Outrages: 'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.'

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?

Catherine Schau
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you so much for articulating the danger of this barrage of hate and slander. Randall Terry and the other ideological pitbulls who want to equate Obama with Satan are an embarrassment to us all.
8 years 3 months ago
Fr. Kavanaugh: One offending sentence with two offenses: "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." 1. You fell into the trap of referring to "stem cell research" as if Catholics are opposed. "Embryonic stem cell research" is the proper term. Truly I am not saying you are one, but anti-Church folks, I believe, have intentionally not made this distinction in a dishonest attempt to convince unknowing that the Church is wrong. 2. Also, it is just not fair debate to lump "torture, death of children born but under 5, etc" in with abortion and [embryonic] stem cell research. The latter are as unquestionably defined as they are evil. Torture, not so much - some would say any interrogation tactic is torture, others would not, and what is or is not is subject of fair debate. Also of fair debate is best way to address children dying, and Lord knows Christians of all persuasions do more personally to fight than any government could ever do. As for wars, just war decision is left to the government - so it would not be right to "raze (sic) cane" for inviting Obama even though he has stepped up the war in Afgahnistan. Even vitriol is debatable - e.g., the Bishops' statement condemning Notre Dame is not vitriol, but Randall Terry may be over the top. I think the emotion, even when it becomes unnecessary vitriol, comes from the clarity of the wrong, on which we all agree. Thanks for your column.
8 years 3 months ago
I would like to encourage those who have children who are considering attending Notre Dame and who are outraged by Obama's upcoming appearance there, to please, please not let them apply. I urge you to keep nursing that outrage for at least a couple of more years, so that my son who really, really wants to go there and eat the great food, be in the band, go to the football games, and go to Mass every morning, will have a better chance at being accepted. (It's one tough school to get into even with great grades and lots of extracurricular activities--as we found out when my oldest son was not accepted--so we're grateful for any kind of advantage.) Thank you, in advance, to The Cardinal Newman Society, Randall Terry, Amy Welborn, et. al. for your current and ongoing help in the matter.
8 years 3 months ago
I have gotten tired of our bishops proclaiming against abortion and gay marriage on the grounds that abortion is against life and same sex marriage will destroy marriage. When it came to declaring against greed as in "Greed is Good", they were oddly silent. When it came to invehing against relaxation of the pollution standards thereby allowing the discharge of contaminants which are harmful to both the born and unborn again thay have been silent. When it came to denouncing an unjust war which had been denounced by two popes, once more they were silent. They have shown very little leadership outside of two favorite topics. How can one have any confidence in them to lead us spiritually when they denounce only what is easy to denounce and which a certain portion of the troops seem to like?
Leonard Villa
8 years 3 months ago
Fr. Kavanaugh introduces a red herring to the Notre Dame/Obama controversy with this focus on "hate." On any (most?)controversial issues today you can find "blog hate"/intemperate reactions. This just muddies the waters of what's really at stake with Notre Dame. The school has never repudiated the Land O' Lakes "declaration of independence" from the Catholic Church adopting a secular notion of truth and academic freedom. ND is not in compliance with Ex Corde Ecclesiae which defines what a Catholic University is. For example it does not require its theologians to obtain the Mandatum that they adhere to Catholic doctrine. Hence it should not be a surprise that the University has ignored the American Bishops'document asking all Catholic universities to avoid giving a platform or an award to those politicians or public figures who promote the taking of unborn human life. The Emperor has had no clothes since 1967!! Rome and the bishops turned a blind eye to this situation for years until the still-born Ex Corde Ecclesiae because neither the Holy See nor the American bishops have had the will to enforce it. The standard of Land O' Lakes for any compliant university like ND is what is acceptable to the "academic community" Hence both Catholic doctrine/discipline is relative to that community. This is the real issue at Notre Dame despite the fact there are many fine Catholic students and scholars present at Notre Dame. If the Holy See and the bishops are serious about Ex Corde, they must confront Land O'Lakes and do something about offending institutions.
Mani Francis
8 years 3 months ago
When a people do not value "education" and are content to rely on bits and pieces of "soundbites" as their main source of information, it is very easy to 'rouse the rabble', whether they lean to the left or to the right. Such mediocrity is reinforced by the 'poor quality" of homilies in many of our Churches, and the total apathy to the study of Scripture. Unfortunately, some of our dioceses have been taken over gradually by Diotrephes (III John). God bless, M.Francis
Elizabeth Burr
8 years 3 months ago
Bravo, Fr. Kavanaugh! Thank you for putting this issue in perspective. Such nuttiness(of the anti-Obama hysteria) makes it harder & harder to help me try to suggest to neices & nephews that Catholicism is a wonderful alternative to rejecting religions out of hand. Thank you for helping to add to the Church's tarnished credibility.
8 years 3 months ago
Good articles. God is love, we need to show them God's love somehow. by praying for them.
8 years 3 months ago
Good articles. God is love, we need to show them God's love somehow. by praying for them.
Andrew Strada
8 years 3 months ago
Dear Father Kavanaugh, Picking the weakest person on the other side of an issue (in this case someone named James) is a little too easy, almost like pulling wings off a fly. To this point, 15 American bishops have expressed reservations about the actions of Notre Dame University. How about addressing their concerns? Or are you satisfied to demonstrate merely that you are smarter and more civil than some random person with an ax to grind?
MICHAEL WALSH REV
8 years 3 months ago
Good and holy Father John, you imply that only conservatives who oppose Obama's presence are filled with hate. Have you ever read any of the mean and viscious things said by liberals against Bush or Palin? One of your fellow Jesuits in these pages gloated that George and Laura Bush were booed at the Inaguration of the Messiah. Michael Sean Winters, whom you praise, has written some of the nastiest things about conservatives but you fail to see them.
8 years 3 months ago
I definately agree with Fr. Kavanaugh. As a Senior at SLU, I have been hearing several things about Obama speaking at the commencement at Norte Dame. I was thrilled, not because I am Pro-Choice, but rather because this gives students, faculty and staff of Norte Dame the opportunity to dialogue with Obama, rejecting his presence completely shuts down communication between both camps. Instead of acknowleding that as Catholics we respond to matters that affect our world, we are reacting like people who are simply concerned with one issue. I am glad that you have written this article because it helps articulate all the things I have been trying to explain to my peers for the past couple days now. Let us all continue to pray for all life issues... Concerned Catholic, and student L.Cayetano
8 years 3 months ago
Dear Father, Thank you for a beautiful column, I almost cried! You are so right. We were in Florida this winter and at Sunday Mass, the Priest in his homily stated:"56% of you voted for an avowed abortionist" I gasped! After Mass I talked with a young Priest and told him I was appalled. He said he would pray for me. My point was that I go to Church to be uplifted and that the the homily was geared to elicit negative responses from the Congregation toward the President. I thought perhaps praying for the President for the enormous tasks he is facing would have been a more Christian thing to do.
8 years 3 months ago
Wait for the sputtering, outraged responses, but "bravo" to Fr. Kavanaugh for his thoughtful comments. The pinched view that everything boils down to re-criminalizing abortion is not a compelling way in which to engage with our fellow citizens.
8 years 3 months ago
Notre Dame students, staff and faculty -- and other attendees -- will have an opportunity to learn, as will President Obama. If persons with differing viewpoints cannot interact in a university, where can they? The president is for reducing the need for, and the number of, abortions. He is a reasonable man, a listener, and worth a listen to. As for some of the previous comments, when did there become a worst sin? Many individual women who may feel no choice but to terminate their pregnancy, and decide individually, one by one, to do so -- this is worse than a monster dictator whose decision alone kills millions, including pregnant women? How can you keep score on this and why? We need to ask ourselves why so many women have abortions. And we need to picture not just the imaginary wealthy, well-situated women who do this blithely to avoid inconvenience but also the troubled pregnant women who need our comforting, as Mary needed comforting by the angel who announced the option before her. We are called to love and not to hate. If we pray for and understand -- and offer comfort to -- troubled women, this will reduce the need for, and the number of, abortions.
James Lindsay
8 years 3 months ago
No fair, Father, you will force the right-wingers to think!
8 years 3 months ago
Ayn Rand? She is all about Reason. Catholicism is all about Faith. Obama is all about Faith (re: The Audacity of Hope). It is impossible to state a valid case of why one should object to the President speaking on your campus. Cecil R. Williams
8 years 3 months ago
Jesus stopped those who would have stoned the adultress. He never said that we should use government to enforce the laws of God, rather He said that judgment and punishment are for God not man. Why are so many intent upon doing what Jesus would not do?
JOSEPH D'ANNA
8 years 3 months ago
I perceive Fr. Kavanaugh to be a thoughtful, rational human being who loves God, his fellow humans, and the Church; however, he realizes that neither our society nor the church is perfect. Perhaps, we should heed his entreaties to work towards a more perfect world without destroying our prized institutions and one another. Abortion is, inarguably, a barbaric form of birth control, but a Church that denies the perils of overpopulation and forbids the use of contraception and voluntary sterilization runs the risk of becoming irrelevant in a “hot, flat, crowded world”.
8 years 3 months ago
Catholics are not in danger, they are already known as haters. What about the Inquisition? When did the Church apologize for that? Heretics burned at the stake. That is what the Castholic Church is known for. The fact that we are Christians is often ignored by Christians who continue to hate, hate, hate! God bless them! But when will we learn? The Church, its eclesiastical component, is the arbiter of good taste who decides what is scientifically moral! Give me a break? What expertise does the Roman curia have on stem cell research, abvortion, birth control? When was the last time they subject all those teachings to real experts and not their pseudo-experts? Jean Paul Ii a saint, give me another break? We mortals cannot decide that at all.
Elias Nasser
8 years 3 months ago
Dear Fr Kavanaugh, unfortunately for good or bad the "culture wars" infect not only political life but the life of the Church as well. I think this is most clearly seen in the US but unfortunately it is seen also in the UK, Australia this has nothing to do with the gospel, it has to do with power. This is why it is lethal if the official church is seen to be governing from the right or the left. I fear however that in the US at least your crop of bishops are governing from the right and hence can provide little moral leadership
Joseph Franklin
8 years 3 months ago
'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.' There may be a handful of haters out there: So far, 11 Bishops and 2 Cardinals have criticized the Invitation and Honorary law degree offered by Father Jenkins and Notre Dame, in a non-hateful way. ND Prof McInerny has stated "Notre Dame has forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic university." Bishop John M. D'Arcy has criticized ND’s invitation and issued a statement saying that he won't be attending Notre Dame's commencement exercises. Not too long ago Bishop D’Arcy criticized Father Jenkins decision to allow the “Vagina Monolouges” to be performed at ND. Speaking as the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, last weekend Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said that the University of Notre Dame's decision to host and honor President Obama at their commencement ceremony this year was an "extreme embarrassment" to Catholics. "Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation." The Cardinal Newman Society, a self-appointed watchdog over the orthodoxy of Catholic universities… The Cardinal Newman Society would not exist if Catholic universities were promoting a Catholic identity that was in sync with Church teachings. Many universities need a self-appointed watchdog to let parents know which colleges not to send their children to. The last count I saw on their petition was 200,000 signatures.
Elsie Holcombe
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you. Thank you. This is not the first time you have expressed what I am thinking. You have looked beyond the "tunnel vision" of those who judge so righteously, and I applaud your reference to Ayn Rand. I am 87 years old and the mother of seven children and can only pray that these young people and the parents who prod them will ask themselves if Jesus would take their stand, or in the same manner.
Robert Davis
8 years 3 months ago
The Centers for Disease Control places annual abortions in the US at 800,000; this is a conservative figure, since DC and California do not report. Could the Obama visit to ND become the opening of a dialogue on how to reduce this number? Can Catholics and the Obama White House look at practical means to encourage the pregnant woman to keep her baby?
Brian Massie
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you, Father K. We north of your border in Canada scratch our heads when we see the fuss over President's Obama's visit to Notre Dame. Yes, we have our disagreements - and some signficant - but I thought the age of mindless confrontation had passed. To insult the hightest office in your land by an "uninvite" is hardly a contructive way to engage others in the conversation necessary if change is to take place. Besides that, the man stands for so much that reflects Gospel values: we have to keep perspective.
8 years 3 months ago
The manufactroversy over President Obama speaking at ND is just another example of Rovian Republicans, not all of them Catholic, fanning the flames of hysteria against a Democratic president. All of this uproar sprouts from partisan politics, first and last. The waste of breath, keystrokes, ink and paper is a right-wing trademark when it comes to pro-life issues. Lots of damning talk. No effective action. While the Republicans had the power a very few years ago to do serious damage to "reproductive rights" and protect the unborn, they did nothing. Why? Because actually DOING SOMETHING about abortion doesn't have a political upside for them. Never has. So instead, they condemn and accuse and demonize their political adversaries, while manipulating sincere Catholics into mailing in postcards against non-existent legislation like Phantom FOCA. They are, afterall, the "Party of No," as in "no real effort to save the unborn." The political influence in this manufactrovery is huge and the Rovian Republicans are playing it for all it's worth.
8 years 3 months ago
You could cut the hypocrisy in this column with a knife, but you probably need a meat cleaver to get the job done right. Father Kavanaugh routinely uses his personal column to vent on all sorts of issues – often with inflammatory language and a loose respect for facts - but criticizes Randall Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society for participating in the very same marketplace of ideas. I guess that makes him the "self-appointed watchdog" of Catholic commentary, a role that he obviously relishes. He accuses Father Jenkins’ critics of presuming to know his motives, but doesn’t hesitate to mock the genuine outrage that Notre Dame has provoked within the pro-life community. He generously characterizes a commencement speech and the conferral of an honorary degree as a “first step to engage the president”, but anyone who seeks to engage Notre Dame on this issue is dismissed as a demonizer. Is anyone surprised that Father Kavanaugh chose to nitpick comments from an anonymous blogger rather than engage the serious objections raised by dozens of bishops?
Marion Jacobs
8 years 3 months ago
Father, I wonder, why you focused on the negative or evil comments. I'm sure there were many, many letters written to the president of Notre Dame stating disagreement in a sincere and forthright manner. Don't they count? Do you really believe President Obama will have time to dialog with ND about life issues? His visit will be brief, long enough to give a speech, not to dialog. I'm truly saddened by this situation and what I consider your wayward point of view.
John Rogers
8 years 3 months ago
It is easy enough to agree that civilized discussion is better than shrill screaming. I don't think anyone disputes that. Nevertheless, although the shrill opponents of Notre Dame's actions may not have manners, they certainly have a point. The University has not invited the President to a debate about abortion, but to an event where a) he will be HONORED b) will speak, without fear of rebuttal, to guests whose civilized, polite reaction will be widely interpreted ---count on it---- as approval by 'students and parents at "God's University"'. An opportunity to defend, in soothing, eloquent tones, what the Church, and common sense, teaches to be intrisic evil has been handed on a silver platter to a stauch advocate of that evil. Comment #3 saddens me greatly. I had thought one sent children to college to expand their horizons, train their mind and pursue truth; I hadn't realized it was to eat, play in the band and to attend football games. Color me naive for thinking that education was not just another glamorous artifact of conspicuous consumption.Why not just send your kid to a real college, give him meal money and get him tickets to real professional (not closet professional "student athlete") sporting events?
Mary Behrens
8 years 3 months ago
When the announcement was made in the local paper here in South Bend about Obama's appearance at the UND, there was a photo of some of the other past presidents who have spoken at commencement. Included in that list were both Bush Jr. and Sr. and Ronald Reagan. Was there all this fuss about other issues then? Perhaps. My impression of the students who have taken full advantage of their education at the UND is that they are trained to think broadly about how their work can promote change on a large scale, or in Catholic terms,how they can help bring about the Kingdom of God. It only seems fitting that the university welcomes the current president, no matter what their voting record indicates, as a way to inspire these young adults who will surely be future leaders. Let's give these students credit for knowing their own minds and for being able to think critically about the issues at hand. If anything, Obama's presence here in South Bend gives more air time to the early life issues that need more of his attention. By the way, what do the graduating seniors have to say-I hear they are widely in favor.
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you, Father Kavanaugh for stating a conclusion that is becoming more obvious: 'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.' There is little love or compassion shown in the vitriolic comments coming from the the "conservative" groups in Catholicism - including the hierarchy. Love and compassion draw people to Christ not condemnation and self righteousness. Let the one without sin cast the first stone.
8 years 3 months ago
The group that brought Obama to work as a community organizer in Chicago was funded by the Catholic Church. I know an awful lot of Catholics and even more ex Catholics who are embarrassed by a church that seems to think life begins with conception and ends at birth. The Cardinal Newman Society is a right wing front group and is primarily the work of Brent Bozell. I think a fair description is the vast right wing conspiracy on holy water. And for what it's worth there are a lot of Catholic universities that are better than Notre Dame, most of which were founded by your order.
8 years 3 months ago
Father, perhaps I misread Catholics in Political Life, but nowhere in its text does it say "Catholic institutions may continue to honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles, so long as said institutions fully dissociate themselves from such actions." The document, a formal pronouncement of our Bishops in the exercise of their teaching authority, is clear. Also clear is Notre Dame's defiance. Indeed, as an alumnus, I can tell you that ND is never so open to interpretation as you or Father Jenkins seem to be when it comes to its own rules, or violations thereof. I was originally ambivalent about this decision. Upon reflection, however, those with eyes to see can agree that Notre Dame has placed the Bishops in an untenable position. The Bishops are forced (a) to stand idly by as one of our nation's most prominent Catholic institutions publicly repudiates their teaching, or (b) to object, and be subject to scorn both from inside the Church and from without, as Cardinal George was today. Through its actions, Notre Dame has foolishly marginalized itself (henceforth, it will never be able to credibly criticize the President's administration on anything) and suggested to Catholics that it is permissible to ignore the Bishops when they solemnly teach. None of these are cause for celebration.
William Maniotis
8 years 3 months ago
It breaks the heart. If you understand why the decision to invite Obama to speak--and worse, to be HONORED--at Notre Dame's commencement is so anthithetical to what it means to be a Catholic University, then you can do litte more than shake your head when you see someone like Professor Kavanaugh defending the decision. In the next 8 years, President Barack Obama could deliver a permanent body blow to the hopes of Pro-lifers in this country. He supports a radical notion of abortion that calls for allowing it to occur at any time, for any reason--even after a botched attempt results in a baby being born alive. As for the young lady who complained that her priest pointed out that 56% of Catholic voters voted for Obama and that she was "outraged": you just don't get it. In eight years, when abortion in this country has become on-demand, you will have to bear a piece of the guilt that has allowed that policy to become entrenched. My advice to the Professor Kavanaughs of the world and the so-called "Catholics" who support his TRULY hateful views: just stop calling yourself Catholic. If you really don't believe in Catholic doctrine, stop saying you are even Catholic. When Notre Dame finally has the guts to stop calling itself a Catholic university, perhaps another great school may emerge for real Catholics to send their real Catholic students to.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you, Fr. Kavanaugh. I love the Jesuits and I love St. Louis University. In 1968, when I attended Spring Hill College and was about to throw the Catholic Church out the window, it was the Jesuits who convinced me to stay. They still do! Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. I would think that any university in the world would be overwhelmingly honored to have him as a commencement speaker. He is not pro-abortion, and is working to make abortion extremely rare. I don't understand what, exactly, the problem is that some Catholics have with him.
maryanne kane
8 years 3 months ago
Agree quite thoroughly that Catholicism has become known not for what is loved, but for what is hated, and only wonder why it took so long to own up to this sorry state of affairs. Nothing has seemed to foment this sense of entitlement to despise, of eternal moral superiority, like the abortion "issue," as if all Christendom were not the result of an unplanned pregnancy.
8 years 3 months ago
Father Kavanaugh : Thank you for a rational reminder of our duties as Christians.It is amazing how many are focusing on one action today when they were so silent over the last eight years. WE need more heroic Catholics like you in the clergy. A happy Easter to you. JFH
Robert Killoren
8 years 3 months ago
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 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.
8 years 3 months ago
There are two, very different, but very important questions we have to address: 1)" How do we, as Catholics, work together to fulfill the mandate we have received from God?" and 2) "How do we, as Catholics, bear witness to the world of the truth?" Fr. Kavanaugh directed our attention to one aspect of the way we need to respond to the second question and reminded us that we have to be careful to avoid developing a reputation for negativity or hatred. If we're too negative we won't get a hearing from the world and we'll become like salt that has lost its flavor (another way to become like salt that has lost its flavor is to be too accommodating to the world in which case we ourselves will lose our grip on the truth -- so 'bearing witness' is no easy task). Right now, I'd like us to spend some time looking at the other question. Are we functioning as a family, or are we exhibiting family dysfunction? Do I feel solidarity with my sister and brother Catholics, or do I only care to link up with other 'conservative Catholics' or 'liberal Catholics'? I would like to propose that we all take a moment to reflect upon the fact that each one of us can be an ally in the effort to save lives. Our God has entrusted us with a mission that is both broad and deep. We are all called to bring justice to those who might be victimized by abortion, or by embryonic stem cell research, or by IVF, or by forms of contraception that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting .... BUT .... we are also called to bring justice to the victims of war, and of torture, and of execution, and of pollution, and of poverty, and of repressive immigration policies. WE NEED EACH OTHER'S HELP. Let's thank God for each other and look to find effective ways to utilize each other's talents and passions. Let's examine each of our actions in light of the question, "What effect will this behavior have on my baptismal charge to build the kingdom of God?"
Vince Zahornasky
8 years 3 months ago
I have read all of the commentary and please let me offer a simple man's observation. The right to life is fundamental and to honor a person who would do so much to deny life is a dishonor to life. We are called to take the morally safe course in all of our life decisions, and Notre Dame has chosen otherwise. V
8 years 3 months ago
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.
Robert Killoren
8 years 3 months ago
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.
Denver Dolman
8 years 3 months ago
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".
8 years 3 months ago
Thank you Father Kavanaugh. At this moment more than ever before, the Catholic Church needs wise leaders like you to speak out.
8 years 3 months ago
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.
8 years 3 months ago
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.
Anne Benington
8 years 3 months ago
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.
STAN FITZGERALD MR/MRS
8 years 3 months ago
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.
8 years 3 months ago
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.
8 years 3 months ago
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.

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