Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

The Cardinal Newman Society has begun a petition to Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins, CSC not to allow Obama to give the commencement at Notre Dame:
“It is an outrage and a scandal that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,” the petition reads.
I tend to waffle on this one, but I don't think inviting the President of the United States is an outrage or scandal for a Catholic University. Other offices, sure, an argument can be made there. But the President is a symbol of national unity and of one's country, and I don't think the culture war for life will be won by this form of entrenchment policy. Rather, the pro-life movement will win its cause when it can reach out to the president, work with him, and also challenge him. Notre Dame should issue a clear statement that it does not agree with Obama's pro-choice policies and positions. The university can call on him to change his positions in a statement, but can also welcome him, I think, as President of the United States. Inviting him to speak is not the same as an endorsement of his policies. I don't think the tension between prophetic witness and striving for common ground is necessarily compromised by this invitation.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ


PH said...

Say what you want, but I'll be out there protesting him.


PS I woulda protested McCain, too. After we've started federally funding human embryo research, you gotta wonder what more it will take for God to strike down his vengeance on this country. I'm with the Rev. Wright on that one.

BCatholic said...


It's not inviting him to speak, it's giving him an honor. Is he worthy of being honored? I'd say no, but sometimes public reaction is just as scandalous.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

I think I would be out there protesting him as well. And Catholics should protest his positions. The avenue of protest is a legitimate one in this battle. I am just arguing that I don't necessarily think that Notre Dame's invitation implies they are honoring him for his pro-abortion positions. They are honoring him as president of the United States. For that he deserves some honor. Talking as if he is not my president, or with Limbaugh that I hope he fails will not help our cause in the least. Rather, show that as president, he is welcome on our campuses, but as pro-choice, he is not. Protesting is just the way to do that.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Aaron Burr said...

It's not just respecting the office, Nate. They are giving him an honorary doctorate of laws. For what??? His legal work in federally funding human life destruction?

I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, being an ND law grad, I do get tired of the warfare-loving right trotting out Notre Dame as the whipping boy in an attempt to highlight their social conservative bona-fides. ("Look!! We're socially conservative because we loathe Notre Dame!!! Pay no attention to the way we backstab Catholic teaching on just war and torture -- not to mention the corporation!!") Notre Dame was very good to me. In her I have always seen the Church: deeply flawed, yet much more than a sum of its imperfect human parts. So I admit to getting a bit defensive when I read one NRO commentator after another blithely slam the school.

On the other hand, the timing is horrible -- it comes right on the heels of Obama's decision to allow our tax dollars go to the industrialized destruction of human life. (I loved what he said when he signed the order: "this administration will make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." Ha!) And to give him a doctorate of LAWS -- of all things, when he refuses to give the smallest among us the benefit of their protections -- is an utter slap in the face.



Hot Rod said...

I think most of the arguments I would have posted were mention namely that he is being honored, with a law degree no less, which the CCCB has said we should not do.

I respect his office, as you, but would you agree that this is not the type of candidate we seek to put in office in the first place?

Honoring him in this way may lead more general Catholics to believe issued on marriage, life and morality do not matter when it comes to the candidate we elect to office.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

Hot Rod,

On the contrary, I'm not sure our politics of exclusion, whether in terms of gay marriage or abortion has worked very well. We may need a new approach to the culture wars. I don't see this as compromise on issues, just toward other human beings. We begin to appear irrational when groups like the Cardinal Newman Society go bonkers over something like this. Again, the Bishops have made a decision, so we should stick to it. But in terms of this particular president, I think as a movement we may gain more from inviting him, protesting when he comes, making clear that we don't agree, but seeking dialogue. Fr. Jenkins could issue a clear statement that Notre Dame does not condone any of Obama's positions on abortion and other such beginning of life issues, and also that he does condone Obama's concern with end of life issues such as war and death penalty. He could make this statement strong, and it would be a teaching moment, a moment to point to Faithful Citizenship again as the model.

Then we appear rational. We look like we want to look, like we respect the presidency, disapprove of certain things, are willing to work with the man, and don't turn whole groups of people into the enemy. Then we start to look like Limbaugh types, hoping that this president will fail.

I'm thinking out loud here, but I'm not sure our tactics so far have worked very well. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the "honoring" come with the invitation? In which case, it is just motions. This is a chance again for a Catholic university to put itself in the news, declare its Catholic stance, but also its support for a democratic president. After all, Notre Dame also invited Bush without denouncing his war crimes.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Anonymous said...

It seems Catholics should actually do something for poor women who are pregnant as Mother Teresa and her Sisters and many other Sisters have done. Offer women a place to live and give birth and offer to take the children if they cannot support them - or even do to want to!!!! If I am not mistaken the president himself is on favor of aid to poor unmarried pregnant women and their children!


Bobadilla said...

Oh Mr. O'Halloran, so much to say.

"We may need a new approach to the culture wars."

The issue is not winning the 'culture wars'. If the Church continues to evangelize the culture, and the culture continues to ignore Catholic wisdom in the area of life, so be it, if we tried our best.

The issue with ND invite is the internal damage it does to the Church. Many are not aware of the Church's teaching that abortion is a grave evil that should be outlawed in any civilized country. Many don't hear that teaching or get some version of 'seamless garment' argument, where abortion is seen as just one social evil among many, or that Catholics can disagree in good conscience about whether it should be outlawed.

We many not win the culture wars, and that's fine, but our Catholic institutions should remain authentically Catholic. The bishops are right that this action dilutes ND's Catholic identity.

"Notre Dame also invited Bush without denouncing his war crimes."

A cheap, immature shot that is beneath you. Obviously, Catholics can disagree whether Bush's responses to the atrocity of 9-11 were justified or not (although calling them war crimes would be pretty extreme) while they cannot agree with O'Bama's abortion policies. But just to clarify, they gave Bush that honor before he liberated Afghanistan or Iraq.

Bobadilla said...


Good news! Like so many other issues, this isn't either/or but both/and. We can help mothers in need AND protect the unborn in law.

As Mother Theresa said: "Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants."

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

Mister Bob,

The revisionist storyline is getting old. The facts are on the table - the Iraq War was a war of choice, not necessity. It was a war of aggression, not of defense. President George W. Bush and all those members of Congress who voted for authorization are guilty of a sinful and criminal act.

Mason Slidell

Bobadilla said...

The revisionist storyline is getting old. The facts are on the table - the Iraq War was a war of choice, not necessity.

What war isn't a war of choice? Every war involves choices...hence pacifists say we should never choose war. We didn't have to fight the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, or the Cold War. We could have instead submitted to the Brits, allow the Union to dissolve, ignored the first European great war, ignored Pearl Harbor, Hitler and hoped for the best, and let the Soviets do what they wanted.

You may disagree with this decision to go to war, but the notion that it is an open-and-shut case is absurd.

It was a war of aggression, not of defense.

I'm not a fine historian such as yourself. Could you point to that war for defense that never got aggressive?

What we have here is a failure to make distinctions.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

No, I think what we have here is lack of clarity for the sake of ambiguity where there is none.

The Catechism says it best. The opening sentence of paragraph 2309 states: “The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force requires rigorous consideration.” Notice that the Catechism does not recognize “liberation” as a just act of war, only legitimate defense under strict conditions.

In a war, there is an aggressor, who ignites war through military action, and a defender, who seeks to repel the aggressor through counter-military action. In order to be just in military action then, one must always be the defender and can never be the aggressor. Therefore, in order to use military force legitimately and justly, the state must enter only into wars of necessity by defending itself against an aggressor.

Mason Slidell