While everyone talks about their opinions on President Obama's speech at Notre Dame today, David Gibson's excellent article in the Outlook section of the Washington Post tackles the issue of who is "really" Catholic, and why so many Catholics think that they can make that call. At the end of his piece he unearths a particularly fine quote from Pope Benedict XV during the Modernist controversy, and offers a pointed question.
A century ago, the church was deeply divided over Pope Pius X's campaign against "Modernism," which was a catchall for anything Rome deemed suspicious. When Pius died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical calling on Catholics "to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith."
"There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism," Benedict XV concluded. "It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname.'"
And it means that the real dilemma for American Catholics today is not whether Notre Dame is Catholic, but whether we are.
James Martin, SJ