Sectarian Catholicism

The clouds roll with thunder, the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth, and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak—‘We are the only Christians!’” So wrote St. Augustine about the Donatists, a perfectionist North African sect that attempted to keep the church free of contamination by having no truck with Roman officialdom. In the United States today, self-appointed watchdogs of orthodoxy, like Randall Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society, push mightily for a pure church quite unlike the mixed community of saints and sinners—the Catholic Church—that Augustine championed. Like the Circumcellions of old, they thrive on slash-and-burn tactics; and they refuse to allow the church to be contaminated by contact with certain politicians.

For today’s sectarians, it is not adherence to the church’s doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program. They scorn Augustine’s inclusive, forgiving, big-church Catholics, who will not know which of them belongs to the City of God until God himself separates the tares from the wheat. Their tactics, and their attitudes, threaten the unity of the Catholic Church in the United States, the effectiveness of its mission and the credibility of its pro-life activities.

The sectarians’ targets are frequently Catholic universities and Catholic intellectuals who defend the richer, subtly nuanced, broad-tent Catholic tradition. Their most recent target has been the University of Notre Dame and its president, John Jenkins, C.S.C., who has invited President Barack Obama to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at this year’s graduation. Pope Benedict XVI has modeled a different attitude toward higher education. In 2008, the pope himself was prevented from speaking at Rome’s La Sapienza University by the intense opposition of some doctrinaire scientists. The Vatican later released his speech, in which he argued that “freedom from ecclesiastical and political authorities” is essential to the university’s “special role” in society. He asked, “What does the pope have to do or say to a university?” And he answered, “He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others.”

The divisive effects of the new American sectarians have not escaped the notice of the Vatican. Their highly partisan political edge has become a matter of concern. That they never demonstrate the same high dudgeon at the compromises, unfulfilled promises and policy disagreements with Republican politicians as with Democratic ones is plain for all to see. It is time to call this one-sided denunciation by its proper name: political partisanship.

Pope Benedict XVI has also modeled a different stance toward independent-minded politicians. He has twice reached out to President Obama and offered to build on the common ground of shared values. Even after the partially bungled visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Pope Benedict, Vatican officials worked quickly to repair communication with her. Furthermore, in participating in the international honors accorded New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson in Rome last month for outlawing the death penalty (See Signs of the Times, 5/4), Pope Benedict did not flinch at appearing with a politician who does not agree fully with the church’s policy positions. When challenged about the governor’s imperfect pro-life credentials, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe responded on point, “We were able to help him understand our position on the death penalty.... One thing at a time.” Finally, last March the pro-choice French president Nicolas Sarkozy was made an honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope’s own cathedral.

Four steps are necessary for the U.S. church to escape the strengthening riptide of sectarian conflict and re-establish trust between universities and the hierarchy. First, the bishops’ discipline about speakers and awards at Catholic institutions should be narrowed to exclude from platforms and awards only those Catholics who explicitly oppose formal Catholic teaching. Second, in politics we must reaffirm the distinction between the authoritative teaching of moral principles and legitimate prudential differences in applying principles to public life. Third, all sides should return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI that in politics there are usually several ways to attain the same goals. Finally, church leaders must promote the primacy of charity among Catholics who advocate different political options. For as the council declared, “The bonds which unite the faithful are mightier than anything which divides them” (“Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” No. 92).

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8 years 4 months ago
You could not be more full of it. Talk about distorting history as well as the ND situation. No wonder your circulation continues to decline.
8 years 4 months ago
Sorry but this editorial smells of tolerance for abortion on demand. Why not simply let the President speak at the commencement without giving him an honorary degree?
8 years 4 months ago
Thank you for you comments on the rise of the sectarians vis-a-vis the abortion issue and Notre Dame. Part of the problem lies with the bishops' conflation of doctrine (abortion is evil) and a public policy choice (opposition to Roe v. Wade) Ultimates abortions happen when a person decides to procure one and another person agrees to perfom one. This reality is deeply part of the human cultural experience throughout the world and throughout human history. It predates Roe v. Wade, which suggests a multiplicity of approaches to oppose this evil are advisable -- opposition to Roe v. Wade is not the only way. A closer ethical analysis of the issues of women's reproductive health than has happened in the Catholic discussion so far may result in a more credible presentation of when and how abortion in evil than has been the case to this point.
Leonard Villa
8 years 4 months ago
Your desire to limit exclusion from Catholic forums only those who dissent from "formal Catholic teaching" is the continuation of the dissenter's response to Humanae Vitae: it is not infallible. Give me a break. Hence,because there is not an ex cathedra statement that abortion is murder this can be safely ignored when facilitated by Catholic pols or in choosing speakers for Catholic colleges?Morever,this is not an issue of Catholic teaching alone, because protecting innocent human life is a precept of natural law and the first duty of government. You also make the legitimate-prudential-difference argument. What would be the legitimate prudential differences in applying the teaching against killing unborn children in the womb and public life? When President Obama or Congressman X votes/decides to facilitate abortion, how is that in any way a prudential decision about applying the teaching against abortion??? How is inviting such a person to speak at a Catholic college a prudential judgment in such application? I seriously doubt that you would be so glib in defense of institutions like ND choosing pro-abort speakers, and worried about Catholic sectarianism if the issue were a pol who defended the superiority of whites in IQ over blacks or was a proponent of segregation!! It's time to jettison the PC.
8 years 4 months ago
What is the 'subtly nuanced' view of abortion? --or--sure glad I'm not an intellectual!
8 years 4 months ago
It is a common political ploy to set up your opposition as a straw man - "self-appointed watchdogs of orthodoxy, like Randall Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society" - and then attack them. Perhaps it would have been wiser for you to examine the crux of the issue, by addressing some of the comments of the 55 (and counting) Cardinals and Bishops who have objected to Fr. Jenkins decision to put "prestige ahead of truth", as Bishop D'Arcy said. Perhaps you can also dissect Archbishop Chaput's comment, "Notre Dame didn't need to do this to show its openness to 'dialogue.’ And candidly, very few Notre Dame faculty members would accept from their students the kind of creative reasoning now being used to defend the invitation." As a 20 year subscriber to America, these nonsense defenses are getting tiring.
Tony Cardona
8 years 4 months ago
I am so pleased to read an editorial like this. As a Catholic who has struggled to find a political identity because of his Catholicism, it is nice and important to be reminded that Catholicism is not a political party and one does not have to be a Republican (or Democratic for that matter) because they are Catholic.
8 years 4 months ago
Since the Church is the body of Christ, I believe holding Catholic politicians and organizations to a standard that is in keeping with living the faith as saints on earth is completely appropriate and should be expected. Christ came to save sinners, to call them to repent from their sins and live a life worthy of salvation. Paul states that the former life of sin is left behind, and as such we seek the fullness of life in the grace of God. Your suggestion that Augustine would embrace the lukewarm faith and beliefs of many Catholics and Catholic institutions is a stark departure from Augustine's own defense of the faith against the heretical threats of his day. The Church as a refuge for all does not imply that one can ignore the narrow road of faith in the world. You seem to want to place the social mission of the Church in primacy to everything else.
Stephen SCHEWE
8 years 4 months ago
When I did a little research to see who the Circumcellions were, I almost fell off my chair from laughter! What an apt parallel! I hope you send this editorial and Fr. Langan's article to the NCCB's secretary, suggesting they put them on the agenda for discussion at their next meeting. Perhaps an exercise: Are we the new Circumcellions? Discuss. There's an interesting, parallel discussion beginning in Republican political circles. See Peggy Noonan's column in http://www.opinionjournal.com regarding the "shrink to win" strategy. With faith questions, it's crucial to witness to the truth rather than to be in the majority, but the general point about how to evangelize bears reflection. Do the bishops really believe they'll be able to influence the culture more effectively if they and their followers are increasingly seen as holier-than-thou people who shun dialogue? (See Bishop Finn's speech to the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention in Overland Park, KS: "The more dangerous 'human enemies' in our battle are those who in this age of pluralism and politicial propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will. With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way." A revealing way to describe people who might be reaching out to find common ground!
8 years 4 months ago
Thank God for the Jesuits! Let's hope you can inject some sense in that curious insular country of yours.
Colin Donovan
8 years 4 months ago
The issue of the day is not whether we should talk to opponents, but whether we should award them honorary degrees for their unwavering jurisprudence in favor of laws which are inimical to the natural law and the faith. The tactics chosen by a few doesn't change the fact that many Catholics are outraged, unless you are prepared to include the large numbers of bishops and Mary Ann Glendon among "sectarians". Regarding the four steps needed to be taken, how about another one: Catholic colleges and universities should foster a culture on campus that advocates life in all its policies and activities. In defense of St. Augustine and Pope Benedict, I do not believe they mean what you say. Sectarians (e.g. the Docetists) are properly those who adhere to the part, not the whole. In the current context, this would analogously be Catholics who, while insisting on their adherence to Church teaching, generally act contrary to it - on life, marriage, sexuality and other issues. Political comity with objective evils is quite different than making allowance for different prudential judgments about how to achieve a social policy. Health care is a social policy. Life is not a social policy, it is the most fundamental right. So, yes, sectarians are those who divide, but who really is that, those who are trying, even if badly, to defend the truth, or those who act contrary to it? You sound very much like those who label the faithful as divisive when they complain about liturgical abuses, rather than those who detach the part from the whole by their abuses. Finally, leaving out what preceded Pope Benedict's comments at La Sapienza makes it sound like ND, Georgetown, and other Catholic colleges and universities are incarnations of the Pope's model of a university. Here is what preceded your quote: "Today, however, it is a secular university with that autonomy which, in keeping with the vision inspiring their foundation, has always been part of the nature of universities, WHICH MUST BE TIED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE TRUTH." Even while granting the autonomy of university faculties, that autonomy is not a kind of antinomianism, but to follow the methods of the various disciplines to the truth. I fail to see how truth defends permitting the Vagina Monologues, or, the granting of honors to a president in the very area where he offends against it. While these are Notre Dame's peculiar accommodations to the truth, many other Catholic colleges and universities have similar. By such logic, history departments should host Holocaust denial conferences. That they do not, shows that they at least understand the principle. Now if they would only apply it to other evils.
8 years 4 months ago
You guys at America are the biggest schismatic Modernist heretics around. You are the biggest bunch of frauds.
8 years 4 months ago
Thanks to America for a splendid editorial that speaks truth to (and about) some powerful pressure groups who will, I have no doubt, raise their voices in opposition to this truth. "Their tactics, and their attitudes, threaten the unity of the Catholic Church in the United States, the effectiveness of its mission and the credibility of its pro-life activities." That's absolutely true. And it ought greatly to concern anyone interested in seeing the pro-life viewpoint of Catholicism represented in the public square. It strikes me as strange--and appalling--that many of those who claim to be the church's most ardent pro-life representatives seem oblivious to to the damage they are doing through their strident, divisive, and blindly partisan tactics and attitudes today.
8 years 4 months ago
Barack Obama supports the murder of unborn infants in any circumstance that pleases the mother, in direct contravention of the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Surely we must all agree to disagree on occasion, but that doesn't mean we are obligated to reward behavior one feels strongly is morally wrong. Many feel the Church is betraying their trust by rewarding a cultural enemy with honors and kudos that might be misinterpreted as support for the opposite view.Certainly you should love him as a brother, pray for him to see the light and attempt to anlighten him in ways many and various, but don't reward behavior or attitudes that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. This is not a political issue, but a moral situation involving the sanctity of Life. Politicizing the issue just blurs the edges-your argument is specious, at best.
8 years 4 months ago
Barack Obama supports the murder of unborn infants in any circumstance that pleases the mother, in direct contravention of the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Surely we must all agree to disagree on occasion, but that doesn't mean we are obligated to reward behavior one feels strongly is morally wrong. Many feel the Church is betraying their trust by rewarding a cultural enemy with honors and kudos that might be misinterpreted as support for the opposite view.Certainly you should love him as a brother, pray for him to see the light and attempt to anlighten him in ways many and various, but don't reward behavior or attitudes that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. This is not a political issue, but a moral situation involving the sanctity of Life. Politicizing the issue just blurs the edges-your argument is specious, at best.
8 years 4 months ago
You said in your editorial that "IN POLITICS we must reaffirm the distinction between the authoritative teaching of moral principles and legitimate prudential differences in applying principles to public life." [emphasis added] This appears to be the essence of your editorial. An analogy would be prosecutorial discretion, something necessary for civil justice. And justice with a capital J is one thing that Catholicism is about. Yet the misapplication of discretion can hurt the Church. It offends Justice. We saw that with the sexual abuse scandals. Lately, it offends some that liberation theologists who teach contrarily are excommunicated while Catholic politicians seem to be able to do the same with impunity. More on point, Catholic school teachers are fired on the spot when they marry a divorcee, yet university educators are untouched when they are disobedient. (I did not say wrong.) You are advocating, and apparently the bishops agree with you, for a separate obedience for the political class or anything connected with them. Where is the equity in that? Political - teach or do as you please. Disobedient but not political - you're outta here!
JOANNA IONESCU MS
8 years 4 months ago
That American Catholics are rather active in the political arena and seriously divided on the issue of abortion is a well known fact. Fr. Jenkins, precisely because he is an intellectual, should have been able to exercise a better judgment. In effect, he failed to take into consideration the data, the already given, and by so doing, provoked an unecessary scandal. It is never legitimate to scandalize so many for that amounts to lack of charity. And in this particular situation, the lack of charity was directed towards fellow Catholics who, polarized or not, subtle or not so subtle, love their Church and try the best they can to follow her teachings. Surely you would not label Mrs. Glendon a 'sectarian' on account of her prudential judgment to refuse the medal of honor in the wake of the scandal thus displaying public solidarity with the bishops and many faithful. I personally doubt the uproar would have grown to such magnitude if President Obama would have been invited only for the commencement speech without being granted an honorary degree, which by all accounts, is a powerfully symbolical action. Besides, objectivelly speaking, is it not a little premature for the newly elected president to have 'earned' a degree from a Catholic insitution, especially one in matters of law?
8 years 4 months ago
Thanks for a well chosen and mature editorial!The role of any Christian church, including the Catholic church, is surely to witness and teach the love and mercy of our God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. Why ,oh why do some catholics, including lay, cleric and bishop get into a tizzy over the emotional and not so simple issues around what has come to be known as "abortion". No, it is anything but a simple and straight -forward matter of "pro life" and "anti abortion". I know many people who claim to be vehemently "anti abortion", who are very definitely not pro life. I equally know many people of all faiths, who are anti abortion and are at the same time pro life and "pro choice". To name but one, President Obama is, I believe more pro -life than many many supposedly "anti abortionists" and "pro-lifers". Let us all remember that the moral teaching of Jesus and the Christian Churches (including Catholic Church) is a broad and beautiful tapestry of truth, love, mercy and freedom; not are you "pro" or "anti" abortion or life or whatever emotional and political issue of the day. Get real! The TRUTH will set you free. There are many Christan truths, not just one!
8 years 4 months ago
I agree with the editors. The Catholic Church in the US is fast becoming a fundamentalist Christian sect which allows only very narrowly prescribed views even with repect to politics/public policy. Naturally, the Vatican is concerned, which I'm sure is why they kicked the abrasive and divisive Archbishop Burke upstairs some time ago. Ever since Barry Goldwater in 1964, the doctrinaire purists in the Republican party have wanted to purge the party of all liberals and moderates. They have finally succeeded with the result that the GOP now constitutes a mere 21% of the electorate, concentrated in the most socially and educationally backward parts of the country. Now, in 2009, the Catholic right wants to purge the Church of all liberals and moderates in the name of a narrow fundmentalist orthodoxy -- and at least 30 bishops seem to agree. It will have the same result -- the maginalization of the American Catholic Church into a small fundamentalist sect. And Cardinal George and most of the bishopos seem to be oblivious, perhaps too busy closing schools and parishes and expecting some kind of miracle to restore priestly vocations. It is a tragedy of stupidity and lack of leadership.
8 years 4 months ago
This is not about allowing Obama to speak - let him speak! - this is about awarding him an honorary degree in law when he is actively using the law to promote a culture of death. Shame on your semantics! This is not about speech - it is about honoring the lies and killing of the empire of Cesar (or Obama)...
8 years 4 months ago
Right now I am doing a paper on the Donatists for a grad class on the City of God. So... I know a Donatist when I see one and those of us who support Mary Ann Glendon and the 50 plus bishops etc. ... well, we are not burning churches and throwing lye in the eye of presbyters. Try another analogy.
OBI OBIEKWE
8 years 4 months ago
The problem of the so called Catholic prolifers is that that not many of them commit 100% to profile issues. The Catholic Church as I understand it teaches total and 100% commitment to life issues. If a majority of prolifers were to commit to 100% to life from womb to tomb, abortion may be eradicated in the not too distant future.
William Clark
8 years 4 months ago
It is clear (and not surprising) from a number of the comments already posted on this excellent and courageous editorial that many of those who most need to hear and ponder your words will not do so. Despite the powerful declaration of the Council with which you conclude, the new schism in the church is already far advanced. So I will set aside the temptation to attempt further supports of your important arguments, or to make rebuttals of rebuttals. Rather, let me just express my prayer that the Holy Spirit will in whatever way continue to strengthen the often tenuous bond of charity among us (which is THE sign of Christian unity) that we might somehow continue to acknowledge one another as sisters and brothers in Christ, trying hard -- but from strongly divergent points of view -- to point God's people towards LIFE.
Frank Gianattasio
8 years 4 months ago
Dear America, Friday, May 01, 2009 We are faced with some very basic truths that must be addressed. This is a culture war between secular relativists (aka academic freedom) and those who believe in God the creator of the universe. The critical issue is marriage, pure and simple. The rest are side issues for distraction. Now we can argue about abortion and same sex marriage but the end point, the target is marriage. Paul VI was absolutely prophetic in Humane Vitae, and what he said is true. It took great courage to overrule the experts, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit he did the right thing. History has proven him to be right, but “the experts” continue to vilify him. Is slaughter of innocents or same sex marriage morally acceptable behavior? If the academics really believe this, and continue to promote these ideas, then all is lost. The decline and fall of western culture is in free fall. Where are you guys?
William Rydberg
8 years 4 months ago
A clear article which summarizes the America Editorial board's view on Catholicism in the USA. Sadly, the rot runs deep at America Magazine and the negative side of the "Americanism" heresy spoken of in Leo XIII's encyclical is in full bloom. But its comforting to know that Jesus is the real Head of the Jesuit Order no matter what they think. May God rebuke whomsoever should be rebuked and bless those upon whomsoever His favor rests. Christ is risen!
Lori Amann-Chetcuti
8 years 4 months ago
Thanks for a thoughtful editorial. Perhaps Notre Dame and other Catholic Universities should split the difference when it comes to speakers and the awarding of honorary degrees. Ask whomever they wish to speak, since this country was founded on the principle of free speech. But only award honorary degrees to those who have actually done something to make this country more Christlike--by that I mean people who have made specific humanitarian contributions or advanced the cause of human rights. The jury is still out on whether President Obama's economic and foreign policies will promote peace and economic parity. It is equally uncertain whether his pledge to support women experiencing crisis pregnancies will make any difference in the number of elective abortions. We should wait and see before declaring Obama an enemy of the faith.
8 years 4 months ago
To the Editors of America: Thank you for your couragious editorial. You undoubtedly knew you would be deluged with mail accusing you of tolerance and heresy; probably a few cancelled subscriptions along the way and, perhaps, being taken to the woodshed by the 55 (and counting) cardinals and bishops. Sadly, the Notre Dame uproar has come to represent what Catholicism in the U.S. is all about -- harsh, rude condemnations and shout-downs, single-issue litmus tests, and a melding of faith and politics that extends beyond my personal prayerful reflections to public exhortations of what everyone else must believe. I am now as embarrassed to publicly stand up and say "I am a Catholic" as I am afraid to stand up at church and ask "what about Christ's message of love and all of the other things in life that we need to consider?". Perhaps my fellow Catholics need to go back and read the bible to see which one was Christ and which ones were the tongue-wagging pharisees.
Paul Louisell
8 years 4 months ago
The problem with generalized statements ("That THEY never demonstrate the same high dudgeon etc")is that such statements are rarely accurate. When one bases his argument on an inaccurate statement, the entire argument is suspect, the essay essentially worthless. I suppose the counter argument would be that THEY (supporters of the Democratic Party platform and its leadership) do not take kindly to criticism, which is what the Notre Dame protest is all about. I strongly believe that to say nothing about the President's speech at Notre Dame would send the absolutely wrong message to those who formulate policy for the current administration - Catholics aren't that concerned about the abortion issue.
8 years 4 months ago
It seems to me that the Catholics to whom you refer do not, to paraphrase, go after Republicans as vociferously as they do Democrats for one simple reason. The Democrats, on the whole, support proposals that are intrinsically evil, e.g. abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage. Issues that Republicans support such as the death penalty and the war in Iraq, while troublesome for Catholics, are NOT intrinsically evil. Many bishops have noted that while the Church most certainly looks down upon the death penalty it can, in certain circumstances, be morally legitimate. And one can use one's own moral judgment and disagree with the Church on when this is the case. On the other hand, one cannot disagree with the Church's position on, say, abortion because it is, always and everywhere, a grave evil. It should be noted that many Catholics, including the bishops, have taken Republicans who support abortion or embryonic stem cell research to task. You should read Bishop Tobin's column in reference to an invite he got to a fundraiser for Mayor Giuliani, a Republican, during the last primary season. And in regard to other issues such as health care, it seems to me that Republicans want the same outcome as Democrats; however, they want to get to that result via a vastly different pathway. In the end I think your caricature of orthodox Catholics as stooges of the Republican party is grossly inaccurate.
8 years 4 months ago
You guys must have really stretched yourselves on this one.Why is it that everytime a writer in this magazine wants to indirectly attack the bishops of America he always quotes Pope Benedict?What are we supposed to believe, that the Holy Father was on the phone to Cardinal George and giving him hell for being so sensitive on this issue?If a University invited Bishop Williamson or somebody else with views contarary to the mind of the Church and decided to honour him would this magazine go out of its way to hear his side?
8 years 4 months ago
It is almost a relief to note that AMERICA has not changed its anti-hierarchy stance. As a doctor might point to the deleterious effects of bad eating so may one point to the ongoing deleterious effects of constantly attempting to construct a magisterium in competition to that of the Church. There is something almost charming in the attitude - the provincial attitude - that what happens in a tiny part of the Church - the Church in the U.S. - is of major significance to the Church in the world. By the way, you do need to do more study on the Donatists. And do need to recall Augustine's Roma locuta est, cause finita est.
8 years 4 months ago
The great Catholic philosopher and religious writer Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand, in one of his greatest works, The Charitable Anathema, tells of a particular occasion when the Archbishop of Salzburg asked him to make peace with a mutual acquaintance with whom he had a dispute, for the sake of "Catholic Unity". Dr. von Hildebrand, in answer to the Archbishop replied,” One cannot make peace at the cost of truth, and especially not at the cost of Divine Truth. This would imply an offence to God." I believe Dr. von Hildebrand's observation applies perfectly here. This issue goes far beyond politics or sectarianism and relates directly to the defense of objective values. (By the way, shame on you for using and referencing St. Augustine's teachings in regard to these "un-compromiseable" issues, as they clearly DO NOT apply!) There can be no comprise with error, especially when it involves such issues as apostate pro-choice "Catholic?" (Biden, Pelosi and Sebelius) or not (Obama) polititians who take particular pride in defying Church teaching. And who said the Vatican "partially bungled" Pelosi's visit. I thought it went quite well indeed! Not only that, but, what I get from Archbishop Sheehan's comments, is that although Pope Benedict "did not flinch" publicly at appearing with Bill Richardson, the Holy Father's position was made known to Richardson privately. As for Sarkozy, well...maybe somebody ought to rethink that embarrassment. Regarding your reference to all sides returning to the "teaching of Vatican II”; we all must remember that none of it, documents, the iconoclastic destruction of our Churches, the Novus Ordo Missae, etc., was ever defined "ex-cathedra" and is therefore not binding. And regarding Pope Paul, as Dr. Alice von Hildebrand once said, "God alone is the judge of Paul VI. But it cannot be denied that his pontificate was a very complex and tragic one". None of us would be discussing this topic had Pope Paul not started all this trouble when he signed off on Gaudeum et Spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) and Dignitatus Humanae (The Declaration on Religious Liberty).
8 years 4 months ago
It is curious that less than 20% of the bishops are involved in the episcopal piling on or part of the lynch mob. This gives me hope that this vocal minority does not represent the hierarchy just as those who leveled threats against Catholics who voted for Obama did not. Maybe they understand like the rest of us that Obama is pro-choice not pro-abortion, that he is against torture and preemptive war, and that he is competent to address the needs of the common good. I hope this is the case.
8 years 4 months ago
I, too, find that the "sectarian Catholics" go to far, but when one bestows an honorary Legum Doctor, they are proclaiming him as a teacher of laws. Honoring a pro-abortion politician, i.e. a politician who ignores the natural law: the source for all just laws, is lying and betraying our faith.
Kathleen Nash
8 years 4 months ago
Pace M. Zavala who wrote above that "health care is a social policy." In their 1993 letter, "A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform: Protecting Human Life, Promoting Human Dignity, Pursuing the Common Good” (http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/comphealth.shtml), the U.S. bishops wrote, "Our approach to health care is shaped by a simple but fundamental principle: 'Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God.' Health care is more than a commodity; it is a basic human right, and essential safeguard of human life and dignity." With all due respect, I think the Catholic Church in the U.S. and its Lord would be better served if we stopped condemning and judging and began to love each other, our enemies, and the strangers in our midst. How the world might change if those of us not so engaged would turn our attention and energy toward ensuring access to affordable quality health care for the growing number of U.S. citizens who must live without it or lobbying for more extensive medical benefits (physical and psychological) for Iraqi veterans and support for their families before, during and after deployment; or building houses with Habitat for Humanity or stocking food pantries, tutoring children in after school programs, spend time helping someone apply for benefits through the social welfare system, taking some of those "secular humanist" or "secular relativist" courses at Catholic colleges and universities or at least initiating conversation with the men and women who teach them; advocating for the rights of Palestinians and other oppressed silenced people; volunteering at hospices or shelters for battered women, confronting hate speech, visiting prisoners and working for prison reform. . .the list is endless. Thank you for this editorial and for John Kavanaugh's column in the last issue.
JOHN KEHOE
8 years 4 months ago
Thank you.
Frances Rossi
8 years 4 months ago
I laud this editorial. Isn't being Catholic being so in the full, rich boldness of our Catholicity? Isn't that the point of incarnation, being alive and engaged with the world? Doesn't our Catholic Christian identity come out of a place of hope rather than a narrow place of fear and exclusion? And when such behavior is trumped us as orthodoxy, doesn't that redefine the very boundaries of our faith? I am ever reminded of the full force of the imperative of Jesus to encounter Zaccheus in Luke 19 - "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." If our mission is to be transformed and to transform the world, how can we do that if we are only with the like-minded? I think it means more meals with Zaccheus and all the messy business that entails. All of which is why I am a Catholic and saddened greatly by the narrowing and the exclusion.
8 years 4 months ago
Thank you for bringing charity and common sense to this issue. The "watch dogs of orthodoxy" do not acknowledge all the Catholic Social Justice principles Obama's policies promote, the fact that there are many roads to the same destination, and that people can legitimately disagree on methods while being in agreement on an end. The Obama Family provides a wonderful image of family life - another thing not acknowledged by the extreme Christian right. All life needs to be valued, not only the unborn but again I do not see the "watchdogs" complaining about the death penalty, war, etc. What happened to the seemless garment approach to life issues?
8 years 4 months ago
Scott Appleby, a Notre Dame history professor, has it right. He is reported to have said that now the bishops are imposing a new litmus test for orthodoxy. Not on whether abortion should be legal but over how to fight it. When will these bishops start consulting the laity on such matters? They cannot claim to be omniscient on everything and surely should leave the political agenda to lay people or at the least consult us.
8 years 4 months ago
I had been thinking about subscribing to America. Now I am not sure I will ever return to your website. You have attempted to assign the cause of the problem to the messengers. I expect more from editors.
John Rogers
8 years 4 months ago
Thirty or forty years ago "sectarian" laypeople like Mary Ann Glendon, Bill Donohue and the Cardinal Newman society used to be called "faithful Catholics" with the "courage of their convictions". They didn't have to be vocal, and yes, sometimes over the top, because bishops and theologians had not yet lost the courage of THEIR convictions, and had not yet stopped catechizing the faithful to recognize a horrendous moral evil when they saw it. No, it was better to "dialogue and reason" with evil, honorary degree included at no extra charge. So, in the spirit of Vatican II, the laity has stepped forward to speak truth to power. Some of the bishops are beginning to regain their nerve and add their voices. No doubt the intelligentsia will be the last. If Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden and Al Gore and Jesse Jackson had been ENCOURAGED in their pro life stances in the 1970's, we would not be in the mess we are in now, would we?
William Rydberg
8 years 4 months ago
Thank you Georgio! You just pointed out the Pareto Principal (i.e. 80/20 Rule). The 80/20 Rule says that 20 percent of something always are responsible for 80 percent of the results.
8 years 4 months ago
The negative comments on this editorial - they will certainly come - will focus on intrinsic evil, Democrats, and moral rot at America magazine. The comments will be angry and corrosive. By and large, these comments will go to demonstrate the accuracy of the editors' perceptions, values, and writing. Me? I think the editorial superb. Keep on.
8 years 4 months ago
There is a reality that theologians, pundits, and bloggers miss in this discussion. Quite frankly most Catholics are seeking anchors to reaffirm their loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, especially at this time when our core beliefs are challenged by a cynical and at times hostile media, by a secularist culture which is moving to sanction same sex marriages, by a president who is ambivalent on human life (pro-choice is said to be not pro-abortion?), by Catholic politicians who support abortion, and by Catholic intellectuals who attack bishops. Most Catholics I know do not live in Manhattan nor do they populate theology departments. Their lives are a daily struggle to meet family needs, and defend their faith against the onslaught of secularism and materialism. They know not of Donatists and Circumcellions, but their children and grandchildren will surely enrich the Church with intellectuals, priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals, and even Jesuits. They are offended when leaders of Notre Dame and Georgetown are insensitive to their faith by treating Mary Ann Glendon shabbily or by hiding the cross for a presidential speech, and they applaud Boston College's choice to display the cross. America is a fine forum for dialogue on matters of faith, ethics, public policy, and foreign affairs. Please help Catholics defend their faith in these difficult times.
8 years 4 months ago
I hurried home from Mass this morning at my Jesuit parish (Bellarmine at Xavier University) to check your Web site. Word was spreading that America had done a brilliant job of putting the current Obama/ND brohaha in perspective. I have now read your editorial--and I am not disappointed. Thank you for saying so well what needs to be said. I will share your commentary with my e-mail list.
Jørgen Jensenius
8 years 4 months ago
Allow me as a Catholic from Norway: Is this Notre Dame quarrel the most important thing for Catholics in the world today (Poverty, wars etc)? ----------------------------------------------- Jørgen H. Jensenius.
8 years 4 months ago
Thank you America Magazine for this editorial. Please continue to have the courage to speak and print the truth. It has been very upsetting to watch the Church I love taken over and used by hard line sectarian fundamentalists. As a child of Italian immigrants, I am pretty sure my family has been Catholic since the 1st century. I went to Catholic schools from first grade through college and was taught by Sisters of St. Joseph, Franciscans and Jesuits. I attend Mass at least weekly and sometimes more often - I just do not recognize my Church anymore and am beginning to feel unwelcome. A confession: Due to financial worries, I let my subscription to your magazine lapse - tomorrow I plan to renew it to show my support! May the Holy Spirit continue to Bless your work.
8 years 4 months ago
Bravo! Very insightful and persuasive. There is too much hostility on the part of the "defenders" of orthodoxy. The current Pres is in tune with many of the Church's socil justice stances. He should get our (we are the Church)our support in those areas instead of zeroing in on differences.
8 years 4 months ago
It's clear that much of the opposition to the Notre Dame event is based on partisan politics. As an observer of New York politics, I've often seen cases in which Catholic opponents of legalized abortion provided a forum to pro-choice politicians. As far as I know, no one in the pro-life movement thought less of Cardinal John O'Connor for writing a book jointly with Mayor Ed Koch. No one questioned Bill Donohue's pro-life credentials when he held news conferences jointly with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. No one has questioned the New York State bishops' frequent expressions of thanks to Assemblyman Vito Lopez for sponsoring legislation that would avert a bill allowing retroactive lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse. Bishops have held news conferences with Lopez, who is rated pro-choice by NARAL, and the bishops have frequently criticized the sponsor of the legislation they oppose, Marge Markey, who is rated by NARAL as "anti-choice." Bishops have heaped plenty of praise on Lopez in the process. No one-issue politics there - nor should there be. It's clear that O'Connor, Donohue, the New York bishops and the University of Notre Dame hold the Catholic Church's position on abortion, even when they share the stage with politicians who are pro-choice.
8 years 4 months ago
Perhaps Notre Dame could invite Bishop William Richardson to speak and give him an honoary degree. When the expected complaaints start rolling in I'll look to America to champion his right to recieve it. Or not.

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The Vatican has accused its first-ever auditor general of “going beyond his powers in hiring an external firm to carry out investigations on the private lives of exponents of the Holy See.” The announcement comes after the auditor-general, Libero Milone, who resigned last June, broke his silence

Gerard O'ConnellSeptember 24, 2017
A group of lay theologians and clergy opposed “Amoris Laetitia” have released a letter “correcting” Pope Francis, part of an ongoing effort directed against the pope’s focus on pastoral outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
America StaffSeptember 23, 2017

The martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother "fills us with sadness but also gives us joy to see the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

Catholic News ServiceSeptember 23, 2017
Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, the archbishop of Dhaka, has described the recent attack on the Rohingya community in Myanmar, as “a crime against humanity.”
Gerard O'ConnellSeptember 23, 2017