The National Catholic Review
John R. Quinn
Barack Obama, Notre Dame and the future of the U.S. church
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At critical moments in life it is important to take stock. The demand from many Catholic bishops and lay leaders that the University of Notre Dame rescind its invitation to President Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address is surely a critical moment in the relationship between the Catholic Church in the United States and the wider American society. Before battle lines harden further on this issue, we should take time-out to ask some hard and penetrating questions. These are some of the questions that occur to me.

1. What if the president is forced to back out of his appearance at Notre Dame either because he withdraws or the university withdraws its invitation? If this happens, will that further the pro-life effort in our country? If the president is forced to withdraw, will that increase cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Administration, or will it create mounting tensions and deepening hostility? If the president is forced to withdraw, will that bring about fewer abortions in the United States? Will his withdrawal under such pressure lead more people to support pro-life efforts?

2. If the president is forced to withdraw, how will it impact the image of the church? Will it enhance the mission of the church? Will it create a more positive attitude toward the Catholic Church?

3. If the president is forced to withdraw, how will that fact be used?  Will it be used to link the church with racist and other extremist elements in our country? Will the banishment of the first African-American president from Catholic university campuses be seen as grossly insensitive to the heritage of racial hatred which has burdened our country for far too long? Will it be used to paint the bishops as supporters of one political party over another? Will this action be seen as proof that the bishops of the United States do not sincerely seek dialogue on major policy questions, but only acquiescence? 

These questions are not negligible. Cardinal James Gibbons, when he received the "Red Hat," in a memorable sermon at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, strongly praised the tremendous benefit that came to the church in our country because of the separation of church and state. During our more than two hundred years of history, the American bishops have until very recently steadfastly held to the position of making judgments about policy but never judgments about persons in the political arena. One reason for this position was that the episcopate recognized that the greater good of the mission of the church would be served in this way.

Taking account of what serves the greater good of the mission of the church is not opportunism. It is what Catholic tradition calls prudence. The saints have used various words for this cardinal virtue: discretion, discernment, practical wisdom. The great teacher of discernment, St. Ignatius Loyola, points out in this context the serious evil of the temptation of the good. Not everything that seems good is in fact good. Weighing, discernment and discretion are necessary even in things that seem on the face of it to be good. There is always the twin issue of the objective itself and the means of achieving it. One may be good, the other not.

We American Catholics are grateful for the benefits of the separation of church and state. But that separation is not the separation of church and society--the state is not society. The church has a proper role in society and a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. It is the right and the grave obligation of bishops to speak about the moral dimensions of public issues.

Even so, we must step back and consider the limitations--prudential, moral and political--on the role of bishops in public issues. In doing so we need to consider the longstanding policy of the American episcopate in this matter. We must weigh very seriously the consequences if the American bishops are seen as the agents of the public embarrassment of the newly elected president by forcing him to withdraw from an appearance at a distinguished Catholic university.  The bishops and the president serve the same citizens of the same country. It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good, even where there are grave divisions, as there are on abortion.

But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach. The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, citing Augustine, points out that “ Certain situations cannot be resolved with asperity or hardness” and goes on to say “(B)ecause his daily pastoral concerns give the Bishop greater scope for personal decision-making, his scope for error is also greater, however good his intentions: this thought should encourage him to remain open to dialog with others, always ready to learn, to seek and accept the advice of others.”

Most Rev. John R. Quinn is archbishop emeritus of San Francisco, Calif.

Comments

TC | 4/1/2009 - 6:29pm
I appreciate the points raised in the article, they are thoughtful and provocative. However, I think ND and the Catholic Church are at a real crossroads. Do they stand by their incredibly poor decision to do the glamorous thing and invite the "New Messiah" or do they the thing that supports their teachings and thereby uninvite Obama? Once again I think ND and the Catholic Church are chasing the limelight while they temporarily and conveniently abandon their principles. Who is more important to the church: the "oldtimers" who have supported and stood by the Church thru thick and thru thin (priest sex scandals) or a group of ND students? The "oldtimers" are the ones who go to church on Sunday and make the financial sacrifices to keep the Catholic Church afloat. They are also the people who believe in the sanctity of life and would have never voted for Obama. Contrast that with the current ND students who go to mass on parents weekend to please Mom and maybe at Christmas and Easter. The students have probably never put more than some change in the collection basket and quite easily overlooked the fact that Obama was pro-choice, and supportive of stem cell research. ND has two choices: 1) The most likely choice - do nothing and keep the invitation alive OR 2) The Right Thing - rescind the invitation to a president who doesn't see or share the value of the Church's beliefs. And this change has nothing to do with his skin color but lack of character.
Ecker | 4/1/2009 - 6:19pm
"The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views." This is critical to the acceptance of your point of view IMO. However, I don't think its true. I'd like to see you offer up some concrete examples. So far, I see him (his administration)rolling over any opposition to his/their plans. Look at the plans being laid this week to use a special budget process to get health care and other issues into law; so that any possibility of debate on these issues in the normal orderly process of bills. Dissent is not available to members of his own party who disagree with him.
Winifred Fugowski | 4/1/2009 - 6:13pm
I am a 64 year old Catholic woman from New York. I have been educated in Catholic Schools from K to 12. I did not go further in my education but I did grow in my faith. We as Catholics are not here to worry about governments, we are here to serve our Lord. The Catholic Church has always been a persecuted church. We have always been attacked in this country, what difference would it make if we upset the current administration. The current administration is trying very hard to bankrupt our Church. The current administration is trying to lessen the ability of people to contribute to charities, especially church-related charaties. I am so tired of liberal clerics worrying more apeasing these phoney politicans than about being Catholic. Even Our Lord did not allow business as usual in the temple of His Father. Let's stand up for our God.
John Scully | 4/1/2009 - 6:09pm
The drivel in this article is yet another example of what got us into this trouble in the first place. The Archbishop, and the rest of the spineless, mush-mouthed bishops like him, fails to recognize that we faithful see (and think) right through this garbage. Please don't think that just because you rattle off a hundred questions, we're not going to take the time to answer them. Answers to section 1: Who cares? There is objective value in righteous witness in the world. We are obliged to witness to the Truth, whether or not we can predict a particular (desired) outcome. Section 2: Again, who cares? Anyone, who would impugn the entire Church over this issue, is not going to look favorably upon us, no matter what we do. Personally, I'd follow the lead of someone who acts on principle, before I'd follow some wet noodle that knows nothing but compromise. Section 3: You're kidding, right? Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems that you are saying that, just because he's the first black president, he can go wherever he wants, say whatever he wants, do whatever he wants, and we just have to sit and watch, because someone might disregard our real reasons and call us racist. That's just foolish. Anyone can call me anything, oftentimes saying more about the other person than about me. "It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good..." Working with this president cannot promote the "common good" because he promotes the death of children. Whatever good might be done will be 'un-common'. Many will not have survived to reap the benefits of whatever progress made. It is disingenuous to write that "he is a man of good will" knowing what he stands for. He is a man of will, but to use "good" insults Him, who is Good. And by the way, 'church' is a building. 'Church' refers to that which was established by Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. Thanks to Almighty God for the retirement of bishops.
Jim | 4/1/2009 - 5:50pm
I am a Lutheran. I belong to a church that could best be described as "pre-iconoclastic". We have a service and a worship style that is largely interchangeable with the Catholic Mass. We minister to former Catholics and nearly half of our membership falls in that category. I mention this because no one who comes to us from the Catholic church is unhappy with the Church's position on Abortion or the Death Penalty. In fact, most of us (including those of us with a Protestant background) agree with the position. The problem with the church (at least here), is that it has devolved into "Pray, Pay, and Obey". Obey what? Whatever some guy in the Bishop's office dreams up. In Omaha, women actively participate in mass, Fifty miles away, in Lincoln, women are not allowed on the altar. 90 miles away in Grand Island, they actively participate. Obey what? The Church says that it is against Abortion, but as soon as the position becomes awkward, you find some "prudent" way out of it. Notre Dame is the most prominent Catholic university in the US and should be the standard bearer. Their leadership needs to understand that. To be true to your Church's teaching, they should not have invited him. You are correct, it will cause fuss if they dis-invite him now. But at least the Church would show that it can obey its own beliefs, even when its hard to do. I believe that you would find that the Church would benefit from the respect earned by walking the narrow path. Before you ask your members to obey, try it first yourself.
Michael Talbot | 4/1/2009 - 5:43pm
Christ said to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto the Lord what is His". My quote may be a bit off but the meaning is clear, the Catholic Church has been diluted the Word of God by trying to be politically correct and by doing so is ignoring Christ’s directive to “Do This in Memory of Me”. Was there a sermon on the mount that we missed that had Christ introduced His ‘rival’ and invited the ‘rival’ to share His place as an equal? No. How far with the Catholic Church sink to be politically correct? Notre dame needs to practice what it preaches unless Notre Dame no longer preaches from the Bible. Christianity needs to return to the Catholic Church and the Church cannot buckle under the pressure. I thank God every day that His Son didn’t choose the politically correct path when everyone abandoned Him. He died for my sins, the least I can do is speak out.
Bernard Pettie | 4/1/2009 - 5:38pm
Archbishop Quinn, You remark that the "clenched fist" approach will not serve. Agreed. But neither has "talk & negotiation." Tell us, what is left? I also advocate all alums/donors/friends withdraw support for Notre Dame and send it to truly Catholic/pro-life institutions or organizations. Notre Dame should, but will not, revoke the invitation. What would people think if the invitation is revoked? That Notre Dame has decided to be true to Catholic beliefs! Is there a need for public discourse and academic freedom? Truly, yes. But not necessarily on this issue on a Catholic campus. bpp
AntonioSosa | 4/1/2009 - 5:38pm
It seems Rev. John R. Quinn is more concerned with not offending Obama than he is with not offending God! Catholics are often accused of collaborating with Hitler, even when most did not, because there was not a clear message from the Church against Hitler's atrocities. The message of the Church against Obama's atrocities must be as clear and as loud as possible. Otherwise, many Catholics believe those atrocities are just fine, and later on we may be accused of collaborating with those committing the atrocities.
Dale Price | 4/1/2009 - 5:25pm
Dear Mr. Summers: To which again I am forced to ask "So what?" The respectful rhetoric (and that is all it has been--elegant words) is followed by the "clenched fist of fellowship" by the way he acts. As someone else put it, if this is his idea of respect, I'd prefer his open contempt. What *I* don't get is the marvelling at his words when his actions speak so much differently.
Fran | 4/1/2009 - 5:15pm
I am appalled that there is even discussion about rescinding the invitation, as well as negating the conferring of the degree. Obama has made his position on lacking respect for life clear by pushing his pro choice/pro abortion agenda. Just look at the females he has appointed. Their backgrounds and words ring the bell of doom for babies, mothers, and probably for the elderly when enough medications/treatments in their opinion has been "wasted" on saving a life. By his stance, Obama should not appear at ND which had been a banner Catholic university, and as such should respect life. It is named for Our Lady - Notre Dame. Something you might not have considered is that Mary, through God's intercession, was a young unwed pregnant girl. St. Joseph and Mary both accepted God's Will in their lives. Had Obama been in charge, would he have been another Herod or worse - paid for Mary to have an abortion? Then Christ would never have been born and our souls would not be saved through His suffering and death. One never knows the creative genius of the baby who has been killed. Obama should NOT appear at ND - he is taking the spotlight from the students and their families and shining it on himself. So sad, so sad. Notre Dame must rescind the invitation and refuse to confer the degree. Obama is not worthy of a degree from a Catholic university because of his pro choice stand and actions. Father Jenkins' statement that ND by its action does not support Obama's philosohy is incredible. Aren't we always telling students that actions speak louder than words? It is time for Catholics to stand together to show that our church is our mother and we live by God's law. Life at both ends of the spectrum is to be respected and honored. We are to stand against scandalizing any one. There has been enough scandal and it is high time we stand tall in our beliefs and demand the same from all Catholics. Didn't Christ say that it would be better that a millstone be hanged about one's neck than scandalize? The invitation must be rescinded.
Jonathon Summers | 4/1/2009 - 5:09pm
Dale Price, I'm not talking about the Warren invocation. (I agree with you on that: "so what?") I'm talking about Obama's answer to the abortion question. It was the single most intelligent, thoughtful, respectful (of both views) I've ever heard from a politician on the subject. If folks can't distinguish between pro-choice and pro-abortion they need to repeat 3rd grade and THEN come to the table with an opinion. What's the problem here? Obama is not the first Democrat to be pro-choice, yet this is turning into a big ugly huff contest. I don't get it.
Marco | 4/1/2009 - 5:04pm
Obama should not be given a platform in our Catholic Universities, schools, or churches. He is a Politically Correct Distributer of Death around the world. He has voted for the killing of our children, he is promoting the distruction of the Family which he claims to value. If he is really the President for the People why is he killing them before they have a chance. In my view he is no better than Hitler, Stalin, or Lenin. He is for the killing of undesirables.
Elizabeth | 4/1/2009 - 5:00pm
Archbishop Quinn, Your response to withdrawing the invitation to President Obama addresses, very appropriately, the problem with having invited him in the first place. Dialogue is absolutely essential and at this point, withdrawing exhibits behavior that is incompatible with the Christian perspective. Having said that, the invitation in the first place (and I read President Jenkins letter to President Obama) lacks judgement. Can anyone be surprised out the outrage that Catholics, parents of students, NDU alums and other committed Christians feel at this? We all know that President Obama is a pro-abortion activist. But do you connect to the abortion issue his VERY aggressive policy to LIMIT CONTRIBUTIONS in order for the State to control who receives contributions (as outlined in his budget to reduce the contribution deduction for the "rich" who give as much as 44% of all contributions to non-profits). Do you have ANY illusions that Mr. Obama would favor the withering away of the pro-life non-profits in this country (and the churches that support them)? It would be very easy to say that NO ONE could really believe that Obama would do these things, but months ago no one believed he would do HALF of what he has done so far! It is polite and certainly fits within Catholic decorum, to continue to support this visit by saying that it would be too damaging to do differently. Pragmatically, it seems to no avail to rescind the invitation. But for me personally, it was such an insult to begin with that I have been advocating, pragmatically speaking, that NDU alums, parents, and Catholics nationwide withhold all monetary support to the university and any churches supporting the university. Instead I would offer that the money be donated instead to a truly, pro-life organization that is ACTUALLY saving lives.
Dano | 4/1/2009 - 5:00pm
Yes...well...one need only (attempt) to attend holy mass within the good Cardinal Emeritus'archdiocese to understand better the environment from which this perspective eminates. Suffice it to say, we have family in the Bay area and make a point on all trips to be back home in time for Sunday mass as most "parishes" in the Bay area conduct unattendable "services" for the orthodox Catholic. Also, the Good Cardinal argues the need for dialogue; a valid and acceptable point. However, to "Honor" an individual who agressively promotes anti-life, dare we say, anti-Catholic, policy is an abomination against the Church and easily contributes to misleading the faithful into the relativist belief that one can indeed separate various policies and be justified in supporting pro-death politicians. One would think that with his years of experience both in the episcopacy and life in general, the good Cardinal would have the wisdom to discern this obvious dilema and put forth appropriate commentary. It is precisely this type of view point that has so damaged the U.S. Catholic Church. I encourage true Catholics to look to Cardinal Chaput of Denver for clear, logical, and Catholic leadership......
mmbarto | 4/1/2009 - 4:54pm
Your Emminence... Perhaps it would not be a prudent idea to disinvite our country's leader and cause him to be embarrassed...but then it was NOT prudent for ND to invite him in the 1st place. And it's an affont to God to honor him with an honorary law degree, since he can't tell the difference between the laws of God and the laws of the devil. And since discerning when life begins is above his pay grade...he shouldn't be allowed a law degree. Don't you have your hands full with one of your own flock, who can't seem to get the teaching of the church straight in her own mind on the topic of when life begins...and yet she is allowed to give scandel to the rest of your flock, because no one has the courage to tell her not to present herself to receive the Eurcharist at Mass, until she repents? Maybe it's time for 'ALL' the American Bishops to speak out with 'ONE' voice and defend the laws of God, rather than 'human respect' for the culture of death.
nuanain | 4/1/2009 - 4:52pm
Quinn puts the best face he can on a very dubious position. He conflates an invitation to speak with an honorary degree, when the two are quite different. Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia, but Bollinger scolded him and nobody awarded him a prize for coming. Isn't Quinn's argument classic sophistry, or better, jesuitical casuistry? What would people think of the Church, Quinn asks, if ND rescinded its offer of an honorary degree? They might well think that it was a church with a degree of moral conviction.
John Arant | 4/1/2009 - 4:47pm
It has been "well reasoned" essays such as Cardinal Quinn's that have marked the downfall of the Catholic Church. When the Catholic Church no longer stood up for 1st principles, then people began to look for a Church that did. This is just an expected continuation of samanticizing(sp?) the word "wrong" as in "President Obama stands for something wrong in the 1st order"...A is A..wrong remains wrong and I remain on a search for a Catholic institution that has the backbone of belief.
Dale Price | 4/1/2009 - 4:47pm
Jonathan Summers: Yes, President Obama had Rick Warren give an invocation at his inauguration. So what? That's the kind of windowdressing/sop the GOP is rightly castigated for. Color me underwhelmed. The man has stood foursquare against the mildest restrictions and against the prohibition of the most hellish kinds of abortion. He authorizes destructive research and rescinds promising research that doesn't destroy embryos. He invited only pro-"choice" groups to discuss charting of health policy, fobbing off the grubby pro-lifers to the faith-based policy office. Oh, and his first judicial nominee was castigated by the Court of Appeals for an abuse of discretion, needlessly delaying a parental notification law in Indiana. I'm listening to the president, Mr. Summers, and his message on life issues is loud and clear: "I won."
John Scully | 4/1/2009 - 4:38pm
The drivel in this article is yet another example of what got us into this trouble in the first place. The Archbishop, and the rest of the spineless, mush-mouthed bishops like him, fails to recognize that we faithful see (and think) right through this garbage. Please don't think that just because you rattle off a hundred questions, we're not going to take the time to answer them. Answers to section 1: Who cares? There is objective value in righteous witness in the world. We are obliged to witness to the Truth, whether or not we can predict a particular (desired) outcome. Section 2: Again, who cares? Anyone, who would impugn the entire Church over this issue, is not going to look favorably upon us, no matter what we do. Personally, I'd follow the lead of someone who acts on principle, before I'd follow some wet noodle that knows nothing but compromise. Section 3: You're kidding, right? Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems that you are saying that, just because he's the first black president, he can go wherever he wants, say whatever he wants, do whatever he wants, and we just have to sit and watch, because someone might disregard our real reasons and call us racist. That's just foolish. Anyone can call me anything, oftentimes saying more about the other person than about me. "It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good..." Working with this president cannot promote the "common good" because he promotes the death of children. Whatever good might be done will be 'un-common'. Many will not have survived to reap the benefits of whatever progress made. It is disingenuous to write that "he is a man of good will" knowing what he stands for. He is a man of will, but to use "good" insults Him, who is Good. And by the way, 'church' is a building. 'Church' refers to that which was established by Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. Thanks to Almighty God for the retirement of bishops.
Talithia Kumi | 4/1/2009 - 4:34pm
These questions ARE negligble. This isn't the time to be 'keeping up appearances'! Do you honestly think a pro-life conversion will happen if he speaks ? What will he do if he is disinvited; sign FOCA? not allow for coscientious objections? send our tax paying dollars to other countries who kill babies? OH! Wait he already has done/has promised to do these things! Arrrgghh. Our current president believes that babies are to be killed at will. He would not want his daughters "punished with a baby". This is NOT how our intellecect is to be utilized; as so much putty in the hands of the enemy. We must become as children about such things; trusting in the Word and Tradition given to us for our own good by God himself. GOD alone is the autor of life. Mr. President Barrack H. Obama has no place at Notre Dame until he realizes the proper and just Fear of the Lord as proved by his actions. Have we all forgotten of the last four things? Ten out of ten of us will die. Catholics are we? Let us show the world what that really means. Shame on human pride, shame! Our Lady must be weeping; and praying for us.
tony | 4/1/2009 - 4:06pm
While I appreciate the Bishops effort, I wonder if he would give the same lenient answer if ND had invited a segregationist governor or maybe the president of south africa during apartied? i am pretty sure he wouldn't and that is the exact reason why Obama shouldn't have been invited in the first place. Catholics can not in one breath proclaim that sanctity of every life and in the next breath relate to President Obama as if none of this is going on. Its scandalous to the faith and to President Obama. I have a question for the Bishop, if President Obama thought that ND was a bigoted institution. That it singled out and unfairly discriminated against Italians or some enthic group. Do you think that he would accept a speaking invitation or an honorary degree from ND? If not, why not?
Steve Fowler | 4/1/2009 - 3:45pm
Oh yes, if ND does not honor the most pro-abortion politician in history that would be a "clenched fist"! Abortion is...perhaps...an issue of at least marginal importance. But it is not so important as to actually DO anything about it! We can always find some excuse that now is not QUITE the right time, you know. We'll get around to defending the most basic right of all...eventually...maybe...
Jonathon Summers | 4/1/2009 - 3:39pm
I mean really, is President Obama the first pro-choice person ever to be invited to speak at a Catholic institution, ever?
Maureen | 4/1/2009 - 3:38pm
Does anyone really believe that a visit to Notre Dame and an honorary law degree will change Obama's views on abortion? Of course not. ND and the Catholic church have nothing to lose by disinviting Obama; they have everything to gain by showing that they actually DO stand for something--life.
terry | 4/1/2009 - 3:37pm
The devil hides in good intentions. To suggest that we turn the cheek to this man as a means to a long term relationship is ridiculous. Social Catholics voted for him and aided his success and what is his thank you - to begin his administration with executive orders to fund overseas abortion, remove the limits on stem cell research and rollback of the conscience rule. If Catholics think that the Obama administration is going to acquiesce to any of our moral views surely the priority of his early actions suggests otherwise.
Ashleigh | 4/1/2009 - 3:33pm
I am a Catholic and I am offended by this article. Now is the time for Catholics to take a stand against abortion and embryonic stem cell research. All life is precious. Life begins at conception. If we can't protect the most vulnerable and honor their existance, then how much more evil is in store? Notre Dame should stop calling themselves a Catholic University if they want to "honor" a President who supports these issues. This is not a "race" issue. What does the color of someones skin have to do with their belief system? The issue is as simple as right v's wrong.
Laura | 4/1/2009 - 3:33pm
"Commentor here named Dale Price said, "... there is nothing in [Obama's] record demonstrating that he regards pro-lifers as anything except opponents to be thwarted and marginalized." I think that is unfair and untrue. At the Rick Warren Saddleback presidential debate (and many other times) President Obama spoke of his desire to find a place of common ground." === I wholeheartedly disagree. Obama condescendingly calls the debate between the two sides, stale. I'll never consider the debate on one person's ability to decide if another lives or dies a stale debate. Nor do I aim to find common ground with a pro-death opinion. Imagine if we had aimed for common ground with Nazis.
Jonathon Summers | 4/1/2009 - 3:25pm
I just can't believe some of the other comments here and how strong people feel about this. If you want to be consistent with your "standing on principle" then do you same folks want to bar anyone from speaking at any Catholic institution who uses birth control? Had premarital sex? Where does it end? I don't think fuelingthe fires of "us versus them" attitudes makes progress. It just makes people feel better.
Mark | 4/1/2009 - 3:23pm
Retired bishop Quinn is senile. Inviting Obama is an act of evil.
Laura | 4/1/2009 - 3:05pm
Yes, the author has many points, if one care more about what the world thinks than doing what is right. And while he seems to care a lot about such consequences as how the Church appears to the world, world he fails to consider, among other consequences, the message that is now sent to young Catholics who are considering where to gain more education post high school. Personally, if I had wanted to attend Notre Dame AND I wanted to follow God, my head would be spinning in response to this article and to the stand that the school has taken. It seems that the faithful (and all those who support life for all babies, not just those that are wanted) are being let down. Perhaps the author's real calling is to politics, not spirituality.
David Pasinski | 4/1/2009 - 2:54pm
Archbishop Quinn's advice is rooted in common sense -- let alone a solid practical and pastoral theology! I only see a greater split coming between those of us who were inspired by "The Church in the Modern World" and those who have an entirely different perception and theology. There's a cold wind in American and Roman Catholicism these days and the worst divisions are yet to come. We are only 100 years removed from the Americanism crisis that squashed progressive thought for decades. Redux.
Me | 4/1/2009 - 2:47pm
What a bunch of hooey. This was a full article of nothingness. This president is not a Christian by any means and does not have the best interest of all Americans at heart. Everything he has done shows how much he distances true religion. Look at the church he attended prior to become president and the pastor he had. He sat through the man’s hate speeches for years and agreed with them until he figured out it would hurt his chances of winning.
Dave Cullison | 4/1/2009 - 2:36pm
I do not deny that Archbishop Quinn has a point that there may be some damage done in withdrawing the invitation. But why does the Archbishop not comment on the SCANDAL done by the stupid stupid stupid choice to extend the invitation in the first place?
Jonathon Summers | 4/1/2009 - 2:34pm
What a great article. He makes a very good point that (to paraphrase): what good is served by uninviting Obama? The only people who would be happy about it are the ones already on board with the reasons to uninvite him. Everyone else is pushed farther away or alienated. Commentor here named Dale Price said, "... there is nothing in [Obama's] record demonstrating that he regards pro-lifers as anything except opponents to be thwarted and marginalized." I think that is unfair and untrue. At the Rick Warren Saddleback presidential debate (and many other times) President Obama spoke of his desire to find a place of common ground. Both sides want fewer abortions. One side says 'outlaw them' the other side says 'a woman has the right to choose'. Common ground exists in getting back to the shared desired outcom of fewer abortions. If hardcore pro-lifers would listen more to people like President Obama we might actually make progress on the issue of abortion rather than just bicker about it 'til the cows come home.
THOMAS FARRELLY | 4/1/2009 - 2:11pm
"If the president is forced to withdraw, how will that fact be used? Will it be used to link the church with racist and other extremist elements in our country? Will the banishment of the first African-American president from Catholic university campuses be seen as grossly insensitive to the heritage of racial hatred which has burdened our country for far too long?" While Archbishop Quinn's comments make some sense as a whole, the above argument is contemptible. The idea that Obama's race exempts him from criticism must be rejected and condemned. Quinn is right that disinviting the President is a drastic and probably imprudent move. But he is strangely silent on the highly questionable decision of Notre Dame to invite him in the first place. And Quinn is far too ready to praise Obama's "good will". Obama is an extreme, no holds barred, proponent of abortion under all circumstances, and talk of his speaking appearance as "dialogue" with him comes perilously close to mendacity.
theresa Fredricks | 4/1/2009 - 2:01pm
Separation of Church and State is not the issue here. Nor is extending a hand of kindness and respect to sinners. The issue is that if you don't stand for pricipal you will fall for anything. What Preisdent Jenkins has demonstrated is what many American Catholics have long suspected. Catholic Universities have embraced secularism to a degree that makes actual Secular Universities dismissal of religion pale by comparison. Our progressive Catholic clergy have melded the Marist idiom that religion is the opiate of the masses with the doctrine of separation of Church and State to the degree that it is now unseemly for Catholics to object to indoctrination of ND graduates by the darling of the Pro-Abortion claque, Champion of Black Liberation Theology, and a leader in the Sol Alinsky school of community organizing. I guess the ten suggestions as incorporated into situation ethics, now rules. Morals are for the unenlightened. Situation Ethics is the way, in other words in any given situation what ever advances our interests is ethical and of course admirable and pragmatic.
Tom | 4/1/2009 - 1:47pm
The leaders of the Catholic Church lost credibility with the election of Obama with so many Catholics voting for him. One example is my cousin, who is a Catholic nun, who told me she was voting for Obama because a good economy reduces abortions. I cannot imagine one person who is either pro-life or pro-abortion to be persuaded to change their view if this invitation is rescinded. I do, however imagine a lot of Catholics leaving the church as I did a long time ago.
J Cole | 4/1/2009 - 1:30pm
Your eminence, "they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" To inject race into a matter of character is itself inflammatory. Only an unjust racist would infer that Notre Dame's stand is a matter of race. Such a one may be popular, but we can only pray for them since they have already shut their heart in hatred. The matter, sir, is simple principle. Having speculated how the Church will be perceived we can look to history to see. First, it is people of principle that are historically honored - Winston Churchill v Neville Chamberlain. History is filled, and the Church is filled with heroes of principle (name a saint), not with persons vacillating on public opinion. The Church has held and does hold that life is sacred. The Church has held and does hold that life begins at conception. What possible dialog is there after that? One either accepts the teaching or not. Once they accept the teaching, they have a choice - stand on principle or not. How will the Church be perceived? When in the course of Christ's Life or the history of the Church did the public's opinion change principles? His Holiness has chastised American Catholic politicians for their abortion stances. What does it say about the Church's principles when a Catholic University promotes someone that stands event further from those the Pope himself has chastised? The court of public opinion is ever more hostile to the Church. That is a fact. However, there are three issues here. One, will the Church be divided on a matter of Principle decided by the Pope himself? Two, will the vacillating nature of Notre Dame be seen as what it is - power and pomp - over principle and Godliness? Three, will the person - aggrieved, in crisis of conscience be comforted by the stand of the Church or succumb to sin by it? It would be far better sir, for the Church to be vilified by the press for its stand on principle than for one abortion to take place because of its failure.
Joe Vaira | 4/1/2009 - 1:16pm
Nevill Chamberlain was also prudent. See where it got him. Why is it always Cathjolics who have to be prident?
Randall Plese | 4/1/2009 - 1:11pm
Is Quinn a priest or a politician? read the article..He is a politician.Is he a leader or does he float with the tide? He floats. Does he stand up for church doctrine or give way to liberal media thought? Does he follow in Christ's footsteps and go against the crowd or cower with the politically correct speeches? In the movie "High Noon" the sheriff goes to the church to seek help. The "town leaders" tell him to to do a politically correct thing , "don't stand for what is right. . Leave town instead". I feel that is what the ArchBishop is doing. Bye
john the elder | 4/1/2009 - 1:08pm
Quinn wants to rationalize,and there should be no rationalization like this in the morals of the Catholic Church. The offer should be rescinded by Notre Dame if the Catholic Church has any balls, but alas I am afraid that the leaders are simply cowsrds when it comes to confronting Obama. Quinh should spend his time making sure that Pelosi does not receive communion since she is in his arch diocese.
john the elder | 4/1/2009 - 1:08pm
Quinn wants to rationalize,and there should be no rationalization like this in the morals of the Catholic Church. The offer should be rescinded by Notre Dame if the Catholic Church has any balls, but alas I am afraid that the leaders are simply cowsrds when it comes to confronting Obama. Quinh should spend his time making sure that Pelosi does not receive communion since she is in his arch diocese.
John Scully | 4/1/2009 - 12:59pm
The drivel in this article is yet another example of what got us into this trouble in the first place. The Archbishop, and the rest of the spineless, mush-mouthed bishops like him, fails to recognize that we faithful see (and think) right through this garbage. Please don't think that just because you rattle off a hundred questions, we're not going to take the time to answer them. Answers to section 1: Who cares? There is objective value in righteous witness in the world. We are obliged to witness to the Truth, whether or not we can predict a particular (desired) outcome. Section 2: Again, who cares? Anyone, who would impugn the entire Church over this issue, is not going to look favorably upon us, no matter what we do. Personally, I'd follow the lead of someone who acts on principle, before I'd follow some wet noodle that knows nothing but compromise. Section 3: You're kidding, right? Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems that you are saying that, just because he's the first black president, he can go wherever he wants, say whatever he wants, do whatever he wants, and we just have to sit and watch, because someone might disregard our real reasons and call us racist. That's just foolish. Anyone can call me anything, oftentimes saying more about the other person than about me. "It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good..." Working with this president cannot promote the "common good" because he promotes the death of children. Whatever good might be done will be 'un-common'. Many will not have survived to reap the benefits of whatever progress made. It is disingenuous to write that "he is a man of good will" knowing what he stands for. He is a man of will, but to use "good" insults Him, who is Good. And by the way, 'church' is a building. 'Church' refers to that which was established by Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. Thanks to Almighty God for the retirement of bishops.
George R. Kadlec | 4/1/2009 - 12:35pm
The first duty of the Catholic Church is to teach the truth whether, as St. Paul says, it is in season or out of season. I, personally, don't see much difference between Obama and Hitler. He advances the slaughter of the most innocent of life and the Bishop proposes accomodation with him. Oh heavens, we should be worried about our public image. This is very simply put - war. We cannot serve both mammon and God. As Jesus Christ states in Matthew 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." A few Chesterton quotes: “There are an infinite number of ways to fall, but there is only one way to stand.” "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." “Be careful not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” “I want a church that moves the world not one that moves with it” “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural”
Dale Price | 4/1/2009 - 12:12pm
"The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views." I don't doubt the President's intelligence. However, his commentary when authorizing destructive embryonic stem cell research was larded with contempt for the other side. An elegantly-delivered contempt, but contempt nonetheless. Rhetorical head-patting aside, there is nothing in the man's record demonstrating that he regards pro-lifers as anything except opponents to be thwarted and marginalized. Which no doubt explains a certain segment of his current popularity in Catholic circles.
Father Joseph,, SJ | 4/1/2009 - 12:04pm
Once again, a Bishop who wants to rationalize. The teachings of the Church are not on the market for manipulation. They are what they are; you either accept them or reject them. If a President of a Catholic University decides to reject those principles, then, it be fitting then, that they remove the word Catholic from their identity. As an alumnus of many years back, I am told that the student body voted overwhemingly for Obama What does that say about the University in its communication and teaching of Catholic social teachings. I would dare to say if a final exam was given to the student body on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, more than likely over half would fail and the other half would be in the C and D range. .that goes the same for our University of Georgetown and Fordham. We have to stop the rationalizing and apologizing for what we teach in the Catholic Church. We need Bishops like Archbishop Chaput who have no fear in telling it like it is. Why should a Bishop fear for speaking the truth of the Church. Let's stop the nonsense!
| 4/1/2009 - 11:43am
It seems too late to un-invite President Obama as ND has already "opened that door" by inviting George Bush. How do you differentiate between taking the life of an un-born child in the womb of an American woman and that of an unsuspecting child or mother in Iraq? I applaud Fr. jenkins for being open to the possibility that an invitation such as this could lead to a relationship in which open and honest dialog could take place regarding the sanctity of all life. That would be a much truer perspective of "pro-life," not just the narrow singular position of abortion.
BERNARD TRACEY | 4/1/2009 - 10:51am
I agree with Bishop Quinn that to uninvite, at this point in time, Mr. Obama would do more harm than good. However, Bishop Quinn's lenghty piece would have more instructional if he had at least commented on the prudence of the Notre Dame folks to invite the president in the first place.
FinishTheRace | 4/1/2009 - 10:24am
Interesting questions from the Archbishop but like others before me said, he seems to be not addressing the main point. Should someone who supports abortion in both his rhetoric, legislative acts and appointments be given an honorary degree and platform in a "Catholic" institution? This is an obvious no. Should this invitation be rescinded? Yes, of course. However, this would take moral courage from someone who apparently doesn't think there is anything wrong with the invitation. Will this provide a stamp of approval for other pro-aborts and anti-family politicians to be invited to give commencement speeches? Most likely, however many of those are already doing it anyway. How will this further scandalize the students at Notre Dame? Only God knows but we will know somewhat by the fruit it produces. How will this scandalize those looking in from the outside who may be marginally Catholic and further seperate them from Holy Mother Church? How is this a dialogue? Answer is same as above. BTW, a one-sided speech is not a dialogue. One should be honest enough to separate the color of one's skin from the moral stands that a person has taken. The president's moral stands are clear. Notre Dame's invite is clearly wrong.
Peggy | 4/1/2009 - 8:37am
Of course, the Bishop's words are thoughtful, serious and helpful. It is unfortunate that the same cannot be said for the decision made by Fr. Jenkins. It does seem it would be difficult at this point to rescind the invitation, but I believe many, many Rosaries will need to be prayed in reparation for this insufferable act.

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