NatRev: Fr. Sirico on Pres. Obama at Georgetown

From National Review comes this piece by Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute.

My emphases and comments.

The Catholic Identity Crisis
What the Georgetown and Notre Dame controversies reveal.

By Rev. Robert A. Sirico

In his speech this week at Georgetown University, President Obama made an interesting comment about economics. “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand,” he said. “We must build our house upon a rock.”

I doubt that anyone would accuse him of plagiarism, [Unlike V.P. Biden, who receives an award at Georgetown tomorrow…. but I digress…] but what he was quoting came from Jesus’s parable. The man who built his house on sand paid a price when the winds took it down, while the man who built his house on stone saw it withstand the storm.

It is quite appropriate that a parable was quoted at a Catholic university founded by Jesuits. The entire campus is filled with religious symbolism. Crucifixes, statues of Mary, and other religious items are everywhere, revealing the rich tradition here.

Oddly, however, although the president didn’t mind quoting Jesus without credit, [People will generally recognize a parable of Jesus.] his advance team insisted that all religious symbols be covered in the place in which he was speaking. Incredibly, Georgetown officials complied. [That is what I found so disturbing, not that the Obama administration would ask, but that Jesuists would comply!] At the request of the White House, officials at the university placed cover over the letters IHS — the Greek abbreviation for the name of Jesus.

This incident followed the uproar over Obama’s planned speech at Notre Dame, at which he will be given an honorary doctorate. The Notre Dame development department reports widespread anger at the decision to invite him.

Now, if I were a conspiratorial sort of thinker, which I am not, [A common rhetorical tool…] I might suspect that Obama is deliberately trying to divide Catholics. But this is not a conspiracy. Obama is merely capitalizing on a cultural shift that has been in process for a long time. Over the last half century or so, Catholics have undergone a kind of psychological development, moving from the embattled and impoverished immigrant class, unsure of their own status in a hostile culture, to founding their own institutions, serving their country, and becoming as successful as any WASP capitalist in getting their share of the American Dream.

So complete has been this assimilation that on almost any matter of public-policy or lifestyle choices, Catholics are indistinguishable from other Americans[Now… here it comes!] Until, that is, one looks at those who regularly practice their faith as compared with those who have a nominal commitment that amounts to showing up to say hello or goodbye at baptisms and funerals, as Jacqueline Kennedy once put it.

If this thesis is correct, then it is not far-fetched to assert that nominal Catholics are in the midst of an identity crisis[Not far-fetched at all!  I have been talking about Pope Benedict’s "Marshall Plan" till I am blue in the … fingers…] They are embarrassed by the distinctiveness of their more faithful brethren  [Good point!] who observe fast days, don’t approve of abortion, think marriage is what their grandparents thought it was, and hold conservative views on the other hot-button issues that Catholics in public life frequently get asked about by reporters.

Of course, nominal Catholics would deny such an identity crisis. [They too are like people who build their houses on sand.] We simply believe in a pluralistic and tolerant society, they would insist.  [Watch this…] But if the Georgetown episode doesn’t reflect an identity crisis — the religious family that was once the Church’s leading defender blots out their name (Jesuit) and their historic inspiration (Jesus) — then what does[Indeed.]

Think of it: A Catholic university was willing to cover up the name of Jesus, hide it from the cameras, because the president of the United States was coming and asked them to do so. The fact alone gives me chills.

At the root of tolerance is the notion that one is permissive, not about one’s own beliefs, but about the beliefs of those with whom one disagrees. If you do not know who you are and what you hold to be true, you cannot be tolerant[Very good.]

We have come to the point that the most significant contribution Georgetown or Notre Dame could make to society’s diversity [which is a cherished goal of those who embrace relativism, right?] would be to become, once again, Catholic — and not be embarrassed about it. The Church in general and the Jesuits in particular have in their own history heroic examples of martyrs refusing to submit to secular authority and dying for the faith (such as Edmund Campion, S.J., at the hands of Elizabeth I). The least these campus authorities can do is not take active measures to undermine their own identity.

— Father Robert A. Sirico is president and co-founder of the Acton Institute.

 

Bingo.

If the Georgetown episode doesn’t reflect an identity crisis, then what does?

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33 Responses to NatRev: Fr. Sirico on Pres. Obama at Georgetown

  1. Jim says:

    I think the Jesuits had a bit of an identity crisis back in 1773 when Clement XIV suppressed the order. Time will tell whether history repeats itself.

  2. JohnE says:

    …the religious family that was once the Church’s leading defender blots out their name (Jesuit) and their historic inspiration (Jesus)…

    Psalm 9:5:
    “You rebuked the nations, you destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out for all time.”

    Those involved in approving the blotting out of Jesus’ name could really use our prayers and sacrifices of reparation.

  3. Supertradmom says:

    I agree with Father Sirico, but I would go a step further and say that the relativist, nominal Catholics like their lukewarm identity because to them, they are more religious because seemingly more tolerant. The irony of their position is a bit frightening, as it reveals a duplicity of mind common to the Anglicans who consider themselves “real Catholics”. I am afraid that we are heading for the Americanist Heresy behind all of these relativist ideals to cause a real schism in the Church. I do not wish this, but think it will happen.

  4. Tom A. says:

    Matt 10:33 — “…but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

    This was the first quote I thought of when I heard the news that Georgetown would cover up the Sacred Name of Jesus.

  5. cthemfly25 says:

    Father Sirico brings home a scandal which to me is as disheartening to witness as that which is taking place at Notre Dame:

    “Think of it: A Catholic university was willing to cover up the name of Jesus, hide it from the cameras, because the president of the United States was coming and asked them to do so. The fact alone gives me chills.”

    I could cry. Why does this happen? To what end? Do the terms of ‘detente’ and ‘tolerance’ with the relativists in this culture war demand that we surrender? Is hiding the Holy Name of Jesus what relativists call ‘tolerance and diversity’? The symbolism is so apparent that perhaps hiding the Holy Name of Jesus is not even symbolism. Obama’s outrageous demand and the acquiescence of Georgetown is true surrender to the political and cultural war against Faith and freedom.

  6. tertullian says:

    I am beginning to believe we are seeing the emergence of the true Obama:the secularist. He is willing to co-opt Catholics when and where he can and it’s in his interest.If you followed his speech in Turkey, there is a pattern.

    Here is a discussion about this:

    http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2009/01/barack-obama-and-islam-an-ongoing-saga.html#latest

  7. Koala says:

    “There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men.” That’s not plagiarism not quoting without credit.

  8. Son of Trypho says:

    I would suggest that Obama is pandering to the leftist/anti-religious and ACLU types who would savage him with the imagery presented. He’s also probably worried about offending non-Christian American minorities also. Not saying its right, but probably what is motivating it.

  9. Austin Scott says:

    There is a goodly body of Anglicans (such as the redoutable
    Fr Hunwicke (to whom Fr Z links)who are a great deal more
    orthodox than your average Jesuit. One is entitled to deny
    that such people are real priests or ineed real Catholics, but, sad to say, people instructed by Fr Hunwicke and similar clergymen know a
    great deal more about the Catholic faith than hundreds of
    American Catholic university students I have taught.

  10. Maureen says:

    The thing is, a lot of these people never wittingly sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. The culture told them that the most important thing in life was a nice red bean soup, and nobody in their lives ever contradicted that. So of course they believed what the culture told them.

  11. Papabile says:

    The above commenter, Jim, suggested that the Jesuits identity crisis may date back to Clement XIV in 1773, when the order was suppressed.

    I find it supremely ironic that no one, NO ONE would seriously consider calling for the suppression of the Jesuits today, while some would call for suppression with the Legionaries of Christ.

    Now, I am NOT against suppressing the L.C.’s. I honestly am not sure they can survive the scandal.

    But, doesn’t it say something that no one expects ANYTHING of the Jesuits anymore? No one expects faithfulness. We just sit back, and excuse the language, bitch about who and what they are?

    OK, so I’ll call for it.

    Sanctissimo, suppress the Society of Jesus. If that is not possible, then at least, divide it between the Society of Jesus and the Society of Jesus of the Strict Observance.

    They S.J.’s corporately (and I make this distinction, because I know good S.J’s) are no longer the faithful sons they once were. By dividing them, you would sift the wheat from the chaff, and in doing so, allow for a rebirth.

  12. Tradster says:

    If Bush had made these “requests” there would have been hypocritical howls of protest and righteous indignation by the selfsame deans who are falling over themselves for “The Wun”.

  13. Mark VA says:

    A very incisive meditation on the collective mental state of the Church in our country. I see this as a replay of the same old story – a conviction takes hold that sophistication and nuance are incompatible with being Catholic in any traditional meaning of the word. That miracles, such as the multiplication of the loaves, the Resurrection, or walking on water, are really tales to be explained symbolically. That abortion may be wrong, but it is just one wrong on the tapestry of wrongs, and deserves no special consideration. That we understand the Catholic faith at a vastly deeper level than our less educated, and thus more devotional, predecessors. That God, impressed with our sophistication, has anointed us to build a new church, and bury the old one.

    Such bubbles may last for a while, but it is my conviction that times of stress and uncertainty have a way of blowing away such mental fog, and can reveal a more objective assessment of the situation. And that is usually a very humbling experience, but at the same it is balm for the soul.

  14. Dr. Mel-South Carolina says:

    One of the commentators made a reference to the suppression of the Jesuits in the 18th century (1773) by Pope Clemment XIV. Malachi Martin, a laicized Jesuit priest, wrote about this in his 1987 book: “The Jesuits”. They were ressurected by Pope Pius VII in 1814. Whatever affected the order, which caused their harsh supression, went dormant for close to 150 years, becaame restive after WWI, and virulently exploded during Vat II, at the height of the so-called Cold War.

    The corporate Jesuits discarded their original Charism, as the fearless defenders of the Pope and Catholic Tradition, and embraced utilitarian, progressive, secularism. Look at the pro-abort Jesuit, congressman Fr. Robert Drinan, who gave the Kennedy Catholics an “out” on the abortion issue by counseling that one: “could be personally opposed to abortion, but could vote for abortion as a political represenative”. This “sophistry” is still being pushed by pro-abort Catholic politician’s to justify their voting records.

    And look at the Jesuit Berrigan brothers (Dan and Phillip), who organized protests against the U.S. military and were reputed to be involved in a bizzare plots to kidnap Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and bomb federal installations in Washington.

    Most of the Communist rebels of Central and South America were either abetted or led by Jesuit/Maryknoll priests and many new age religious Sisters, who at times took up arms and liquidated opponents to their Marxist/Maoist ideal of “Liberation Theology” (you know: “Kill a Capitalist for Christ”).

    Why haven’t the Jesuits been suppressed again or disbanded? They have spread their toxic poisenous philosophies in their schools way too long and have put the Souls of their students in mortal peril.

    FWIW: Dr. Mel-SC

    P.S. Of course this does not apply to all Jesuits priests, some who are faithful to their Faith and founder, Inigo De Loyola, but are generally in the minority of this once great order, whose martyers for the Faith, sprinkle the nations they were missionaries to.

  15. I just got off the floor. You mean they really covered over IHS ?

    I wouldn’t want to have to explain that in the judgment seat.

  16. TJM says:

    Father Sirico is one of the brighter lights of American Catholicism today. I think the USCCB could use him as their spokesman one . Tom

  17. Kelpius says:

    American Catholicism in tres partes devisa est: the fallen away; the “American Catholic Patriotic Ass’n” with its eminent Obama-groupies, e.g. Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne and Doug Kmiec; and then faithful traditional Catholics led by the Amer. hierarchy. Smart Dem operatives work to exploit highly visible stress points best-suited to highlighting the disunity, like ND and Georgetown, helping to generate fresh enthusiasm in the first two parts.

  18. Father Totton says:

    I recall an interesting encounter I once had with an aunt at a funeral. She had long since lapsed in the practice of the faith, and espoused many of the secularist ideals. I made some off-hand comment about the Jeuits and their decline, their embrace of all that is worldly. My aunt was incredulous, “no, no,” she objected, “the Jesuits are, like, papal storm troopers.” She almost seemed disappointed at what I was saying, though she had followed the same trajectory as the Society (of Jesus). It was a bizarre, sort of Rip-Van-Winkle, Marty McFly type of moment. She couldn’t have been more shocked if she had dipped her hand in the font to discover the Holy water replaced by marshmallows.

  19. Patrick McNally says:

    As always…Father Sirico is dead on target.

    Supertradmom…I think your comment is correct as well.

    Father Z…thanks again for providing this forum and for articles like Father Sirico’s; he is clear-eyed and incisive.

    May God richly bless everyone who reads and posts here…everyone whom they love, and everyone for whom they pray.

  20. TomG says:

    “Oddly, however, although the president didn’t mind quoting Jesus without credit, [People will generally recognize a parable of Jesus.]”

    “Generally”, Fr. Z? I would venture to say that 80% of those 40 and under would not recognize it. And probably a majority of those identifying themselves as “Catholics.”

    Really, Father, you need to get out more.

  21. Rob C. says:

    Charity may dictate that the decision to cover up the IHS was made by an awestruck secular facilities coordinator with little understanding of what s/he was being asked to do. Of far greater importance will be how Georgetown acts in the future. Toward that end, one should observe what America magazine says in this regard.

    Jesuits of the Strict Observance. Interesting concept, that.

  22. Wasn’t it Ronald Knox who said the basic difference between a Catholic and a Protestant is with Protestants they lose their faith and then their morals — with Catholics it the other way around. This
    incident seems to be an institutional application of
    that sentiment.

  23. Bobby Bambino says:

    Just reading this line

    “Think of it: A Catholic university was willing to cover up the name of Jesus…”

    nearly made me cry.

  24. Tomas says:

    No, it’s not an identity crisis – it’s apostasy and cowardice. That is, the two specialties of academia and the Jesuits.

  25. irishgirl says:

    Oh, St. Ignatius Loyola, what has happened to your ‘sons’?

    Reach down from heaven and give them an old-fashioned Spanish/Basque slap!

    I like that idea about splitting the SJs….’Society of Jesus of the Strict Observance’ has a real ring to it!

  26. Latekate says:

    Papabile:
    “Sanctissimo, suppress the Society of Jesus. If that is not possible, then at least, divide it between the Society of Jesus and the Society of Jesus of the Strict Observance.
    They S.J.’s corporately (and I make this distinction, because I know good S.J’s) are no longer the faithful sons they once were. By dividing them, you would sift the wheat from the chaff, and in doing so, allow for a rebirth.”

    Rather, it seems that this is what the “seculars” are doing to Catholics! Suppress the traditionalists, dividing Catholics and separate out the wheat (which is what they would consider the Kennedys, Bidens and Pelosis) from the “chaff” of the faithful. I’m certain they plan for a “rebirth” of the “American Catholic Church” in a form amenable to secularist versions of “tolerance” and “diversity”…and Catholic in name only. But maybe there should be such a split, let the “American Catholics” go their own way.

  27. Nicola says:

    Isn’t this what the Americanist bishops have been striving
    for since the 1960’s Revolution.

    They didn’t want us to have a Catholic identity.

    Bravo!! Father Sirico

  28. AnPiobaire says:

    All that happened here was that appropriate stage dressing was constructed for the event which was occuring. No censorship and no apostacy. A large number of IHS emblems around the room were left uncovered, as well as the Jesuit motto and stained glass window images. Stop the hysterics and stop the witchhunt.

  29. John 6:54 says:

    Let’s see, the Pope comes last April 17 to the United States and gives a talk to Catholic educators about what it means to be a “Catholic Educator”. In less than one year two of our higher institutions of Catholic education have brought scandal upon the faithful by their actions. Notre Dame & Georgetown.

    At what point does the Pope/Vatican take action? The Catholic administrators who fostered these scandals cannot claim ignorance and if they do they shouldn’t be in their positions. The only thing more scandalous than what has occurred at these institutions is that nothing of substance has occurred. I do not consider a few “statements” by a few Bishops as substantial action. I’m all for forgiving those who made the mistakes but you don’t leave them in power and if no example is made, these errors will continue and become worse.

    God Help Us!

  30. Jacques says:

    Yes John, I cannot say better.
    In your opinion, what is the most scandalous: The scandal itself, those by whom it happened, or those who did nothing to stop it?

    One may paraphrase Padre Pio:
    “Georgetown’s Jesuits, will Saint Ignatius acknowledge you as his sons when you will die?”

  31. Ian says:

    I’m inclined to side with AnPhiobaire.

    A similar thing happened in Britain recently when a cross or crucifix was covered up in a church during the filming of a soap opera wedding. It was simply to prevent specular reflections ruining the shots because of lighting and camera angles. There was a huge media cry about it among the usual suspects, thick journalists who dazzled by the crucifix issue couldn’t see that the presence of an altar, tracery, stained glass, candles etc. on the scene hardly turned it into a non-religious space. It was still recognisably a church, even to a three-year old.

    If the church is to mix with the state, then a little give-and-take is in order, though usually it will be the producers who have the last word. It wouldn’t be appropriate to cover everything of religious significance, but neither would it be appropriate to leave banners up shouting “DIE HERETIC SCUM!” or “ARE YOU READY FOR THE RAPTURE?” ;-)

    There should certainly be enough Catholic/Christian stuff around to make it clear to viewers that Obama is addressing a particular audience, because it gives them some context. But this was a media event, not a pontifical high mass, and the church should learn how to handle it properly if it’s not satisfied.

  32. therese b says:

    \”It wouldn’t be appropriate to cover everything of religious significance, but neither would it be appropriate to leave banners up shouting “DIE HERETIC SCUM!” or “ARE YOU READY FOR THE RAPTURE?” ;-)\”

    I\’m not much of a latinist, but I don\’t think IHS is a contraction of either of these phrases.

    Tabletistas eunt domus ;-) (Apologies to Monty Python)

  33. Ian says:

    I’m not much of a latinist, but I don’t think IHS is a contraction of either of these phrases.

    ITE HAERETICI STYGIUM

    is the best I can come up with. It’s not the most elegant Latin, but I want it to mean “go, heretics, to the Styx.”