Archbp. Hughes (Archd. New Orleans) to Fr. Jenkins (Notre Shame)

His Excellency Most Rev. Alfred Hughes, Archbishop of New Orleans, has this to say to Fr. Jenkins of Notre Shame.

My emphases:

Dear Father Jenkins:

I write to you with a heavy heart after the announcement that the University of Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.  I fail to see how the decision to invite him corresponds with the decision taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with regard to the providing of honors and recognition to public figures who take positions and promote policies that are in direct opposition to the fundamental truths rooted in universal natural law and presented in Catholic Church teaching.

Many of us recognize that President Obama brings unique gifts to his role as President at this crucial time in our history.  He obviously has a gift for communication.  He also seems to seek practical solutions to the huge problems that face our country.  His election provides an historic moment for our country in that the last hurdle for African Americans, who have struggled so hard to experience dignity and opportunity, are represented now in the presidency.  We all want him to succeed.

But dignity and equality belong also to our unborn brothers and sisters.  We cannot compromise our Church’s clear and unflagging opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research by providing honors and a platform for those who deny the humanity and dignity of the most frail creatures in our midst.  Nor can we accept the denial of conscience protection in the delivery of health or social services.  I respect the office of the President of the United States.  I pray for him.  As Catholics we need to enter into civil debate with him on the fundamental issues on which we disagree.  We work with him on those issues with which we agree.  But we do not supply a platform or grant an honor to someone who not only is so wrong on such a fundamental issue but is aggressively pursuing policies which exclude the human rights of the unborn.

The University of Notre Dame used to be the flagship Catholic university in the United States.  I regret that we are not experiencing that leadership and integrity.  I know that Bishop D’Arcy has worked with you to address this and other issues.  I want this letter to express support for his efforts. 

As indicated at the beginning of this letter I write with a heavy heart.  I have appreciated the wonderful collaborative efforts which the University of Notre Dame has offered to this archdiocese and is planning for the future.  I hope that these can continue to move forward in a fruitful way.  But our common efforts to offer education, healthcare and social services to those in need must be premised upon a respect for the right to life of all human beings.  God grant us the grace to serve the truth together.

Sincerely in the Lord,

Most Reverend Alfred C. Hughes
Archbishop of New Orleans


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  1. TJM says:

    Very polished letter, but I like Bishop Doran’s better. Father Jenkins is what Lenin used to refer to as a “useful idiot.” Tom

  2. Anthony says:

    Personally this is my favorite of the bishops’ letters that we have seen. The question is, Is Fr. Jenkins simply clicking delete or throwing them in the shredder? I’m so proud of all these bishops standing up for what is right. I do not believe that this same response would have occured had this same situation occured under the not so long ago Clinton era.

  3. Supertradmom says:

    If Father Jenkins and ND do not change the parameters of the invitation, how can they stand up against the growing lists of leaders in the Church? If the administration at ND remains adamant in having Obama and giving him the degree, this continued bad choice will be based on pure arrogance-the arrogance of the ignorant. Thank you, Bishop Hughes.

  4. Supertradmom says:

    “lists” on purpose………as in jousting…

  5. michigancatholic says:

    It’s good to see these bishops stand up for what the Church teaches. Very well done.

  6. paul says:

    I am very proud of all the bishops who have been speaking out so forcefully. I just read a new letter by Archbishop Beltran from Oklahoma- also very powerful. This is the time that Catholic clergy and laity need to be active- especially in prayer.

  7. Dino says:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the archbishops of Atlanta and Los Ángeles have to say on this?

  8. John Enright says:

    If the other American bishops would issue letters like this, maybe this problem will go away.

  9. Kathy says:

    What a great letter: sober, serious, acknowledging all true good, respectful of the local bishop, and making a strong case.

    This letter commands the respect and attention of those who read it.

  10. APM says:

    Again, I am pleased that the shepherds of the Church are weighing in on this, but what is with the sappy, weak language and the unfortunate need to talk about this president’s supposed “gifts”. Heavy heart? Not in accord with USCCB guidelines (oooooohhhhhhhh!)? Here he even goes on to tell them that he looks forward to working with them in the future. Argh.

    Maybe they all should have just signed Archbishop Nienstedt’s letter.

  11. Dan Howell says:

    What happens if Notre Dame continues on this path? Does the Basilica get stripped of its status, or even worse no longer considered a Catholic University? I am happy to see the bishops speaking out.

  12. APM says:

    I must correct my earlier post; I just read Bishop Dolan’s letter. Now that was a nice anti-toxin for all the squishy language! I think I will just set that as my background and revisit it after every reading of another of our dear bishop’s letters or of a USCCB pronouncement.

    That’s the one that everyone should have signed!

  13. tjtl says:

    Thank God for another bishop speaking up.

    The backlash (by both the clergy–especially the episcopate–and laity) against ND should be a warning to the other Catholic colleges and universities as to what is expected of them.

  14. APM says:

    Correction 2 > I meant Doran’s letter, not Dolan’s. Dolan’s was a lot like that of Hughes. Doran’s on the other hand . . . beautiful. Just beautiful.

  15. Central Valley says:

    Thanks be to God, a Bishop doing his job. Here in the diocese of Fresno, Ca., silence as usual from Bp. John T. Steinbock.

  16. Barbara says:

    If Catholics really want to change society, they have to be open to dialogue with people who disagree. How will President Obama ever become a pro-life politician if he isn’t invited to Notre Dame as a convocation speaker and given an honorary degree? This is the perfect opportunity for Fr. Jenkins to instruct him on the Gospel of Life, when his heart is open. I’m disappointed that so many bishops and people who read this blog fail to see how this all fits in with God’s plan!

  17. MenTaLguY says:

    Barbara, not to put too fine a point on it, but flattery is never an effective witness.

  18. Benedict follower says:

    Barbara- IT is not that Catholics are not open to dialogue- but that it is a very bad tactic to lie to someone which is what the University of Notre Dame would be doing in giving the highest honor to someone whose actions go against what is the very heart of wisdom which is understood by the Catholic Church, it is especially a lie to honor someone extremely anti-Catholic, with a doctorate of laws, when they are setting up the worst national and international program by the use of law, against your essential God-given moral principles, against your very being, state of soul, and countless innocent lives.

  19. Ricky Vines says:

    Barb: Fr. Jenkins made a faux pas by inviting the main proponent of the culture of death; it is not a dialogue. The perception that this conveys may confuse others and lead them to sin. That is why this error needs to be rectified. Yet people seem to favor etiquette before ethics despite the repeated admonitions from the bishops. But if they persist in their error, then I will think that it will be another happy fault that will turn into a strongest opposition to the culture of death ever. I hope all these bishops come this May and stand with Our Lady. Cf.

  20. Corleone says:

    This is really a VERY difficult decision…but here goes:

    Nienstedt, Dolan, Hughes.

  21. rudy says:

    Again, I am pleased that the shepherds of the Church are weighing in on this, but what is with the sappy, weak language and the unfortunate need to talk about this president’s supposed “gifts”.

    Hey you! Don’t be disrespectin’ the TOTUS.

  22. Corleone says:

    APM – …what is with the sappy, weak language and the unfortunate need to talk about this president’s supposed “gifts”.

    APM, I’m not sure there is a “need” per se, but it does demonstrate to all detractors (nominal Catholics among them) that the bishops are not unpatriotic or unappreciative of the potential good that this president can do in other areas. In other words, there are many who think Obama is evil incarnate, just as those on the opposite end of the spectrum thought Bush Jr was. This is both wayward and unproductive thinking and does nothing but polarise people to the point where all legitimate discussion and rational thinking becomes lost among the rabid emotions.

    Speaking for myself alone, I did not vote for Obama, I am not pleased he was elected, and I don’t respect his decisions or character concerning pro-life issues. But, like the bishop outlines, I do respect other of his traits and his potential to do some good during his presidency. Whether or not he realises this potential will remain to be seen.

  23. TomG says:

    Don’t want to pick nits, but … couldn’t His Excellency have soft-pedaled his gushing over President Obama’s wonderfulness in ALL other areas just a *bit*? By any objective measure, the guy is just a very bright talker and masterful manipulator with absolutely no executive experience who has been and continues to be promoted and defended by an establishment media whose only possible parallel and model is the Cold War Soviet press. I would wager a LOT of money that if the president were to decide to make the same case he made in Illinois a few years ago in the Born Alive Infant Protection legislation, the media would find a way to help him do it. May God Help America!

  24. kate says:

    The folks who think you can “dialogue” and win with those who embrace the spirit of Antichrist and the culture of death are underestimating the enemy, you can’t outwit the Deceiver and the dialectic is his favorite tool. The faith of any Church leader who would bestow such honor on a literal pro-abortion Marxist like Obama is very doubtful; this is a deliberate attempt to weaken the Church. Either your faith is in God and His law or it is in human political leaders and their “laws” of theiving, killing, monetary and economic control to create “fairness” on earth, “end hunger”, “save the planet”, blah, blah, all the while enslaving and looting.
    I Samuel 8

  25. Fr. Keith says:

    What a great way to start a Friday Morning! Seeing my archbishop speaking out on this issue! Way to Go Archbishop Hughes!

  26. Calvin says:

    As Eliza Doolitle complained:

    “Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
    I get words all day through;
    First from him, now from you!
    Is that all you blighters can do? …
    Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme!
    Don’t waste my time, Show me!
    Don’t talk of June, Don’t talk of fall!
    Don’t talk at all! Show me!
    Never do I ever want to hear another word.
    There isn’t one I haven’t heard.”

    But apparently “words” are now all that the Church can manage. Our hierarch-servants have abrogated their responsibility to discipline, to rule, to show charity to the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And we have become so shamelessly used to it that this abrogation passes without comment, or at most is excused for one or another “technical reason.” And we are really really happy when one of our servants uses the word “outraged” rather than “disappointed.” (Note Cardinal George’s recent comment that it would simply not be the done thing for Notre Dame to revoke the invitation to the president. “Bad form,” don’t you know? Face-saving trumps soul-saving.) What an awful joke the (non)-discipline in the Church has become!

  27. Romulus says:

    couldn’t His Excellency have soft-pedaled his gushing over President Obama’s wonderfulness in ALL other areas just a bit?

    I agree. The “heavy heart” words are true: I believe my Archbishop is a Northeastern liberal who can’t help fawning over Obama, even as he points out there’s a limit to his support. It’s not the letter I’d have liked to see, but far better than nothing.

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