The National Catholic Review
John F. Kavanaugh
'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.'
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Not long after March 20, when the University of Notre Dame announced that President Barack Obama would be the speaker and an honorary degree recipient at its May commencement ceremony, the blogs started bubbling. America’s group blog featured entries by Michael Sean Winters, which received a spray of largely civil but contentious responses. Other sites were not quite so temperate.

The Cardinal Newman Society, a self-appointed watchdog over the orthodoxy of Catholic universities, set up a special site about Notre Dame. Accompanying a sidebar account of Obama’s dismal “anti-life” record is a call to join over 20,000 signers (gathered in three days) in a protest letter to Notre Dame’s president, John Jenkins, C.S.C. Calling the invitation to Obama “an outrage and a scandal” and a “travesty,” the letter, presuming to know the motives of Father Jenkins, asserts that the university has chosen “prestige over principles, popularity over morality.”

In response to criticism, Father Jenkins affirmed that Notre Dame is honoring a president, not a policy or political party, making it quite clear that it is following the American bishops’ statement Catholics in Political Life by fully disassociating itself with Obama’s stands on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Hoping that this might be a first step to engage the president over policies that, unless changed, would cause a precipitous loss in Catholic support, Jenkins wrote, “You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade.” Other voices, however, seem bent not on challenging Obama but on demonizing him.

On Randall Terry’s Web site www.stopobamanotredame.com, the president is portrayed as a worse murderer than Herod, who apparently slaughtered only 30 little boys: “Obama wants open-ended child killing.” Terry proposes that we “raze [sic] hell” at the university (“our tramp”) if Obama is allowed to speak—the “cultural rape of true Catholicity.”

The indefatigable Amy Welborn raised the issue on her blog “Via Media,” on the Web site www.beliefnet.com. Hers, as always, was a thoughtful question to her readers—wondering whether President Obama should be honored at Notre Dame. But some responses are questionable in the moral quality of their outrage.

On March 22 a writer using the name James pronounced that “Notre Dame is now fully collusional with a vicious form of Satanic evil—and worse, is seeking to entwine students in that evil.” Noting that he has a son at the university whose president has chosen evil over God, he is sure that President Obama is “infected with Satanic evil.”

James is no doubt not alone in his outrage. But we Catholics, we Christians, are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate. We will be known as the group that can be outraged only by abortion and stem cell research— not torture, nor the yearly death of 15 million children under 5, nor the reckless launching of wars, nor other deadly sins. We will also present ourselves as oblivious to our fundamental Catholic teachings on the nature of conscience, the judgment of others’ interior lives, and the sin of slander. There is little or nothing of Christ in the rhetoric of hatred. But ample justification is claimed for the ugliest of acts, especially if it is against “Herod” or evil itself. Most puzzling in the James comment was its ending: “As Ayn Rand said, ‘When you compromise with evil, evil wins.’”

Ayn Rand. There we have it: Ayn Rand’s ramblings as a proof text. Not Benedict, not John Paul II, not the fathers of the church or the Gospels themselves, but Ayn Rand, anti-theist and pro-abortionist. (In the Objectivist of October 1968 she declared: “An embryo has no rights. Abortion is a moral right.”) Among her articulated principles are that money is the only scale of success, pride the only virtue and “I” the one word indicating the only God.

I would like to ask “James” (as well as a number of conservative commentators who have recently been recommending the writings of Ayn Rand as an antidote to Obama’s view of the world) this question: If Ayn Rand were still alive and invited to give a commencement talk at Notre Dame, would you mount a protest and remove your son from such a Satan’s nest?

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

Sues Krebs | 6/16/2010 - 10:40am
Dear Fr. ,
No man is perfect but to say that nothing Barrack does helps our nation is going too far.
Susan, SJ
OZ MCCONATHY | 5/30/2009 - 1:41pm
Last Sunday, the presider said that Notre Dame's honoring President Obama (as opposed to just having him as a speaker) was contrary to the Bishops' instructions not to honor politicians who are pro choice. And that honoring him was a transgression against the unity that Jesus called for among his followers. My instincts and conscience tell me that it was fine to honor President Obama as President along with the clear statement that we Catholics (UND included) disagree with him on abortion and stem cell research. In fact, since President Obama seemed to welcome the opportunity to address the differences to some extent, it certainly provided a very high platform and publicity for the Church's position. I do wonder however how to deal with the idea that ND was going against the bishops' directive not to honor pro choice politicians. Please clarify. Oz McConathy '63.
Rev. Angelo M. Chimera | 5/17/2009 - 9:40pm
I may have missed it, but I am surprised no one has commented on the Pope recently making French president Sarkozy a Canon of some Cathedral. Isn't Sarkozy pro-abortion? If so, it seems to me Roma Locuta and therefore Causa Finita.
john d. fitzmorris, jr | 5/7/2009 - 10:35pm
Fr. John Kavaungh invariably strikes to the heart of the matter. He is truly a prophetic voice crying in the Catholic wilderness. Yes, wilderness, because I am afraid that the kind of attitude expressed in the right-wing blogs is turning Catholic America into a wilderness where no one will want to tread. The principal blame for creation of this wasteland is the Catholic hierarchy that is searching desperately for any issue to deflect attention from their frightful behaviorin the priest scandals
Patricia W. Oliver | 5/7/2009 - 11:42am
Thank you, Fr. Kavanaugh for your clear and fair comments. A Charity nun sent me your article after I had a letter in my local newspaper decrying the absurdity of the bishops condemning Obama's appearance at Notre Dame who looked the other way when the priest/child abuse scandal was ongoing. It is true; many Catholics are no longer "Christian" - hate seems to be their Bible, and their tunnel vision is alarming. Right: no abortion, no stem cell research, but killing our young people in an unjust war, 80% Catholics championing torture is following the way of Jesus. I could not find a contact for N.D.'s president, but I did send a letter to South Bend's Tribune. How will these frightening people ever become kind, expansive and Christ-like?
Rose | 4/28/2009 - 11:45am
I will never again call it "The University of Notre Dame" but rather, "The University of Notre Shame." Our Lady must be weeping.
Dick Cussen | 4/27/2009 - 2:34pm
Dear Father Kavanaugh, You seemed to have missed an opportunity to sell a valid point to uplift the dialogue. You criticized the hateful tone of some but give a pass to their issue. Even if many of the Obama Administration’s proposed policies do support the common good and parallel Catholic Social Justice principles, Notre Dame is still honoring a man who also strongly supports obvious intrinsic evils. It is in direct opposition to the teaching authority of the Church (USCCB), your interpretation, like Fr. Jenkins’ also stretching credulity. Please consult the authors of Catholics in Political Life who have already spoken. We are in the midst of a veritable "boiling frog syndrome." We as Catholics have gone from abhorrence of the murder of an innocent child in the womb, to sympathy without disapproval, to regret, to tolerance, to indifference and now, for too many, to political support. If you are going to criticize the tone of dialog, at least recognize the point of contention as an abomination worthy of distain.
Rev. Basil De Pinto | 4/23/2009 - 11:03am
My full support to Fr. Kanvanaugh. These right wing crazies in no way represent the church or the faith. They are purely political operatives hell-bent on destroying the president, whose moral stance on many issues is far closer to Catholic moral sensibility than the ravings of the anti-abortionists who think that life begins at conception and ends at birth. Rev. Basil De Pinto, priest of the Diocese of Oakland, California
Maria | 4/23/2009 - 10:30am
I pray everyday that the Holy Spirit will send us a pro-life leader in the Roman Catholic Church who will not spew hate, but will change hearts by exhibiting the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Don't the current leaders of the pro-life movement get it yet? We cannot expect people to change their minds about abortion if we speak and act with vicious unkind words. True courage means living out the Gospel values. Although I am pro-life, I feel no love, compassion or charity coming from most of the Catholic pro-life activists in America.
jlynn | 4/22/2009 - 5:29pm
Thank You Father Kavanaugh!! for putting into words what I know so many Catholics fear after all this hyperbole about _ allowing ??? - the President of the United States to give the commencement address at Notre Dame. Yes - They will know us by our hatred - not our love. I do not agree with what is reported to be the President's position on abortion legislation. I whole heartedly support the dignity of life from conception to the grave which is why I spend my retirement years volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, a free health care clinic and a foodbank. And I support the President of Notre Dame for his invitation to President Obama to speak to the graduates at the university. Through God's Providence this encounter may effect positive changes for life in both the graduates and the President .
Steve Wilson | 4/16/2009 - 9:00pm
Fr. Kavanaugh: I applaud your comments, which highlight the (hopefully inadvertent) problems caused by a number of American bishops. Over 40 years ago we emerged from the Second Vatican Council with a better understanding of our faith by looking to the ancient church fathers and mothers for the most basic understanding of Christs vision for us. In doing so we reached out in love and compassion, using God's gift of free choice of the will, for the betterment of the world and its people. Recently it seems like official positions taken by bishops are leading us back the eras when the church was known for its condemnations, judgements, scoldings, rejections, excommunications and dictations of appropriate and inappropriate manners of worship. The example is set by the church leaders. Now, as you said 'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate' as in the shameful period of the Inquisitions. Why don't they guide by Christ's example? For that matter, why do they not follow the example of Pope Benedict who, for the most part, has done a surprisingly good job of encouraging us to see and make good choices -- and not threatening us for making bad ones.
Bernard J. Campbell | 4/15/2009 - 11:04pm
This phenomenon in the Roman Catholic community of condemning almost everyone is disappointing. It is my suspicion that this hostility has come from at least two sources. First it has been a public desire of the leadership in the Church to "copy" the numerical success of the evangelical churches. The second reason for this vocal hostility can be explained by the events following Vatican II. As Fr. John W. O'Malley reveals in his great book "What Happened At Vatican II?", under the leadership and influence of John XXIII the Church "opened its doors and windows to the global community (not 'the world'). This openness was announced in the first sentence of the Constitution "On the Church and the Modern World." "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men ( and women) of our time, especially of those who are poor and afflicted in any way are the joy and hope . . . of the followers of Christ as well." The since Vatican II, the exodus of religious and priests, closing of schools and now parishes, public disagreements verses clandestine actions e.g., the sex/administration scandal, etc. has encouraged this negative attitude towards the "world" and progressive members of the Catholic Community. There are many of us Catholics (progressives, liberals and conservatives) who care for the "global community." It is my impression that people will gradually begin to realize that our new president is concerned about the influence and responsibilities we Americans have to our sisters and brothers in our global community, God's world. I commend and rejoice in the courageous decision of Notre Dame. They have invited not just a president of the USA but a great statesman. It is an honor to have President Obama as the main speaker at the graduation. Also, I applaud their decision to give him an honorary degree. He is not perfect as a human being, but let "those without sin throw the first stone." Finally, did not the Vatican approve a statesman in Germany, who was part of Shoa, the Holocaust? Bernie Campbell
Francis P. Burns III | 4/14/2009 - 8:03pm
Fr. Kavanaugh's commentary (4/13/09 Issue) on opposition to Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama was a disappointment. His article singles out intemperate reactions as if to suggest those are broadly representative. In fact, many others have spoken against the decision with cool heads and reasoned argument. The public statements of Cardinal George and Bishop D'Arcy immediately come to mind. Father missed an opportunity to address the root question: Is Notre Dame's decision to honor the President consistent with its professed mission and identity? Notre Dame's appeal to dialogue is not a persuasive justification. The President has not accepted an invitation to a conversation, much less a debate, about public policy. There will be no respondent at commencement. It is as likely as not the President's visit will actually diminish incentive for dialogue. Mr. Obama will be seen to enjoy personal affirmation by a pre-eminent "Catholic" intellectual center. Why should the President listen to the bishops when their authority can be evaded by appeal to "Catholic" universities? Wishful thinking that the President might be open to private persuasion is also a poor trade for celebration of the man. Everything the President has said and done underscores what he has consistently preached on the campaign trail and in legislative chambers. He has "stayed on message" and delivered tangible policies fulfilling unequivocal campaign promises to his core pro-abortion constituency. Those same promises are directly contradicted by Catholic teaching. So it is patently reasonable to ask if Notre Dame's decision is an act of comparable fidelity to its own mission and identity. If Church teaching is not an authoritative guide to the exercise of the university trustees' fiduciary judgment, then to what higher standard is the Church’s teaching subordinate? President Obama did not invite himself to commencement. The President's policy positions are not the immediate cause of the controversy. Notre Dame's decision is. Perhaps the good in this controversy is that the debate will continue and expand. Are Catholic universities drifting inevitably from the charisms of their religious founders? Are parents who support their daughters and sons at Catholic institutions, at considerable financial sacrifice given the alternatives available, naïve to think that identification with the Catholic Church is more than nominal? What are the distinctive attributes of a genuine Catholic college or university? My hope is that America can serve as a forum in the search for clarity. Francis P. Burns III
carol | 4/13/2009 - 9:16pm
Is this the twilight zone of comment postings?????????? This issure is all about abortion, abortion, abortion. To say you missed the point, Fr. Kavanaugh, is to say that cavemen had computers. Hate? what could be more hateful than to vote to "toss" the aborted fetus if it survived? can you imagine stopping along the road after an auto accident and finding someone who has survived this wreck and you simply drive on???? could you really sleep at night? what will have to happen for those who voted for obama to say ENOUGH! and admit that they made an error in judgement? are you Caiaphus who later asked Pilate to the temple to speak and then make Pilate an honorary rabbi?? really! this whole "constructive dialog" is a myth and you should turn in your collar!!
Rich Watson | 4/12/2009 - 12:42am
I agree though with Lucius's post of 4/3/09. Catholic colleges need to be in full union with their bishops. I'm troubled by his reference to the Land of Lakes Declaration, by condoms being sold at Jesuit run St Joseph's in Philadelphia, at the Vigina Monolgues being presented at catholic colleges. I intend to find out more. We should be faithful Catholics in union with the magisterium. This should apply to all church members. While we all want to be good citizens here we should live our lives so we can enter our true homeland after we pass from this world. That often requires us to be at odds with society on many topics. The Catholic Church, through all of its different rites, needs to be a loud voice of protest. Our job, to paraphrase Mother Teresa, is not to be successful, but to be faithful.God will bring good out of the present, sad controversy. Lord, send us strong and faithful apostles to feed and guide thy people.
John Patrick Ryan | 4/11/2009 - 5:34am
Melissa gives the best argument I know for why massive numbers of Catholics need to show up at the University May 16th and 17th in atonement for the scandal and to begin the process of restoring the University's Catholic heritage. How sad that someone could come out of presumably 4 years of "Catholic" education and make the statement that "poverty, disease" are "real evil(s)" contrasting them to abortion and/or a "Catholic" university honoring the most pro-abortion President in history (which do not make the cut- pardon the pun). I think it would be far more difficult for someone to make such an insensitive statement while standing in the "killing fields" of abortion (that would be among the over 50 million corpses of the victims of abortionists). And yet in reality we are all standing in those killing fields. For when we live in the midst of a holocaust, we are always standing in the midst of the victims of that holocaust, whether we choose to acknowledge their plight or avert our eyes as many of the good Christians of Germany did in WWII.
Holly | 4/10/2009 - 1:20pm
By all means our people should not expose themselves and give into hate toward anyone. President Obama has invited us to exclaim in a healthy way our opposition. The President is a man simple as that with the conviction he came to learn and know as time has gone by. One cannot though excuse our Catholics for their non life issues of supporting abortion or other teachings against the Lord and his Magisterium. When one is ill informed one must try to educate oneself if one is lacking in their faith and teaching. As the Holy Father said, faith and reason. There is nothing wrong with Obama speaking at Notre Dame but it is wrong of him to receive a law degree from a Catholic Institution that teaches about the world and not on its own teachings from the Magisterium. This isnt about hate this is about rebuking and that right if Im not mistaken as a laywoman is mentioned in the bible when our brothers and sisters are going off the path less travelled and into the darkness. We must learn our faith, teachings and learn from these. The poor will always be with us. That pretty much sums all of us up doesnt it.
Melissa | 4/10/2009 - 5:48am
It was a refreshing privilege to read Fr. Kavanaugh's thoughtful response to what I've found a shockingly inappropriate protest. I am a proud alumnus of Our Lady's University. I reflect on my time at Notre Dame in moments of great inspriration and tremendous love. But, as of late, I am almost embarrassed to admit my affiliation in some circles. I find this protest the worst kind of short-sightedness. Yes, I am an Obama supporter, and readily acknowledge that I was thrilled to cast a vote for the man in November. I was not a Bush I or a Bush II supporter. But I did not protest their invitations to speak at Notre Dame. The discourse, the exposition and sharing of ideas, are fundamental to the governance of the country. Pat Buchanan just called the invitation "the greatest outrage in his lifetime." I will echo Fr. Kavanaugh's caution. It this is a great outrage, I am abhorred thinking of the amount of poverty, disease, and real evil that is unaddressed in our world. God's world. Incidentally, I will be in St. Louis in a few weeks. I would consider it an honor to meet Fr. Kavanaugh.
John Patrick Ryan | 4/9/2009 - 11:57pm
Children die for lots of reasons and it is always a tragedy when that happens. Making abortion illegal is no more "prohibition" than making any other form of murder illegal. Even if changing the law would "only" save the lives of 30 million worldwide, or even if it's only a fraction of that number, that's a pretty big "only". Heck, I'll settle if "only" one child would be saved by restoring in law the right to life of all children, born and pre-born. In fact as a former-fetus (newborn, infant, and teen) I am baffled that the focus of Fr. Kavanaugh's article was on the apparent imperfections of those who would seek to end the madness of abortion. Fr. Kavanaugh and I are of the same generation. Our generation did such a pathetic job of confronting the abortion holocaust that the generation of the graduating class in question lost 30% of it's own to the abortionists killing fields. I have apologized to my children more than once for my part in our failure, after over 35 years, to restore THE MOST BASIC human right to the pre-born.
onlein | 4/9/2009 - 5:38pm
Of the World Health Organization estimates of 50 million abortions a year worldwide, 40% are illegal. That's 20 million. Even if abortions were outlawed across the world, certainly not all of the remaining 60%, or 30 million, would refrain from having abortions, nor would all have abortions illegally. Worldwide, there are also an estimated 5 million children under five who die every year. Whatever these numbers, prohibition type laws will not solve the problem. Changed laws or no, we are called to help troubled pregnant women feel able to follow Mary's example of yes. More concern, prayer, energy and effort is needed to answer this call. If it were answered, the law question would be irrelevant.
John Patrick Ryan | 4/9/2009 - 4:37pm
I have to ask myself, why did Fr. Kavanaugh choose the examples he did to discuss the response to the scandal at South Bend? He could have quoted from any of the statements of the 30 Bishops (and counting) who have decried the University's decision. Instead he looks for the most extreme statements he can find, casts those who would question the judgment of the University as the villains, and favorably reports Fr. Jenkins rationalizations. He then spends the last third of the article on the blogger "James". Indeed Fr. Kavanaugh's distain for the pro-life groups/individuals he names in his article(save perhaps Amy Wellborn- but not necessarily those who responded to her question) is apparent. And this in an article that's supposed to be warning us about the "rhetoric of hatred"? In the end, Fr. Kavanaugh does not tell us the one thing he knows the most about- what HE believes/thinks about the University's decision to invite the most pro-abortion President in history as it's commencement speaker and to receive an horary law degree (of all things). We're left to guess from the way he presents his information. Lest I be accused of "presuming to know the motives" and or opinions of Fr. Kavanaugh, I ask that he clearly and unambiguously state his own beliefs/thoughts about this scandal. While I am confident that there are many other things that outrage Catholics, it wouldn't be the worse indictment in the world if we "can be outraged only by abortion and stem cell research". Surgical abortion has been "legal" across the country for over 35 years. The World Health Organization estimates there are 50 million abortions committed in the world EVERY YEAR. FIFTY MILLION! That's a pretty big "only". John Patrick Ryan
Jacqueline Lair | 4/9/2009 - 11:30am
Thank you Father Kavanaugh for your comments. So many people have to hate something. I imagine Jesus Christ was angry at the "Far-Right" also and found them impossible to teach. Please don't ever give up speaking out for the peace and love of God for all mankind.
carol wood | 4/8/2009 - 6:05pm
where is my comment from last night...4-7-09??
Bill Kurtz | 4/8/2009 - 4:44pm
Thank you for rational, civilized commentary. The poster quoting Ayn Rand is not a unique oxymoronic comment. I recall seeing a blogger a few months ago saying she wished for a "Stalinist purge" in her archdiocese- referring to not only an atheist, but an atheist who murdered millions.
Phil | 4/8/2009 - 3:53pm
Fr. Kavanaugh, With all due respect, I believe you're changing the subject. The lively dialogue between Catholics on this issue is a positive trend, in my opinion. If UND was in Cuba under Raul or Fidel Castro, or Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, it would be equally scandalous to invite these heads of state. Why? Because the values of these state leaders are antithetical to those of any Catholic institution. To honor the head of state in question, Barack Obama, is to dishonor the institution whose mission as Catholic should be guided and infused with the teachings of the founder of our Church, our Lord Jesus Christ. Obama in less than 90 days into his presidency has shown by his appointments and executive orders that he is militantly hostile to our values. He is even threatening in a despotic way to remove our conscience rights and has forced us to pay for abortions abroad. The UND debate is not about loving or hating. It is about exposing for the benefit of our brethren what is truly at stake. It is about self-preservation and protecting our rights as people of faith. Please don't change the subject or appeal to fellow Catholics' sensibilities with false notions about Christian charity. I for one see through the smokescreen. Phil Sevilla Rio Rancho, NM
Don Balya | 4/8/2009 - 10:45am
Excellent piece. I cannot understand how those who claim to be "Pro-life" could support a war that Pope John Paul II denounced as unjust. Even if he weren't speaking ex cathedra, I would value his moral judgements over those of the men who foisted off the war on a clueless American Public.
carol wood | 4/7/2009 - 10:32pm
dear sir, Hate? what is more hateful than the death of the most defenseless on earth...you so miss the point...As a medical person, i can tell you that the furor is about abortion and not all the things that the grocery store catholics would like to trot out....like YOUR article. to dispose of botched aborted fetuses and TO VOTE FOR IT, that really says it all. i do not hate the man posing as a president, though i know he is not what he purports himself to be, and if you are intellectually honest, you will look deeper within yourself and see what is becoming more obvious each and every day when another freedom is dashed away with the stroke of a pen. you will look not at Notre Dame but at all the people who hang their hat on articles like yours as their salve of voting for a man with no record except one which thumbs it's nose at the word "choice". with all due respect, sir, with my much inferior education than yours, i think i can see farther down the road than you can. In 1932, Germany voted for "change". Hate? no! eyes, ears, heart, soul, belief in the sanctity of marriage and the lives of the unborn. carol wood, atlanta, ga.
carol wood | 4/7/2009 - 10:20pm
dear sir, Hate? what is more hateful than the death of the most defenseless on earth...you so miss the point...As a medical person, i can tell you that the furor is about abortion and not all the things that the grocery store catholics would like to trot out....like YOUR article. to dispose of botched aborted fetuses and TO VOTE FOR IT, that really says it all. i do not hate the man posing as a president, though i know he is not what he purports himself to be, and if you are intellectually honest, you will look deeper within yourself and see what is becoming more obvious each and every day when another freedom is dashed away with the stroke of a pen. you will look not at Notre Dame but at all the people who hang their hat on articles like yours as their salve of voting for a man with no record except one which thumbs it's nose at the word "choice". with all due respect, sir, with my much inferior education than yours, i think i can see farther down the road than you can. In 1932, Germany voted for "change". Hate? no! eyes, ears, heart, soul, belief in the sanctity of marriage and the lives of the unborn. carol wood, atlanta, ga.
Rosemary | 4/7/2009 - 9:47pm
President Obama enjoys a 100% approval rating from NARAL. I am not optimistic that he will see his commencement address as an opportunity for dialogue. But if the opportunity presents itself, I hope Notre Dame will educate our president on the loving option of adoption as an alternative to abortion.
Tom Coffey | 4/7/2009 - 8:51pm
An honorary law degree? Inviting to speak is one thing. He is the elected President, and we must respect that. But bestowing an honorary law degree to a person who has spent his life vigorously propagating immoral laws is an insult to all Catholics. I pray that President Obama will realize it is nonsense, and decline the degree.
Prateep Ghose | 4/7/2009 - 7:24pm
Father Kavanaugh, you are absolutely correct in saying that we need to have constructive dialog on the issues where we disagree. However, in this particular instance, I am not sure of the process by which we accomplish this goal. President Obama has been invited to give the commencement address and to receive an honorary degree from the University. Where is the dialog in this? Where is the constructive debate? Where is the free flowing give and take that is the hallmark of an academic institution? All I see is a speech, which will be probably be televised, and an award ceremony, which will almost certainly be carried by all the networks. No, Father Kavanaugh, this is not the dialog and debate you are espousing. Sorry, you have been misled.
Jim Lein | 4/7/2009 - 9:12am
This is NOT for posting. A question with follow up questions: Why was my second comment not listed? Because it was a second comment? Because it referred to another's comment? Or because it was somehow unworthy or inappropriate? You may have a list of comment submission suggestions that I missed. And you may have posted my second comment and I missed it, but I don't think so. Anyway, a few questions.
Michael | 4/7/2009 - 8:52am
Well Fr. K has a vested interest in taking this track about BHO appearing at ND...He , like all the leftist professors at so called Catholic universities need the "Land'O Lakes" document to keep operating and pushing the leftist liberal agenda....Did you think he would say anything else..The leftist-marxist minority is the most vocal at our universities, and for them, its yell louder, longer and harder than anyone and we'll get our meta-narative across... Its to old," well you just don't want a woman to be your boss " script..If you respond you sound like your biases..If you say nothing they just chuckle and gloat...The Left knows how it was done under Stalin and have utilized that approach for over 40 yrs here in their attempt to take over The Academy...Thay have almost gained their goal, but this episode and others like it (the Duke LAX HOAX and the William & Mary firing of their president over the Sexworkers Play) have exposed the extreme Left for what they are.....Undereducated big mouths who are not afraid to step on your rights, but scream if there is even a pretense to "step on theirs"...When you want your cake and eat it also, your in a new world.... Those who understand this are working to regain control of our Universities, and the first theing needed is the bishops to find their guts and step up to the plate and resind the Land 'O lakes statement once and for all..... Oh there will be screams and pulling of hair..Probably even riots as the leftist-marxists cry out for academic freedom..Well if you want to see what happens to a PC ultra leftist university, google "Antioch College". They closed, actually they shut themselves down, by pushing their brand of Academic Freedom, just as Fr. Jenkins is trying to shut ND down by pressing the same agenda...Jenkins is following Hesburgh, a fellow traveler , who was responsible for the Land 'O lakes, more than anyone else....What do you expect...Hesburgh, sits up there on the 13th floor of the library named after him, gloating in the fact that his brand of "academic freedom" is bringing the Baby Killer to his school ..A Honory Law Degree for BHO? What ND's Law degree going to be worth after this?....
Edwin Montgomery | 4/7/2009 - 1:05am
With President Obama we humanist Christians must quit discussing "products of conception" and "abortion", and address the real isssue at hand. The coequivalents: ante-natal infanticide and neo-natal infanticide have been used for millenia for population control, and are engrained in some ancient cultures. The appropriateness of this and its attendant morality are worthy of informed and learned debate in order to weigh the ethic of this practice in 21st century Western civiilization as we continue to do it. equivalent
Andrew Orosco | 4/7/2009 - 12:41am
Did God our Creator have hate in his heart when he cast Adam & Eve out of the Garden? Did Jesus have hate in his heart when he chased the money changers from the temple? Did Jesus have hate in his heart when he called Peter "Satan"? Did Jesus have hate in his heart toward the other thief when he only included the Good Thief to be with him in paradise? Did Jesus have hate in his heart when he said "forgive them Father for they know not what they do"? Hate is when you actively and knowingly lead others towards evil. Love is when you actively and knowingly will a persons well before your self. John F. Kavanaugh your little article has created a great confusion in a world that is in need of truth, a truth that points only to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. You have proclaimed through the authority of your ordination and educational degree a falsehood to those who have built their own foundation of faith on sand, allowing them to believe that their foundations of faith are built on solid rock similar to our Church. You John F. Kavanaugh without explicitly stating in your article have justified and condoned by your slight of word and misdirection the intrinsic evil of the culture of death. Through your interpretation of hate a grave sin is being perpetuated regarding the Magisterium teaching on the Sanctity of Life. We who chose to proclaim in word and action the Sanctity of Life, truly love because we will all life, from womb to grave, to experience Gods grace to its fullest. If I am wrong, I am wrong on the side of Life, if you and others of your ilk are wrong you are wrong on the side of death. I prefer my choice of being Pro-Life and Life Giving. I suggest more time in theology in lieu of philosophy. I do not proclaim this out of hate, Through love I join the Angels and Saints in praying for our repentance, so that through our repentance Gods merciful Grace may be bestowed upon us all. Holy Mother Mary perfect our prayers, and your University of Notre Dame. Christ through the Eucharist is the Way, The Truth, and the Light. AndyO
John Laliberte | 4/6/2009 - 8:33pm
Thank you Fr. Kavanaugh for an excellent article. I find the single agenda individuals and groups often make the loudest remarks without fully considering the totality of life. I would hope that Catholic Christians would take a page from Cardinal Bernadine’s seamless garment metaphor for God’s voice in our world. It is interesting that under Clinton there were fewer abortions than under Bush – I don’t need to remind you of their stance on this issue. Rather, we should focus on how we support our families with a social and economic opportunities that enables them to have a life with their families; educational systems that encourage youth to grow in mature ways; that the death sentence solves nothing; and while I’m thinking of what Jesus tried to show us, how about actively working towards peace, respect, and personal values with those who are different than we Americans. I agree with ending abortion, I know very few people who are not – even those who support the right. The issue is not about abortion, rather it should be focused on the root causes – lets focus on the problem, not one of the outcomes (as dreadful as it is). And, for God’s sake, lets look at the big picture and listen to someone who finally understands some of the root causes and is willing to work towards solving these problems. Yes, we should be outraged! John Laliberte
Lynne | 4/6/2009 - 8:25pm
Thank you for a thoughtful article. Certainly the rich spiritual and intellectual tradition of the church should inspire us to engage, and in truth, love those with whom we disagree. After all, what is Jesus for?
Marie Rehbein | 4/6/2009 - 12:59pm
KM, Obama voted against a special law that would only cover those babies that were born as a result of a botched abortion. The reason he could do this in good conscience was that once a person is born, no matter that someone was trying to kill that person before his birth, that person has rights as a citizen of the United States. Letting that born baby die or killing it directly were already crimes. If no one was prosecuted and convicted, that was not for lack of a law. Your gripe should not be with Obama in that case, but with the Attorney General of the State of Illinois.
Michael Bindner | 4/6/2009 - 10:13am
Too many Catholics confuse Catholic teaching on abortion, which is sacrosanct, with the USCCB's strategy to end it, which is not sacrosanct. Notre Dame should have no fear that inviting the President of the United States to speak at commencement and award him the customary Doctor of Laws degree is in some way honoring one who violates church teaching on this matter. It is not a sin to know that the USCCB's strategy is bankrupt. If anything, it is a sin to continue to support it after many decades of failure to do anything but elect Republicans.
Brian | 4/6/2009 - 10:11am
Notre Dame had no problem inviting George W. Bush, despite his signing of record numbers of death warrants as governor of Texas. Catholics aren't blind to this type of hypocrisy, and many feel like they're being used as political pawns. For all of the talk about "cafeteria Catholics," it is most noticable when we see it displayed by self-righteous religious leaders. Thank you for this well-reasoned and thoughtful article!
KM | 4/5/2009 - 10:18pm
There have been many comments on America's website favoring President Obama (in general) and his speaking at Notre Dame. Many hairs have been split to somehow justify him from a Catholic perspective. I have a very simple view. President Obama would not even vote for a law protecting a child who survived an abortion. For me, that is "end of story." We are not even talking about the right to an abortion. We are talking of a living, breathing human who is taken and disposed of for convenience sake. I know many at America magazine are willing to make a Faustian bargain, i.e. the unborn for healthcare, etc. I cannot, and I think many other Catholics feel the same. They are not "haters" as Father Kavanaugh implies. They simply believe that some things are just too evil to rationalize.
Edward | 4/5/2009 - 7:31pm
Thank you for another excellent column. This is exactly why I chose not to go to a Catholic college or university, even a more open one: the ability of students (as well as faculty, Catholics generally, and the public) to think freely and decide what they think for themselves should not be impeded, particularly by outside influences. If these graduates are truly good students and Catholics, shouldn't they be able to consider what the President says and decide what they think of it? If we feel that one speaker is going to corrupt our youth, we have a problem not with that speaker, but with our faith in the teaching of the university. You are right that this is symptomatic of a greater problem. At my own typically liberal college, we face the opposite bias against conservative speakers. Despite my opposition to their views, I have fought for the right of speakers like John Yoo and Ken Starr (speaking the night before he was to argue the legality of Prop 8 in the CA supreme court) to speak, even if the offend and make people uncomfortable. To resolve our problems or to even reasonably hold our own opinions, we must be able to consider the opinions of others fairly. The unwillingness to do this is exhausting. I no longer want to go to mass to hear another homily about the moral authority of the Church on matters on which its opinion will almost certainly be different in 500 years. I do not want to claim that the Church has _no_ moral authority, but its moral law is a living, developing thing. Refusal to examine it impedes both its life and development. Please, I would like to go to mass to learn and to develop my self. If the Church is not willing to do the same, though, I am left as one more alienated, college-student Catholic with no spiritual home or identity.
STAN FITZGERALD MR/MRS | 4/5/2009 - 6:46pm
Great article! It is time for someone to "nail some new theses to the door" of the right wing church. Though the Bishops have proclaimed that we are not a single issue church, a handful of elders claim to know better. They are after a smaller, more "purified church," and they may end up with one.
Anne Benington | 4/5/2009 - 11:50am
Thank you Father Kavanaugh for your insightful discussion concerning the President's visit to Notre Dame. As an ND grad, I was trying to discuss the invitation with my prayer group at church this week, many of whom were outraged by Fr. Jenkins and the University for "abandoning" the principles of the Catholic faith. I pointed out that this was a great opportunity for the students and other members of the ND community to engage in discussion of issues such as the church's stand on abortion. The university is in a position to provide a deeper understanding to those who might question, and to offer tools for debate with others. But foremost, a dialogue with the President on these matters, at Notre Dame, offers an outstanding opportunity to instruct him in our beliefs about the sacredness of life and conception. I doubt that Fr. Jenkins will let this opportunity slip away.
Jim Lein | 4/5/2009 - 11:03am
Comment #33 particularly speaks to me. We Catholics all have various gifts, interests and talents. Some may choose to change the law, some to reduce the need for abortion through more aid and help for the poor who now, since the 1990s welfare cuts, have the highest rate of abortion. One thing we can ALL do right now is pray, especially the Rosary, for troubled pregnant women and their unborn. With this focus, the mysteries have new and deeper meaning, especially the Joyful. The first, the Annunciation, is so exactly appropriate it humbles and compels us to better understand these women and their unborn.
Catherine Shinnick | 4/5/2009 - 8:14am
Father Kavanaugh, I'm disappointed that you used James' arguement, clearly lacking in disciplined logic or theology, to bolster your arguement that the invitation to the President was made in attemp at opening the channels of communication with the President of the United States. You make a good point in stating that we Catholics run the risk of becoming known for how we hate, rather than how we love. (It brings to mind the hymn, They Shall Know We are Christians by Our Love.) But, Father, must we confer honors on men in order to begin dialogue? What is the purpose of a Commencement exercise and it's speaker? It is not dialogue with the students, but rather an opportunity for the speaker to address topics that the speaker feels are relevant for his/her audience. The presumption is made by the listening audience that the speaker's guiding principles are consistent with those of the selection committee. In this case, the students at Notre Dame presume that the President of the United States has been invited to address them at graduation because his guiding principles concure with those of the University. Fr. Jenkin's states that the "invitation to President Obama to be our Commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research." Catholics fear that this in fact is the case. The protection of human life is our primary guiding principle of our Christian faith. They shall know we our Christians by our love, by our unending efforts to protect human life. The President of the University goes to far in his ovetures of diplomacy with the President.
Gail | 4/4/2009 - 11:52pm
Thank you Father Kavanaugh. At this moment more than ever before, the Catholic Church needs wise leaders like you to speak out.
Denver Dolman | 4/4/2009 - 11:14pm
I am a Methodist. The hate being spewed out in the name of Christ about Obama is appalling. The hate being spewed out in the name of Christ toward anyone with any "liberal" tendencies is appalling. It is not just Catholics but Christians generally who are in danger of being thought to represent hate rather than love by the larger non-Christian community. It is astounding to me how few people are aware of the relationship between Ayn Rand and some elements of the modern conservative movement. Tell folks that Alan Greenspan was a Rand acolyte and you get a blank, uncomprehending stare. In the meantime millions die in part because of "The Virtue of Selfishness".
ROBERT KILLOREN | 4/4/2009 - 7:38pm
Thank you, Fr. Kavanaugh, for presenting such a well reasoned, reasonable, and realistic commentary on the recent firestorm around Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama. Mr. Obama called for a national discussion about abortion in his book "The Audacity of Hope." I am disappointed that he did not allow for that discussion before he made a number of his decisions. This, however, hardly makes him the Antichrist. There needs to be room even within the Church for serious discussions about abortion and stem cell research. There are questions that need to be asked. Karl Rahner, S.J., one of the leading Catholic theologians of the twentieth century always remained faithful to the Church, but had questions himself. In his last speech before he passed away he said the following: "I ask myself with trepidation whether about half the souls in the kingdom of God have ever had a personal life history. I ask this since authentic Church teaching holds that a personal, spiritual, and eternal soul exists from the moment of an egg's fertilization by sperm and that any other view is simply not acceptable. How is the fact of the countless number of spontaneous abortions reconciled with [the] notion of a personal history of freedom right for the start?" He doesn't deny the Church's teaching, he calls it authentic, but he questions it all the same. I question what we are to do with all these frozen embryos around the world. I've heard the Church say that it would be wrong to use them in stem cell research; I've heard that it would be wrong to allow them to die; I've heard that it is wrong for a woman to "adopt" an embryo and implant it in her womb. Is the Church's only answer that these "souls" are to be left in suspended animation for all time? Does Obama's compassion for the poor, his aversion to conducting unjust wars, his desire to care for the health of all Americans, his reaching out to the leaders of the world to call for justice, for sharing of the world's riches of food, water, and natural resources, does all of this he has already done count for nothing? Can we not honor those good things he does and continue to encourage him to re-examine some of his stances? Fr. Jenkins, hang in there.
Pau-ski | 4/4/2009 - 7:20pm
Why is such a tither Fr.? You pure form of Pacifism is to be a lover of peace. The peace that destroys and robs the soul of any holy spirit. Do nothing except when your civil leader decides to defend the nation such as Bush. Tell everyone to be pacifists when your civil leader is Obama. Ah, the answer to the American church's prayers. I was in different diocese like DC. From top to bottom, you preached Obama is our God. Now you have your elected leader. And he doesn't like you. Hmmm. I guess your screwed. Why don't you go get the Americans to come and fight the war against the socialist party now in charged. Opps. I confused my self. Stalin and Hilter are dead right? Oops. You have corrupted your last hope against socialist leaders gone bad with pacifism. I guess you are going to fry.

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