democratic Party strategists with rhetoric that helps to obscure the issue and provide relief from the demands of conscience. His reference to the latest ABC News poll is but a celebration of his accomplishment in this regard.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 2:11pm
Perhaps, the event recounted in the following also causes scandal: Mar. 17, 2009 By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service WASHINGTON President Barack Obama met for half an hour March 17 with Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the White House and the USCCB announced. Brief statements issued by the White House and the USCCB said little more than that the two presidents had met for a private, 30-minute afternoon session in the Oval Office. The meeting was not included in Obama's daily schedule released to the press and no mention was made of it by either organization until it was over. "The president and Cardinal George discussed a wide range of issues, including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation's most pressing challenges," said the White House statement. "The president thanked Cardinal George for his leadership and for the contributions of the Catholic Church in America and around the world."
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 2:07pm
I agree 100%. I have always respected and not always agreed with Mr. Winters analyses. However, he is dead on in this one. The American bishops have the most pre-conciliar (perhaps pre-20th century!)notions of what moral leadership means. They have collectively failed the faithful throughout these years in their mis-handling of the sexual abuse crisis and -- like many a wounded patriarch -- now seek a show of power by attempting unanimity and heavy-handedness in their competing condemnations of nearly everyone on the abortion issue. How the faithful will react may be with a yawn, whimper, and the occasional fulsome outrage...but most us will just weep at what is passing for leadership in a Church we love.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 12:50pm
Michael If an animal walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has all the features of a duck, is it a duck ? Here's BHO's record of the first near 100 days. Fact #1: BHO overturned ''Mexico City Policy'' which sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations. Fact #2: BHO signed an executive order forcing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research. Fact #3: BHO has openly supported the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and promise to sign it if it ever gets to his desk. Gee, is BHO a ''duck'' yet ?
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 12:47pm
A while back, the Beatles were more popular than Jesus too. Guess we should have closed up shop back then.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 11:47am
The arguments put forth by Cardinal George smack of disrespect and are so ethereal as to confuse any good Catholic about what it means to be Catholic. This isn't the first time the Cardinal has made snide comments about the President, having recently demanded that Mr. Obama prove that he truly believes in change by adopting the Cardinal's position on immigration reform. Immigration reform is an issue deserving of attention, but how arrogant it is for the Cardinal to act as if it is the only relevant measure that would constitute real change amidst all the unprecedented crises this young President is facing. So the Cardinal wants us all to be good Catholics. But does he really believe that those who protest Obama's invitation to speak at Notre Dame are the models of fidelity to their faith? Many of these people are conservative Notre Dame donors who object to Obama on purely political grounds. Others are cafeteria Catholics who publicly adhere to one aspect of Catholic doctrine which is to their liking, the Church's pro life stance, while rejecting other major doctrines of the Church, including many of the doctrinal reforms of Vatican II. The impact of a small minority of right wing ideologues, who shroud their political axes and market ideology behind their public religious pronouncements, on the Catholic hierarchy is really astounding. The Cardinal and other Bishops may think they are being a prophetic voice in the wilderness, but their relative silence and docility in confronting other injustices belies this claim. Especially in light of how poorly many of these same Bishops, especially Cardinal George, performed in protecting children from pedophile priests, in their own back yard when it really mattered.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 11:28am
As usual, you hit the nail on the head. The critics want the church back into a ghetto- they want Notre Dame, and all other Catholic universities, to be the Catholic equivalents of Bob Jones University. Nobody with any common sense makes the assumption that because a president is honored, those doing the honoring agree with each and every position he takes.
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 11:05am
A rose is a rose is a rose. President Obama is pro-abortion regardless what he says. Why, Michael, did you refer to President Bush as a war monger? He never referred to himself that way? Christ did wonder whether there would be any faith left on earth when he returned? The fact that Obama is enjoying popularity is irrelevant to Church teachings. If Christ were here he would not be very popular because he would be preaching the same message his Church is teaching about the sanctity of human life. Obama would probably enjoy a higher approval rating than Christ. Does that mean Christ should not be invited to Notre Dame and Obama should be?
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 11:01am
I voted for Obama and I think it's wonderful that Notre Dame invited him to give the commencement and that he accepted. The 'moral outrage' is that so many Catholics seem to have given up hope that 'Life' issues can be discussed respectfully and productively. Fr. Hugh Cleary wrote an excellent letter to the president (most people will only read that Cleary asked the president to 'rethink his position') I wish more Catholic bishops would follow his lead and attempt to engage powerful politicians who espouse the 'Choice' viewpoint. We can't make the president persona non grata at Catholic universities and institutions. If we do we'll only be able to speak to each other and the mission of the Church is to bear witness to the world. No lives will be saved by disinviting Pres. Obama. On another matter, I do have a bone to pick on one point. You write, ''They have not only failed to change the laws, they have failed to find ways to lower the abortion rate. '' This is simply not true! In 1980 the abortion rate was 29.4 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age. In 2004 (the last year for which we have records) that rate was 19.4 -- the change to Pro-Life attitudes has been especially strong among unmarried women. In 1977 66% of pregnant, unmarried women elected to abort. In 2004 that percentage had fallen to 41% Pro-Lifers have not been able to do much as far as changing laws, but that's just as well because they have proven to be very effective at 'touching hearts, changing minds, saving lives' Paul Bradford, Pro-Life Catholics for Choice
Anonymous | 4/1/2009 - 10:57am
I would rather be ghettoized than compromise the truth. President Obama actually is pro-abortion to a great degree. He is not merely for allowing the choice, he is enacting policies that foist the practice upon other people and wants to marginalize and defund groups that offer other choices than abortion (yes, I know that planned parenthood gives more services than just killing children, but there is a deep philosophical difference that affects the way they approach vulnerable women and their babies on a personal level). He is the president and I respect the office and his power is legal (none of this "not my president" nonsense), but many of his policies and priorities are evil and must be resisted, especially by the Church and all her members and institutions. I applaud the bishops for speaking out. It began in the election cycle; our bishops are getting fed up with all the nonsense and equivocation and false proportionalism, and they are not taking it anymore. It is becoming obvious that those who dissent will not be reasoned with and have no desire to uphold or admit to the truth that the bishops vowed to defend and teach. Furthermore, our seminarians and young priests (while utterly committed to spreading the gospel in charity) are by and large not wishy-washy or inclined to accept petty excuses like a pluralistic society or false conceptions of proportionalism. The ball is rolling, nothing can stop it.
Anonymous | 4/6/2009 - 10:59am
Mr. Farrelly, Mr. Tracey did not really make an argument so much as a statement that the entire controversey is about ABORTION. He did not make an argument, he made a statement with bold letters. While the opposition to the Obama speech may be about abortion, the invitation was not. Further, it is not sinful to believe that laws against abortion will not work and should not be advanced. What is sinful is actually encouraging the use of abortion in a general case or a specific instance. Obama has done neither. The year is not 1972. There is no proposed law legalizing abortion, nor was there ever one for the United States as a whole (although they were enacted in some places). Catholic politicians are responsible for not voting for such a law, but only when one actually comes up for a vote. Even when it does come up for a vote, by the way, it must be judged by many factors, including certainly, but not exclusively the teaching of the Church. One must also consider the impact on the practice of obstetrics as a whole and the harm it might do to pregnant women who may not be looking for an abortion but either need a D&C because of miscarriage or may not be able to find adequate pre-natal care because doctors are not taking cases before the 10th week of gestation.
Anonymous | 4/5/2009 - 3:15pm
I agree with one thing you said here, Mr. Winters. It is true that the Catholic bishops are ''out of touch'' with ''the culture in which they live''..........and THANKS BE TO GOD FOR THAT! The culture in which we live is more like Sodom than the Renaissance. You're defending this culture??? Against the Catholic faith?? Good luck with that.


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