John Allen on the Notre Dame controversy: Fr. Z’s questions

My friend Mr. John L. Allen, Jr., the nearly ubiquitous fair-minded former Rome correspondent for the ultra-leftist National Catholic Reporter drills away in is Friday missive at the controversy swirling about Notre Shame University.

He makes some good points but raises some questions.

My emphases and comments.  I make more observations at the end.

Obama and Notre Dame
By John L Allen Jr
Created Apr 09, 2009

Two great annual festivals of hope, both accompanied by venerable liturgical rites, happen to fall in the same week this year: Opening Day and Easter Sunday. For a Christian and a baseball fan, there’s no better time to be alive.  [Right on!  The tomb is open and empty!  The world springs back to life!]

Emboldened by this air of new possibility, I’d like to float a hope regarding the increasingly acrimonious debate over the University of Notre Dame and its invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver this year’s commencement address. In a nutshell, my hope is that American Catholics will manage their disagreements over the Obama appearance without turning this into yet another nasty front in our version of the culture wars.

For that to happen, two virtues will need to be more in evidence than they have been so far: charity and perspective[Perspective isn’t in an list of virtues I know… but this isn’t supposed to be a Thomistic treatise.  Accept it and read on…]


First, let’s be clear about something: Inviting a pro-choice president of the United States to speak at the country’s premier Catholic university may be highly charged at the level of symbolism and political fallout, but that does not make its advisability a matter of dogma. There’s no heresy implied in either supporting or opposing the move, so Catholics ought to be able to disagree without casting one another as enemies of the faith.

One side believes bringing Obama to Notre Dame will open a conversation, forcing him to confront the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life. The other argues that giving Obama a platform suggests a spirit of “agree to disagree” on critical issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research that amounts to compromise with evil. Either side could be wrong, even disastrously so, without thereby committing apostasy. [The word "disastrously" is well chosen.  But… don’t "disastrous" stakes compel one to chose a side?]

To date, alas, this has not been the spirit of much conversation.

A poison pen e-mail currently making the rounds, for example, has a picture of a guy behind bars under the fake headline of “Jenkins arrested for impersonating a Catholic.” The reference is to Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president. In slightly less acerbic form, similar charges have even come from a few bishops. Those comments should probably be chalked up to the intensity people feel about the pro-life cause, rather than a sober evaluation of Notre Dame’s leadership, because otherwise they’re a tremendous injustice both to Jenkins and to the Congregation of the Holy Cross — an order which, in my experience, doesn’t need lessons from anyone on what it means to be both faithfully Catholic and committed to the educational enterprise[So, those bishops were less than "sober" when they wrote their letters.  What were they?  Unhinged?  Rash?  Uncharitable?  Lacking in perspective?]

I speak as someone who taught in a Holy Cross high school in Los Angeles (also named Notre Dame), where I saw the legacy of the order’s founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, in action. [The author has a personal connection with the Holy Cross Fathers.  He is up front about it.]

In February 2006, I also happened to be at the Lateran University in Rome when Notre Dame awarded an honorary doctorate to Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, then rector of the Lateran. (Fisichella is now president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, where he plays a lead role in making the case for the unborn.) Both Jenkins and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., a Holy Cross father and a trustee at Notre Dame, delivered perhaps the most impressive treatments of Catholic higher education I’ve ever heard.  [The elements involved in the above: the "Pope’s University", the Rector Magnficus of that University, Notre Dame, Fr. Jenkin’s, Bp. Jenky.]

“The church always faces crises,” Jenkins said that day. “Our strength is to face them with reason and hope, [YES WE CAN!] grounded in the gospel; to take confidence in the truth discovered through reason; to never fear the truth; and to show charity towards all.” For his part, Jenky argued that church-run schools “should never choose between being excellent or being Catholic.” Our Catholic tradition, he said, is “so profound, so wide and so self-confident in its exploration of truth that it can dare to ask questions and promote dialogue.”  [Okay…. that’s fine.  But Pres. Obama was not invited to participate in "dialogue" at Notre Dame.  He was invited to be honored.]

One can disagree with particular judgment calls, but let’s not go down the road of questioning the Catholic identity of figures so obviously committed to the intersection of faith and reason. [But, Mr. Allen, I think the controversy which has erupted, and even the tone which has risen, both stem from the fact that that commitment it is no longer "obvious".  It should be obvious.  People are hurt and alarmed that it is not.]

At the same time, let’s also stipulate that one can be sincerely troubled by the honor Notre Dame appears  [I believe an "honorary doctorate" is part of the whole thing] to be bestowing upon the president without thereby becoming a flack for the Republican Party.  [Thank you.  This is NOT – at least for reasonable people – a matter of partisan politics.]

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Notre Dame ["]theologian["] Fr. Richard McBrien asserted that those unhappy with the invitation are “simply Republicans upset that Obama won the election, and they want to pick a fight.” I’m not sure how true that is sociologically — McBrien knows the personalities at Notre Dame better than I do. In principle, however, one does not have to be a disgruntled McCain voter [ehem… there are those who would disagree that Sen. McCain is the best representative of classic Republican ideals, but Allen’s point is clear] to be alarmed by rolling out the red carpet for a leader whose positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research are clearly at odds with what the church considers basic principles of justice. [principles about which there can, for Catholics with an obvious sense of commitment, even appear to be compromised.]

Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have defined the defense of human life from conception to natural death as the towering human rights struggle of our time. Someone striving to “think with the church” would obviously have grounds for feeling wary about the Obama invitation that go well beyond lust for political payback.

What makes this such a difficult case, in fact, is precisely that both sides are upholding core Catholic values: the sanctity of life and the [wait for it] imperative of dialogue. [This is where some people are going to hear alarm bells.  It will be worth discussing in another entry the extent to which "dialogue" is an "imperative" and how to identity  the parameters of dialogue.  Without question, we must be ready always to engage in dialogue (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).  But dialogue has its limits (cf. Matthew 11).] Figuring out how to reconcile those values is not easy under the best of circumstances, and hasty certainties don’t help. Neither do unfounded assumptions about the motives of Catholics who reach different conclusions[Leaving aside the motives, I think we can still judge the actions, no?]

Perspective  [that elusive "virtue"]

In a recent essay for National Review Online, noted Catholic author George Weigel asserted that “virtually the entire sentient world” is aware of the melee surrounding Notre Dame and Obama. Unless you define the “sentient world” as the American blogosphere, however, that’s a fairly mammoth over-statement. I just spent two weeks in Cameroon, and I can report that few people there seem worked up over who’s speaking to Irish grads this spring.  [Wellllll…. Mr. Allen…. c’mon…]

This is the chronic Achilles’ heel of American Catholicism: we presume that our issues are the world’s issues, often leaving Catholics elsewhere scratching their heads about what they perceive as our insularity. [Yes… but, for Americans who are Catholic this is important.  Can we stipulate that what is important for the Catholic Church in the USA is important for the Church in the world?  We are not talking about the Church in Tobago, as wonderful as Tobago may be.]

To be sure, the debate over the Obama invite is no tempest in a teapot. The question of how to engage public figures who hold pro-choice views without seeming to endorse, or wink at, those views, is critically important. [Here is the problem.  Pres. Obama didn’t accept an invitation to debate or dialogue.  He was invited to admonish (commencement) and be honored (honorary doctorate).  I don’t think people would be upset if the President were to be part of an open and obvious event of dialogue.  The problem is that he is being honored.] At the same time, however, it’s a big, complicated world, and this is hardly the only matter deserving of American Catholic attention.  [Yes, I agree.  But we can pay attention to more than one thing at the same time.  As a matter of fact, we can analyze this particular controversy within the larger context of the Church "in the modern world".]

Here’s an illustration of the point. As it happens, Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony falls on May 17, just two days after Pope Benedict XVI will wind up his May 8-15 visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It’s arguably the pope’s most important foreign voyage to date, with a host of critical issues on the table: the future of Catholic-Muslim and Catholic-Jewish relations, the fate of shrinking Christian minorities in the Arab world, and the church’s role in promoting Middle East peace, to name just three. The United States and the American Catholic community are, or at least ought to be, major players in all those dramas. [Even though Mr. Weigel was engaging in hyperbole, what goes on in the Church in the USA really is important for the rest of the world… whether the rest of the world knows it or not.]

It would be tragic if the fracas over Notre Dame were to occlude the high stakes of this trip from American eyes. [I sympathize with what Allen is saying.  We have seen the media become distracted from important papal events by secular dust ups.  I have in mind the coverage of Pope John Paul II going black in the press in favor of the breaking scandal about Pres. Clinton and a certain intern.  But the drivers of the Catholic blogosphere (mentioned above by Mr. Allen) are certainly capable of keeping more than one ball in the air at the same time.  What the challenge is for the drovers of the Catholic blogosphere is to keep the Notre Dame dust up properly contextualized and not lose sight of other important things happening within the Church.  The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land is surely an important secular event with seclar consequences and it must be covered as such.  It is also important for the Church herself. ] Keeping the bigger picture in view [i.e., perspective] is not only a matter of justice, but I suspect it would also make the dispute over Obama and Notre Dame seem more manageable. Among other things, it could offer a reminder that what we have in common as Catholics, set against a wider frame of reference, usually looms larger than what divides us[I agree. Is it not therefore even more important that, our commitment as Catholics to the supremely basic right to life should be obvious?]

Thus I dare to hope that, after an Easter lull in hostilities, combatants in the Notre Dame/Obama row can return to a more charitable exchange, with a deeper sense of perspective. A cynic might contend that’s the Catholic equivalent of believing the Royals have a shot at the pennant, [?  riiiiiiight….] but this, after all, is the perennial charm of Opening Day — for a brief moment, anything seems possible.

Mr. Allen’s intention is good, but there are problems.  There are inconsistencies.

What his piece raises for me above all, however, is the question about the limits of dialogue.

Catholics must engage in dialogue.  We must be involved in the public square.  In civil discourse dialogue must have decorum.  In classical terms, dialogue must be forged in the crucible of the aptum, the "apt". 

At what point does the aptum drive one to make a whip of cords?

Some bishops have made a decision about that point.

Let’s take this in another direction.

It is helpful to look at questions or events in the Church from ad intra and ad extra perspectives, what the event or question means for the Church qua Church within her membership and what they mean for the Church engaged with the whole world.

But the Notre Dame dust up is not primarily a dialogue event with the modern world out in the secular public square.

Is this business at Notre Dame at heart not a struggle within the Church over Catholic identity?

Before we can engage the world effectively in the public square as Catholics, we have to know who we are as Catholics.

The Notre Dame controversy is inciting harshness precisely because the long-needed scrum called dialogue over Catholic identity is now being more closely engaged.

Pope Benedict, I think, has a fundamental objective in his work as a theologian and now as Supreme Pontiff.  He seeks to revitalize Catholic identity precisely so that Catholics as individuals and as a Church can contribute with effect in the public square.

Consider: Does anyone really think that President Obama will, by this experience of Notre Dame as Notre Dame presently communicates her Catholic identity to the world, be prompted in the least to reconsider his positions or engage with the Catholic Church in an exchange that is more than a sham?

The escalating debate around Notre Dame reflects a disturbing fact: Notre Dame’s committment, as a Catholic University, to very basic aspects of Catholic teaching is no longer obvious.

It is now a matter for debate.  It is now fraught with doubt.

Shouldn’t it be obvious?

Is that too much to ask from a Catholic University?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lots of modernist marketing words to get us real Catholics to accept Obama as a speaker and receiver of an honorary degree. The “virtue of perspective?” Just another lie to support relativism. “Catholic identity of figures so obviously committed to the intersection of faith and reason?” What commitment? Just what I would expect from NCR.

  2. LCB says:

    Mr. Allen misses the point. It is about the fact that Mr. Obama is being honored.

    There is no dialog taking place. When a person speaks, then leaves, it is a monologue.Finally it is a matter of scandal. It creates the appearance that Mr. Obama’s activities and values are in some way consistant with Catholicism, or simply civilized society. They are not.

    This is not Mr. Allen’s best work, in my opinion.

  3. Don Altabello says:

    Allen gives quite a bit of useful “perspective” himself. There are rules to disagreements and even civil war within the church. A very valid point. Criticizing McBrien gives him much more credibility with me.

    Allen, though I probably wouldn’t like many of his own views, is one of the best journalists that covers Catholic matters here in the U.S.

  4. Luke says:

    First of all: “Notre Dame [“]theologian[“] Fr. Richard McBrien” LOL Thanks for the humor, Father!

    Second: Pro-choice? Who in their objectively right mid could call him “pro-choice”? Oh that explains it…of course.

    Then, why should we put labels on the actions of those at Notre Dame? Labels like charity, for example. How can we know their intentions? We can only say that the actions we see do not match with Catholic teaching. Aside from this it could be argued that a large student body of an impressionable age should not be exposed to anything but the truth. Small “t,” and capital “T.” The fact that Hitler became a leader with some weight to throw around didn’t make him a good man.

    I firmly believe that the best way to either convert the lukewarm, or in a different case, battle evil, is to know the truth. And to know it well. An understanding of the subjective mind only leads to confusion in my opinion. And one (I agree with you wholeheartedly, Fr. Marie-Paul) that leads down the path to Relativism. What some might call a “slippery slope.”

  5. TNCath says:

    I think Mr. Allen engages in a lot of “wishful thinking” here. I also think he is understating the significance of this event. For years Notre Dame represented the Catholic Church in the United States at its best. And now, Notre Dame is distancing itself from that very institution for which it exists in the first place. Ultimately, this isn’t so much about Barack Obama as it is Notre Dame’s loyalty and submission to the Church and her teachings, the latter we already know has been on shaky ground since the Land O’Lakes statement back in 1967. In the past, other Presidents who clearly disagreed with Church teachings have spoken at Notre Dame; however, they did not blatantly and openly disagree with fundamental questions of natural law as this man has done. Nonetheless, the local Bishop has raised his objection to President Obama’s appearance, as it is his right and obligation to do so. As a Catholic institution in his diocese, Notre Dame has an obligation to submit to that objection. In this case, dialogue, perspective, and charity are on the sidelines. Obedience is first and foremost here.

  6. John says:

    I am not impressed at all with John Allen’s take on the situation. I cannot stand liberal buzzwords like “perspective” and “dialogue”. It reminds me of liberal priests who use words like “pastoral” to excuse their unwillingness to be orthodox when it is difficult.

    The problem is that the University of Notre Dame is no longer what it claims to be. This is nothing new. It has taken this course ever since it signed the Land O’Lakes statement. The reason for the outrage is that the presidential invitation is a very conspicuous manifestation of this fact. I believe that all Catholics have the responsibility, within their sphere of influence, to demand that Catholic universities be unapologetically Catholic. The Catholic faith should affect everything it does. I’m not saying that, within the different disciplines, other thoughts, ideas, or worldviews can’t be examined, but it should always be from a Catholic perspective and worldview.

  7. Brian Day says:

    In a recent interview with The New York Times, Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien asserted that those unhappy with the invitation are “simply Republicans upset that Obama won the election, and they want to pick a fight.” I’m not sure how true that is sociologically—McBrien knows the personalities at Notre Dame better than I do.

    Really? I am surprised that Mr Allen would even trot out Fr McBrien. Contrast Fr McBrien’s quote with Mr Allen’s previous paragraph:
    At the same time, let’s also stipulate that one can be sincerely troubled by the honor Notre Dame appears to be bestowing upon the president without thereby becoming a flack for the Republican Party.
    First Mr Allen says that is possible to disagree outside of partisan politics, and then immediately go to Fr McBrein who says that it IS partisan politics, “simply Republicans upset that Obama won the election…”. Then Mr Allen tries to distance himself by writing, “I’m not sure how true that is…” What a weasel move. Unless I missed it, Mr. Allen did not try to provide an opposing point of view that the objections were not based upon partisan politics, but faith and reason. Very disappointing.

  8. The Astronomer says:

    The ‘progressive’ wing of AmChurch believes that only through endless ‘dialogue’ will we all get along. Meanwhile, every day thousands of new Holy Innocents are sacrificed to the sacrament of American secular liberalism, abortion. Mr. Allen reveals his bias when he uses the term ‘pro-choice,’ among other things. Remember folks, he’s not writing for The Remnant or Wanderer, but a publication that esteems the views of people like Fr McBrien.

    I wonder why the Lord Jesus went after the money changers in the temple with a whip, instead of just engaging them in a nurturing dialogue?

  9. Ricky Vines says:

    Fr. Z writes, “Catholics must engage in dialogue. We must be involved in the public square. “

    I agree. However, some might think that dialogue is negotiation; which it is not. Our principles are not negotiable. We cannot permitting abortion and just try to reduce it. It is like permitting slavery and just limiting its practice.

    Fr. Z writes, “Notre Dame’s commitment, as a Catholic University, to very basic aspects of Catholic teaching is no longer obvious.”

    Not only is it no longer obvious, it is even dubious. Does ND consider itself an educational arm of the Church with the mission of preparing leaders to imbue the world with the spirit of Christ or does it now see itself as another secular institution with a history of Catholic patronage and a dressing of Catholic cultural elements. Indeed, their identity will determine their activity.

  10. fh in Houston says:

    \”what goes on in the Church in the USA really is important for the rest of the world\”

    Great line father, he neutered his own argument against Weigel with that paragraph.

    I see this the other way. Liberal American catholics are the chronic Achilles’ heel of American Catholicism in that they presume that their issues are the world’s issues, often leaving traditional Catholics everywhere scratching their heads about what liberals perceive is Rome\’s insularity.

    Get with the 2,000 year old program libs.

  11. Thomas Burk says:

    Yes, by all means, let’s have more dialogue. 36 years isn’t nearly enough.

  12. cthemfly25 says:

    Father, please pardon this observation if it sounds harsh. The way Mr. Allen uses ‘perspective’ is as a foundation for what is essentially a relativist argument. ‘Perspective’ can also be an element of wisdom but I do not see it in his argument.

    Nonetheless, let me add some perspective as well. The President has strenuously and openly advocated, and without shame, against ‘born alive.’ That protection for the survivors of abortion was a low threshold against infanticide. Specifically the ‘born alive’ survivors were victims typically of chemical abortions and obvious late term babies. Many of those victims were children with disabilities including downs syndrome. Again, for the sake of perspective, what does it say about a man’s character and the state of his soul to advocate a barbarity and what otherwise should be a criminal act (at least in a decent society). For the sake of perspective, what does that say about a man’s view of his fellow human beings, their dignity, their rights, their freedoms.

    For the sake of perspective, we need to understand this about abortion, and in the case of the President, infanticide. It is the tip of the spear on a host of issues. Disregard for life, is disregard for liberty, is disregard for family, is disregard for true and authentic freedom, and a disregard for love. And, if that shameful disregard to a fellow human being who has survived an abortion is not yet seen in the wide array of horrific policies now and coming soon to a country you love, then I respectfully submit that Mr. Allen has lost perspective.

  13. Kimberly says:

    I wonder why the Lord Jesus went after the money changers in the temple with a whip, instead of just engaging them in a nurturing dialogue? – Astronomer

    Great question.

  14. Pat Phillips says:

    “…what we have in common as Catholics, set against a wider frame of reference, usually looms larger than what divides us. [I agree. …”

    I’m sure I will come to regret the choice of metaphors, but “what we have in common…” is a polar ice cap, melting from the top down and having large chunks break off. If only those drifting chunkers would refrain from scandalizing the rest of the world by insisting that they are still part of the ice cap. Without the authority of the magisterium the Catholic Church would be just another xxxxxxx (redacted].

    As the erosion continues it becomes ever increasingly important to defend, with vigor, those items of dogma that are truly “core”, constant and clear, e.g. respect for life. It is a failure of faith to take a stance that we can “negotiate” regarding life and, thereby “Play God” over who lives and dies. Abortion is murder and there is no room for negotiation.

  15. Jackson says:

    “One side believes bringing Obama to Notre Dame will open a conversation, forcing him to confront the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.” That is baloney. The students, faculty (and administrators) who are in favor of the Obama invitation are pro-abortion, and believe that the Catholic Church’s teaching on it is dead wrong. They don’t want conversion, they want their status quo way.

  16. craig says:

    Our Lord went after moneychangers with a whip because they were Jews defaming the Temple; they would not have been doing business there had they not known full well what the Temple was about. His harshest words were for the scribes and Pharisees.

    So it makes sense to hold those inside the fold to a higher standard than those outside, and dialogue with each accordingly. The face that Catholic institutions present to the world needs to be unambiguously Catholic — otherwise why have them?

    Perspective is only a virtue if it is a sub-category of prudence. While ND may receive its reward from the Right Sort of People in the short term, ND showed anything but prudence in the long view. Someday ND’s honorary degree along with cap, gown, and stole will be prominently displayed under the styrofoam Greek columns in Obama’s future shrine, er, presidential library. It will be shown as proof that patriotic Catholics were behind the Dear Leader. God willing, it will be as embarrassing then as Catholic honors given to, say, King Leopold of Belgium now appear.

  17. tertullian says:

    The passing reference to Bishop Daniel Jenky raises a question: he is on the Board of Trustees of ND, yet I am unaware of any statement of support for Fr Jenkins by the Board as a whole,or any members individually. Since there are people on this Board who are, or have been, Chairmen and/or CEOs of large US companies and are usually fast to issue support when warranted.

    Additionally, Fr Jenkins supported his POV by relying upon legal advice. There are lawyers on the Board, to include the MD of a large US law firm. Wouldn’t you expect some statement of solidarity for their President under this fusillade?

  18. Paul says:

    The recent statement by Fr. Jenkins in favor of the invitation is instructive, because it basically boils down to this: Catholic teachings are only relevant to people who choose to be Catholics, and even in the case of Catholics are only “binding” to the extent that an individual Catholic “conscience” can’t come up with what lawyers call a “straight face argument” for interpreting the teaching in whatever manner that person chooses.

    I think, in view of this, that Mr. Allen is being a bit disingenuous when he frames the discussion as being a discussion among people who largely agree about Catholic teaching and Catholic identity.

    I’m also sick to death of the “I just got back from X country and no one there cares about this stuff” argument. Please, just stop.

  19. I love Mr. Allen, but this was not one of his better articles. He really does seem to miss the point. As you pointed out, Father, this has nothing to do with a willingness or unwillingness to dialogue, because Mr. Obama is not being invited to dialogue, he is being honored. My friend Tom O’Toole, a ND alum and author of Champions of Faith, has written about how wonderful it would be if Mary Ann Glendon would use her speech as an opportunity make a statement about abortion and the Church’s clear teaching, thus preceding the president’s speech. That would certainly transform the ceremony into an opportunity for continued dialogue. Anyway, Mr. Allen is far too easy on ND, and the heretic McBrien sounds as stupid and vindictive as usual. May Notre Dame continue to pray for the Church, and for the conversion of the university which bears her name.

  20. cel says:

    I think it would have been easier to focus on “more important events” had Notre Dame selected a less controversial commencement speaker. Who, after all, really created this problem.

  21. Rose says:

    This article demonstrates what I have always felt uneasy about the “fair-minded” appellation applied to Mr. John Allen. It seems to me that after reading Mr. Allen’s articles, one often gets the impression that there is no right or wrong, only a perspective. There is no need for witness, only dialogue; no need to draw lines, only agree to disagree; the media has no need for perspective or responsibility, only that Pope Benedict has to learn how his manage his message through the media. Given Mr. Allen’s appeal to the mainstream media, I do not blame him for being careful, but I would not call him particularly “fair-minded.”

  22. TJM says:

    Although I respect Mr. Allen for many of his commentaries, I suspect if he did not follow the NRC party line on this issue his commentary would not have been published. So much for “diversity” of viewpoints in the NCR. Tom

  23. jennifer eva says:

    1 corinthians chapter 8 seems most appropriate to understanding this problem. It seems to me that ND advocates are making the claim that they are not defiled by this and indeed they must be a part of the world but forget that they are not to be of the world, just in it. It is the practical aspect of engagement that is the problem. It is the scandal caused to the weak in faith and MOST importantly to the President. What do you think is a help to him and his soul? This honor that is bestowed on him as a lawyer that defended the right to kill? He is not a defender of right conscience and that ND can’t see the spiritual battle is terrible. Our President will have a stumbling block placed upon his soul by the University holding the title of Our Blessed Mother is really troubling.

    Reread 1Corinthians ch8 it really has it all in there.


  24. RJSciurus says:

    “A cynic might contend that’s the Catholic equivalent of believing the Royals have a shot at the pennant,”

    Well, they ARE in first place…. ;-)

  25. John Hetman says:

    After reading Mr. Allen’s rather circular arguments, I could only think of Neville Chamberlain wondering why Britain and Germany couldn’t just be friends. The apparent gullibilty of Mr. Allen is the only charitable explanation.

  26. Tito Edwards says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, again you have written a concise analysis of another article. Thank you for doing freibauer work on many things Catholic.

    Have a Long Friday!

  27. Tomas says:

    Baloney. This is not about the intersection of faith and reason: what “reason” is involved in abortion? And it’s not about “dialogue”: Obama has already rejected the Christian position on abortion (along with the Christian position on everything else). Father Z, you were much too easy on him.

    It will soon be the 3:00 hour where I am, and the sky is beginning to grow dark…

  28. Patrick Larkin says:

    I was a student of Mr. Allen’s at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA. While I am a personal fan of Mr. Allen and hold him in high esteem, he lost me on the intangible & elusive “perspective” in his best intentions to attempt diplomacy regarding this polarized issue.

    Our greatest offense with Obama’s visit is to honor a man who strikes at the womb in a university named for “Our Lady.”

    Let us pray and work towards one voice within this slippery slope of “politics” and become the Pillar of Truth in a church that fights to shepherd in a country of wretched morality leading so many to the slaughter.

    I pray that during this Easter Triduum, peace & truth prevail in this matter.

    Patrick Larkin
    Notre Dame HS Graduate 1995

  29. Paul Haley says:

    Mr. Allen’s article was presumably not given to Bishop Bruskewitz for review prior to publication. Heh, heh ,heh. Not that it should be, of course, but the contrast in opposing views is enormous.

  30. Patrick says:

    Has Fr. John Jenkins offered an explanation for why this invitation was given?

  31. William Marshall says:

    Sorry, Fr. Z, butI am of the more militant variety. What is so difficult about discerning who the enemy is and calling it out loud. The problem that I see is many good Catholics are still trying to be polite.

    I disagree, the Battle is joined. There is a line in the sand. Choose your side.

  32. Clinton says:

    As I recall, the Ordinary for South Bend, Bp. D’Arcy, noted in his initial statement regarding the invitation that
    he was informed of it less than 24 hours before it was announced. I believe the bishop had even attended an
    event with Fr. Jenkins earlier in that week, but wasn’t informed even in passing of the upcoming announcement.
    I imagine that it took many people several weeks if not months to arrange this — yet in that time no one at
    the university thought to bring the Ordinary into the loop.

    The message I get from this behavior is that the university sees no need to ‘dialogue’ with its bishop. He is
    expected to show up at the ceremonies looking sharp and provide a suitably impressive backdrop for the
    President and Fr. Jenkins. That the bishop had no voice in the selection of the invitee, and that his protests are
    dismissed, tells me that the leaders of the university regard him as nothing but window-dressing. They seem
    to forget that he is their link to the Church outside the university.

    Mr. Allen voices doubt that the two dozen or so Bishops who have protested ND’s selection of an honoree
    are making a sober evaluation of the university’s leadership. I would suggest that Bishop D’Arcy has been the
    Ordinary in that neck of the woods for several years now and has had plenty of time to make sober evaluations.
    Mr. Allen says that either side in this dispute could be wrong, “even disastrously so”. If that’s the case, why
    should our Bishops remain silent? ‘Dialogue’ implies that both sides are explaining themselves — not that
    one side in this fracas acts unilaterally while the other must be silent or have its ‘sobriety’ doubted. I’ve yet
    to see the objections raised by our Bishops engaged and put to rest. I have now seen them dismissed because
    by the fact they dare to question the actions of the university they are a “tremendous injustice”.

    I’m astonished at the line that Fr. Jenkins and the Congregation of the Holy Cross don’t need lessons
    from anyone on what it means to be faithfully Catholic and committed to the educational enterprise. I was
    unaware that the Magisterium was now to be found solely within the walls of Notre Dame. All of our Bishops
    can now pack up their mandate to teach the Faith and retire.

  33. RBrown says:

    In a recent interview with The New York Times, Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien asserted that those unhappy with the invitation are “simply Republicans upset that Obama won the election, and they want to pick a fight.” I’m not sure how true that is sociologically—McBrien knows the personalities at Notre Dame better than I do.

    Acc to McBrien’s comment, it can equally be asserted that those happy with the invitation are simply Dems who voted for a pro abortion candidate.

    The sad truth is that Fr McBrien doesn’t have a clue. Never has. Never will. He is little else than the Irish Pub version of Karl Rahner.

  34. John Polhamus says:

    With due respect to Mr. Allen, this isn’t just an American Catholic Issue. It’s a world issue which WE are fighting here because this is our country and we are HERE to fight it. To project our stuggle here onto the rest of the world is disingenuous, hyperbolic, and journalistically egotistic. America is the Main Front in this war, and it IS a war. If it is not fought and won, the reaper of socialism will begin a full scale harvest from both ends of the cycle of life (Abortion and Euthenasia), and from the middle of the field as well, from among those who diequiet the gene-pool: the developmentally disabled, the chronicly ill, and the mentally unstable. This is what Socialist America has in mind by the phrase “In order to form a more PERFECT Union.” Make no mistake: we are fighting Nazism, Russian Totalitarianism, Maoism, all of whom ran rough-shod over the rights of the weakest among their peoples. You don’t have to be a white-racist to subscribe to the doctrine of “the survival of the fittest”, and to further pervert that doctrine to abuse the RIGHT to survive in the first place.

    And if you don’t like the Catholic response, lets try one from another source: as Tevye says in “Fiddler on the Roof”, “On the other hand…(…)…there IS no other hand.”

  35. RBrown says:

    John Allen has been rightly praised for his objective reporting.

    His comments after conclave, however, indicated that he didn’t understand the significance of the election of Cardinal Ratzinger. He seemed to think that the BXVI papacy would merely be the JPII papacy revisited.

    For all the importance of the papal visit to the Middle East, the purity of doctrine, by which we know Christ, is more important than the attention given to it by the news media.

  36. Mitchell MY says:

    I am sorry but every time people go up against Catholic teaching or things contrary to our faith they count on Catholic virtues as a weapon to keep us in line and as quiet as possible. They push the limits and lines further and further and we have to accept it, albeit with Catholic forms of protest, but in the end accept it. Inch by inch we have had things forced upon us and it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths evenin acceptance. I imagine we suffer more with our conscience than do the violators of our beliefs. Somelines just should not be allowed to be crossed..I would not be surprised if this happened to our next President or some future President stating this as precedent some 20 years before..It should not be allowed to happen..I think it is twisting our virtues in a way that was not to be intended..Someone should say that..

  37. I’m Irish and I’m watching this debacle with keen interest. What happens there will most certainly affect us here. Thanks all you wide awake, battling Catholics you are paving the way for us here. Blessings – Rene

  38. I will choose charity for the unborn over a president who has no respect for human life. Life is the issue, it is the only issue! When we loose site of this important fact, there is no longer respect for anyone or anything. Every other moral value is up for grabs. I would say to make a choice, this is what Our Lord asked for. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”” (Lk 16:13) Of course we have to be charitable and we must dialogue, but we must be Catholic to the point that no one can question! There is a place for dialogue and there is a place to make a strong statement. It’s time for people to choose, there has been too much confusion and watering down over the years. Enough is enough!

  39. Nicknackpaddywack says:

    I reiterate my view that, yes, Notre Dame and most other so-called Catholic colleges and universities – and most other so-called Catholic institutions in this country and around the world – are not in fact Catholic in spirit in the original sense of the word, that is to say, the sense given to the term in the Nicene Creed. This is because they have long ago separated themselves from the spirit which subordinates all enterprises, including the educational enterprise, to the salvation of souls in Christ in union with the whole church and the saints as they have understood themselves and their mission down through the ages. Instead, they follow the ways and ideas of men.

    However, I do not think that a genuinely Catholic institution would lose its Catholicity simply by inviting to speak and giving an honorary degree to a man who disagrees with and opposes a fundamental tenet of the natural law as understood by the Catholic Church. In a genuinely Catholic institution such a move, however questionable, could be put in context, since he is the President of the country in which the University resides and there is a longstanding tradition of extending such invitations. The outrage from these bishops and many others expresses a pent-up frustration accumulated over years spent living and trying to function within non-Catholic institutions that are supposed to be Catholic. As well as holy zeal for the pro-life cause.

    The frustration I am referring to is the sort provoked by this kind of statement (Allen’s). Anyone with experience in these kinds of institutions knows that the pro-life cause is well down the list of agenda items, and that many prominent Catholics and priests in them are, in fact, pro-abortion rights! The idea that the invitation stems from a desire to converse with Obama and convert him to the pro-life cause is a sham, it is simply another public relations statement meant to pacify the faithful and certain bishops. We’re not dealing with honest people here.

    And so things go on ever as they have done in recent times. Why would the church think it could police or reason with the unconverted? But to separate itself from them it would have to be willing to give something up.

  40. Sieber says:

    I, too, taught at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. It remains an academically outstanding institution. The black robed brothers have long been gone. Gone, too, are the storied classes which brought forth vocations to the brothers of ten or more a year. Its current perspective can be illustrated by the following: An Eagle Scout decided to do a project for his religion class. He built a “Tool Box” for Catholics. It contained a rosary, scapular etc. His parents were called in by the administration and told, “Notre Dame is a Vatican II High School.”

  41. Jane M says:

    I think it is worth asking what President Obama’s speech will be like. When I think of how he directly lied about his votes about the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, I think that this speech is likely to be full of nonsense about things he does or doesn’t believe, but it will seem to some Catholics as if he has “entered into dialogue”. Hence it will be used to shut up those who protest about him. Only his actions should be used to consider what he is and will do. This speech will surely be used to silence those who have noticed his entirely anti-Catholic actions.

    When I thought about what he might actually say I concluded that either he must not talk (and I don’t believe that will happen — this opportunity is too good for him) or Notre Dame must lose the right to call itself Catholic. I guess I don’t see that happening either.

  42. Why does John Allen continue to write for that rag?
    If he were writing for a Catholic periodical, perhaps less people would subscribe the perfidious one for which he now works.

  43. Ideas produce consequences. Recall COLLEGIALITY? “I am the Bishop of Newark. Paul is the Bishop of Rome”. We consider him our “older brother”. There has been no central authority. Land O’ Lakes in 1967 when ND (and others!) removed themselves from Vatican control. The pornographic Vagina Monologues. Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame are receiving exactly what they deserve. Do you see how the Jews will never forgive Pius XII for what they perceive as his failures? Aborted fetuses clustered around Christ’s throne on Judgement Day won’t be forgiving the pro-abortion crowd either!

  44. Luke says:

    Our Lord’s own words should be enough to caution these self-proclaimed Christians, “It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.” Going on to relate that we should reprove our brother if he sins. This is love: the real concern for the welfare of others. A gospel of acceptance and “charitable exchange” with a blatant wrongdoer is not the Lord’s gospel, nor is it true love.

  45. ‘This is the chronic Achilles’ heel of American Catholicism: we presume that our issues are the world’s issues, often leaving Catholics elsewhere scratching their heads about what they perceive as our insularity’, writes John Allen.

    I don’t think that Mr Allen has it right here. In the first days of his presidency Mr Obama tarnished his office by repealing the Mexican City policy, thereby exporting abortion to the rest of the world. So what happens in the USA is of concern to the rest of us. Obama’s Secretary of State shares his anti-life views:

    ‘I want to assure you that reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women’s rights and empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this Administration’: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when receiving the Margaret Sanger award last week from Planned Parenthood which the racist Sanger founded. Clinton also said, ‘Yet we know that Margaret Sanger’s work here in the United States and certainly across our globe is not done.’ Clinton said that she ‘was very proud’ when President Obama repealed the Mexican City policy.’ So Clinton sees it as her job and that of Obama to pay doctors and mothers overseas to kill pre-born babies with US taxpayers’ money.

    Mr Obama infamously said on national TV in the USA that knowing when life begins ‘is above my pay grade’. While he later apologized for his ‘flippancy’ his appallingly ignorant remark should be enough to exclude him from receiving an honorary doctorate in any university, even if he were a saint.

    In my book, John Jenkins – I find it difficult to call him ‘Father’ – has, perhaps uniquely, managed to combine the worst of Pilate, Herod and Judas, with a full supporting cast of the board of the university of which he is president.

    The Church in the USA, Canada and my native Ireland, in particular, has been ravaged in recent years by revelations of priests abusing children and adolescents. Why do we fail to see that abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse? Why do we fail to see that so-called partial-birth abortion is a particularly cruel form of murder? Why are the people at Notre Dame so obtuse, so hardened in their support of something as intrinsically evil as abortion? No mental gymnastics of John Jenkins can get around that fact that he is telling his students that abortion is not wrong. Bishop Doran and Bishop Bruskewitz got it right.

  46. Matthew W. I. Dunn says:

    Two great annual festivals of hope, both accompanied by venerable liturgical rites, happen to fall in the same week this year: Opening Day and Easter Sunday. For a Christian and a baseball fan, there’s no better time to be alive.

    Please, please, PLEASE ! ! !:

    Don’t tell me that Mr. Allen of NCR is equating the rising from the dead of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ with . . . the beginning of the baseball season.

    What blasphemy.

  47. margaret says:

    In my opinion, the John Allens of this world, albeit possibly unwittingly, are the most dangerous Catholics in the world today. At least one can pick an out-and-out heretic!

  48. Patrick says:



    It is not that we Americans are as insular so much as we care about what happens on “our” watch, in our backyard. We can let the rest of the world do the same. All politics (and dare I suggest, religion) is local as the saying goes.

    (So quaint and fashionable these days to always point our how hokey Americans really are, so “out of touch” with the “really big world out there.” Thanks for the “heads-up” John – you’ve got my attention, so now what is it we’re “supposed” to be thinking about?)

    Our “Achilles heal” is really those for whom equivocation in the name of seeing all sides, being really broad minded and sophisticated, has led to some real serious and “almost ubiquitous” suspension of plain old common sense, so much so that evidently we will have to find another name for the same as is not so “common” anymore.

    Stay with the good work at the paper. We need all the fishwrap we can get.

  49. As a foreign observer, I observe this debate with a great interest, while at the same time maintaining a certain air of detatchment. I feel sympathy for both sides of the argument here: clearly President Obama’s voting record on right-to-life issues make him an unfit candidate to be held up in any sort of veneration by a Catholic institution, nevertheless he is the figurative representative and head of the nation to which US Catholics are obliged to owe their allegiance and loyalty.

    I think this particular incident highlights one of the main drawbacks to having a political head of state. In countries with a hereditary monarch, the head of state is unelected and therefore non-political. This enables citizens of very disparate political persuasions to unite around a common figure who represents their nation. Even in many republics (eg southern Ireland), where the president is elected, the president takes a non-political role, and this allows all his subjects (even those who did not vote for him) to feel able to bear their loyalty to their nation’s leader. The status quo in the US essentially leaves 50% of the population leaderless for four years. A god case could be made for a non-political president, accompanied perhaps by a elected Prime Minister to act as executive, or alternatively, reinstituting the monarchy, ‘the best of all governments’ according to Pius VI.

  50. Faith says:

    I think the controversy has gotten the President’s attention. the Obama Administration has asked the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to develop a cohesive abortion reduction plan. Joshua DuBois, the Director of the Office relayed that the President has tasked him to come with a workable plan to reduce abortions. Obama wants the plan to support families through maternal and child health, adoption and strategies to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, and to be proposed in the 2011 Budget.
    Is this an example of God turning the bad into good?

  51. Folks: Keep your one line cheap shots to yourselves. They are boring.

    If you are going to disagree, disagree with something substantive you have thought out.

  52. RBrown says:

    Two great annual festivals of hope, both accompanied by venerable liturgical rites, happen to fall in the same week this year: Opening Day and Easter Sunday. For a Christian and a baseball fan, there’s no better time to be alive.

    Please, please, PLEASE ! ! !:

    Don’t tell me that Mr. Allen of NCR is equating the rising from the dead of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ with . . . the beginning of the baseball season.
    What blasphemy.
    Comment by Matthew W. I. Dunn

    Not really.

    According to Divine Wisdom, it was fitting that the Resurrection occur in the Spring, when nature returns to life. And of course, in the West Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring.

    Because baseball is a sport played outdoors as soon as the weather permits after winter has ended, it is also fitting that Opening Day be held in the Spring.

  53. RBrown says:

    I think the controversy has gotten the President’s attention. the Obama Administration has asked the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to develop a cohesive abortion reduction plan. Joshua DuBois, the Director of the Office relayed that the President has tasked him to come with a workable plan to reduce abortions. Obama wants the plan to support families through maternal and child health, adoption and strategies to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, and to be proposed in the 2011 Budget.

    Is this an example of God turning the bad into good?
    Comment by Faith

    I doubt it. It seems to me more an example of a politician trying to be on both sides of an issue.

  54. ssoldie says:

    I will take the statements of the thirty + Bishops, over any of the editorial, statement, remarks, or opinions, of the journalist, columnist, John Allen, as regards the Notre Dame University and Fr. Jenkins. Oh! Fr Z, loved all the red you used.

  55. Cincinnati Priest says:

    There is a simple test to verify whether the claims of Mr. Allen, Fr. Jenkins [and others] are true that President Obama’s invitation to be honored at ND is an opportunity for dialogue.

    Perform the following thought experiment: What if ND were to invite someone such as notorious racist David Duke to be honored with an honorary degree in political science? Would anyone claim that such an invitation were an “opportunity for dialog” on race relations?

    Clearly not. The outrage at Mr. Duke’s positions would be so great that the administration would simply not consider inviting him, even if a dialogue on race relations were in fact needed. In other words, his positions *alone* would be a disqualifying factor in considering whether or not to honor him.

    Sadly, the bottom line here seems to be that the ND administration has concluded that there is no bar, no matter how low, on the life issues that disqualifies someone from being honored. One can’t get much lower than President Obama’s zealously anti-life recent actions and publicly stated beliefs.

    Even being as charitable as possible, it is very, very hard to escape the conclusion that Fr. Jenkins and even Mr. Allen are being disingenuous here, particularly since, to my knowledge, the ND adminsitration has to date initiated no efforts whatsoever at engaging in true dialogue among the student body, instead engaging in stonewalling tactics. (Please correct me if I am wrong here).

    We must continue to pray for courage and integrity among influential Catholics, including our Catholic university administration.

  56. Dean Swift says:

    Dialogue is essential.
    Good people can disagree on important matters without being disagreeable.
    Those who are certain of the righteousness of their position owe it to us all to be open to dialogue.
    Just because you think abortion is murder, and therefore wrong is something on which there are a multiplicity of opinions.

    We must dialogue.

    The same goes for chattel slavery.
    And pedophilia.
    And polygamy.
    And torture.
    And harvesting organs from criminals.

    Dialogue can keep everyone smiling and nice. [Just wondering… Did you read the questions I posted in the entry at the top?]

  57. michigancatholic says:

    Two Catholic values eh?

    The “imperative of dialogue” is far, far, FAR behind “sanctity of life” in the hierarchy of Catholic values. I hate to fling this in the face of the average post-modern post-practicing post-Catholic, but there you are.

    It’s as simple as this: If a person doesn’t get to live because they’re murdered and that’s condoned, dialogue is pretty much out the window from the get-go. Even when it appears to have 2 sides and is conducted only by us survivors.

  58. michigancatholic says:

    Correct, Dean, we can “dialogue” whilst the carnage is being practiced just outside the doors. But dialogue helps us feel like we’re keeping our hands “oh, so clean.”

  59. johnny b says:

    As a parent, what good is it to keep saying to your disobedient child, “Please Stop, Please Stop!, OK, now please stop. Stop. Please stop doing that… Stop that…”

    There comes a time, (and it should be very swift) where you get up off the Lazyboy and DO something to stop the child.

    Same applies here.

  60. Chris says:

    Haven’t seen all the comments but have to relate what I just read. Arizona State University, another school where Obama will give a commencement address, has stated IT WILL NOT give him an honorary degree citing lack of achievement. Unbelievable! ASU has higher standards that Notre Dame.

  61. Another thoughtful consideration of the issues can be found here:

  62. mpm says:

    “First, let’s be clear about something: Inviting a pro-choice president of the United States to speak at the country’s premier Catholic university may be highly charged at the level of symbolism and political fallout, but that does not make its advisability a matter of dogma.”

    Of course not, it’s a matter of prudence.

    Given the actual situation on the ground, and given that the Bishops had officially enunciated a “policy” or “approach” that, in their prudential judgement, this type of fiasco was not to be tolerated by Catholic institutions, the really prudential thing for the head of a Catholic university to do was to consult with the Bishops, in one way or another, before ever making such an invitation. Of course, and this is probably the problem, they would most likely have given the thumbs down to the idea. Particularly, when they appear to have been engaged (to take Cardinal George’s visit to Obama at the White House) in some form of real Catholic dialogue on their own.

    So, this is either a colossal blunder (lack of prudence) on ND’s part, or, its some sort of effort to continue driving the wedge between the lapsed Catholic side of the Church which brought this guy into power — from all accounts anyway — and the practicing Catholic Church.

    I think the Bishop’s various communiques tell the tale.

  63. cthemfly25 says:

    mpm you fixed your comments on a really important issue. Is disobedience of this sort by ND really a matter of prudence? And, aside from Father Jenkins’ clear disobedience to the Bishops, is the ‘honoring’ of someone whose positions and ideology on numerous issues are inimical to Church teachings really an issue of prudence? A theologian or canonical lawyer can best answer the questions or debate those issues, but it seems from this simple lay person’s point of view that there is something far more serious, far more consequential regarding the conduct of Father Jenkins and for the enablers and apologists who render “perspective” to this intolerable shame.

  64. Patrick says:

    the road to hell is paved with…..

  65. Patrick says:


    Good observation,

    But –

    I would say that that, historically, only two issues have divided this country so profoundly — slavery (and its aftermath) and abortion.

    Forty five years ago, abortion was not on the political radar, of not much. There was none of this sore of divisiveness and rancor, or at least not nearly as pronounced. Abortion is at the center of most political struggles in this country – Supreme Court appointments especially come to mind – and that means electing majorities who will abolish/uphold the status quo vis-a-vis abortion legislation. This might change or be augmented as the “gay” rights thing heats up.

    Jesus called it the separating the “sheep from the goats”.. Probably unavoidable with the stakes so high is this current and continuous state of political/sociological polarization, sad to say. Too bad this division seems so entrenched now in the church as well. Is the mind of Christ so divided? I would say one side or the other is clearly wrong. On this issue we may have more control as we “get our own house in order.”

    God bless our Pope. Those who oppose him (Catholics) now will be shown eventually to be on the wrong side of the issues, I predict. Forty years in the desert was enough for the stiff necked Jews. Apparently, we need more time.

  66. michigancatholic says:

    The nonsense going on at ND is MUCH more than a failure of prudence. It’s a failure of coherence because most obviously, it makes a joke of the recent and widely-publicized national decision to stand firm on refusing to entertain proponents of abortion at Catholic functions. Many people take logical incoherence far too lightly; incoherence is serious because it mocks truth, and thereby believability. On this most grave issue, we have got to get our act together and be truthful as Catholics or we will be forced once again to default in the public square.

    Moreover, it’s a matter of blatant disobedience to the Catholic Church herself in her teaching about life, death and the meaning of parenthood. It’s not like the Church herself has been at all unclear about this. The injunction is broad and ancient; there is absolutely no room for feigned ignorance. There are certain things the Catholic Church, and the Jewish tradition that predates it, have always considered grave matters and this is one of them. The Catholic church does, and always has, made truth claims as part of the analogy of faith (CC, paragraph 114). It always will. (CC, paragraph 102). If key people at ND don’t know this about the Catholic faith, it’s fair to say they don’t know much of anything about it, regardless of what their previous experiences with the Church might have been.

    And let’s be very clear about the reflection this casts on Notre Dame University:

    It raises a huge red flag on whether Notre Dame University even has the ability to call itself a Catholic University in any reasonable sense at all. The logical questions are:

    a) Do key decision-makers at Notre Dame University really not intend to acknowledge the essential difference between the two moral stances, ie of condoning abortion vs. maintaining with the rest of the church that abortion is an evil act? Have these key decision-makers chosen the secular stance or the Catholic one for the university to follow?

    b) OR are key decision-making individuals just ignorant and second rate and we’re seeing that displayed publicly as they i) can’t seem to isolate a moral issue from a political one in spite of having a huge corpus of literature on the subject, and ii) can’t seem to handle a simple syllogism in public, iii) or don’t seem to understand the proscriptions of their own ostensible leaders?

    c) OR do they feign ignorance for some reason of their own for whatever reason and they seek to impose their own feigned ignorance on the university as a whole?

    One (or more) of these must be the case, given the data. But they’re all foul and stupid alternatives, particularly coming from people who are supposed to be in charge of higher education for the Catholic Church.

    IF key decision-makers can make such incoherent and immoral choices on this issue for whatever reason, what of all the other issues that confront students at Notre Dame University: in the theology & science classes, in social studies disciplines, at the health center, in student life and elsewhere at Notre Dame?

  67. mpm says:

    You say, “IF key decision-makers can make such incoherent and immoral choices on this issue for whatever reason, what of all the other issues that confront students at Notre Dame University”. That, and in fact your entire post, makes the case that this is a colossal lack of prudence, i.e., it is a really bad, i.e., immoral decision as such.

    Prudential decisions can be wrong, bad, mistaken, evil.

    And I agree with the corollary, “what about all the other stuff”?
    So, the peace of Christ to you on the Feast of the Resurrection!

  68. chironomo says:

    Dialogue, when it involves matters of faith, can only be for the purpose of making clear what your unchangeable position is. To approach “dialogue” with the expectation that you can change anothers mind on such matters is to set yourself up for disappointment. What exactly would Catholics gain from a “dilaogue” with the president on the issue of abortion? Does anybody REALLY believe he would change his position? Does anybody believe he would come to a greater appreciation and respect for the Catholic position? Are we expected to change our views in deference to his prestige as the President? All of this talk about “dialogue” and “understanding” is disingenuous at best and a sham for not accepting the consequences of an evil position at worst. The position of Notre Dame should be to make Mr. Obama well aware that we believe he is wrong and there is no other acceptable position. Period.

  69. michigancatholic says:

    not prudent; lacking discretion; incautious; rash.

    The behavior of certain key figures at ND is a huge failure of prudence on several different levels, but it’s also much more. One can be imprudent about things that have rather little truth or moral content(bad canasta bidding and too much garlic etc)–as well as things that do (like this issue).

    That the behavior of certain key figures at Notre Dame is at least imprudent is true. But it’s far worse than that. The acts they threaten to commit are in themselves a blatant denial of the truths that the Church teaches–and a statement that those truths are inconveniences that won’t be allowed to interfere with other goals apparently judged by those key figures to be more important, such as money-making, favor-seeking and publicity-gathering.

    It’s about time Catholics learned to speak precisely & honestly about these things. Minimizing plain facts for whatever reason is NOT a virtue. And it can also be highly imprudent.

  70. michigancatholic says:


    Widgets are red. [given]
    IF widgets are red, boggles are blue. [relationship]
    Therefore boggles are blue. [conclusion]

    Key figures are engaging in incoherence. [given by being shown]
    If key figures engage in incoherence, they can certainly be wrong about moral choices for students. [relationship]
    Therefore they can certainly be wrong about moral choices for students. [conclusion]

  71. TimS from South Bend says:

    It must be pointed out that there is a fatal flaw in the assumptions that underpin Mr. Allen’s opining.

    ND did not take this action in the hopes of furthering dialogue or conversation about anything. They invited the President in an effort to enhance the wordly prestige of the University. Nothing more. There are no debates, or dialogues, or any such events scheduled around the appearance of the President. In fact, to do so would be seen as an affront to the President, and somehow discourteous in the face of the invitation. By issuing the invite, ND has actually hampered its ability to speak on the issue. It can now make no strong statement without somehow appearing offensive or capitulating in the eyes of onlookers.

    As Bishop D’Arcy (one who is intimately familiar with the motives of the University) wrote in his statement, we can now only hope that Our Lady herself will intervene so that ND will recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.

    If ND was sincere in its desire to promote dialogue, we would be hearing now about its plan for a required new class that would be part of the six theological credits that every undergrad must take in order to graduate. That class itself would be dedicated to the dialogue that Mr. Allen suggests ND is looking for. It would present a comprehensive theological, philosophic, and scientific approach to issues surrounding abortion and life so that every student that graduates from ND is equipped to speak forcefully from an informed perspective on the issue as they make their way in the world.

    One presumes that if ND were to offer such a class, that it would do so from a Catholic perspective, since that is the only perspective that represents the truth of the issue, no matter how much dialogue or perspective seeking one cares to engage in. Although, as is pointed out elsewhere here, that presumption is open to grave doubts where the stance of ND is concerned. One wonders if they would be capable of offering siuch a class without including guest appearances to present the other side from representatives of Planned Parenthood, or some other organization that President Obama might suggest to Fr. Jenkins during his visit.

    Perhaps, since Fr. Jenkins would not appear qualified to teach the course, he would audit it during the first semester that it is offered.

  72. my kidz mom says:

    TimS nailed it.

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