Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence writes a weekly column in the Rhode Island Catholic entitled Without a Doubt. It is always well done, thought provoking and pastoral but this past week made me cheer at one point and feel utterly frustrated at another. In his most recent submission, Bishop Tobin briefly addressed several issues, including the Fr. Cutie scandal in Miami, the murder of Dr. Tiller, President Obama’s reception of an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama’s declaration of the month of June as Lesbian,Gay, Bi-sexual Transgendered pride month, and a couple of other random wanderings. First the ‘home run’ then the ‘swing and a miss’.
On the “gay agenda” he wrote:
I see that President Obama has declared June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month. The President has called on all Americans to “turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” In other words, if you’re opposed to the homosexual sub-culture and behavior, you’re now a presidential bigot. “If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit,” the President said. In that spirit, I can’t wait for the President’s declaration of a month dedicated to pro-life Americans. After all, our Nation was founded on the principle of life – along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Speaking of the gay agenda, the left-leaning columnist of the “Providence Journal” Bob Kerr, who frequently sounds the trumpet on behalf of the gay lobby, has asked why some people feel the need to defend traditional marriage. “What are they protecting it from?” he pleads.
The answer, Bob, is identity theft. From the very beginning of recorded history, marriage has had a very specific identity – the union of one man and one woman, joined together for the dual purpose of mutual love and the creation of new life. Because of its essential contributions, marriage has been afforded special rights and privileges in every culture. Now, in just the last few years, some individuals involved in other forms of immoral sexual liaisons have appeared on the scene to say, “Hey, we want to be married too. We hereby claim your identity, your rights and privileges, for ourselves.” So that’s the answer, Bob. We’re protecting the fundamental institution of marriage from identity theft.
Identity theft…I like that. Now on to the strikeout. On President Obama at Notre Dame:
I didn’t offer any public comments about President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame last month for several reasons: Lots of other bishops made excellent public statements that covered everything I would have said; I have no jurisdiction over Notre Dame and my voice would have meant little; and along with Notre Dame, there’s lots of other Catholic colleges and universities across the country that could be challenged for similar situations.
Nonetheless, to say that I was disappointed by the decision of Father Jenkins to invite the President and award him an honorary degree is a huge understatement. The invitation seriously compromised the Catholic identity and integrity of Notre Dame and gave plenty of encouragement to the pro-abortion folks around the country who love to see the Church divided over this issue. Accordingly, even if asked, I won’t be writing any letters of recommendation for anyone applying for Notre Dame any time soon. Or Georgetown either, for that matter.
These last two paragraphs are contradictory. The latter is a very strong statement which articulates the heart of the issue and the gravity of the scandal. Merriam-Webster defines scandal as “discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person; conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another; loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety : disgrace.” This is exactly the detrimental outcome Bishop Tobin observes, and it is the very reason it necessitated a public statement.
To make a public statement when ‘lots of other bishops’ are doing the same is not “piling on”, but an important sign of solidarity. Silence is affirmation and it spoke more loudly and added to the fervor of controversy because it was perceived as tacit support. Even though Bishop Tobin has no canonical jurisdiction in South Bend, the effects of the scandal reached the faithful he is charged with shepherding–in his jurisdiction. And lastly, the fact that many other Catholic institutions could be challenged for similar incidents is a sad commentary on the state of Catholic higher education, and no excuse for ignoring the most public display of Roman Catholic Identity crisis.
The Church in the United States is at the bottom of the ninth inning and we’re on our feet. We just need our shepherds to step up to the plate.
New York City, N.Y., May 21, 2009 (CNA).- Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has said that Fordham University did not inform him that pro-abortion rights Mayor Michael Bloomberg would speak at the Catholic school’s commencement and receive an honorary degree.
Fordham University President Fr. Joseph McShane, SJ, in his address to Fordham graduates, singled out Mayor Bloomberg and television commentator Tom Brokaw for “special mention,” acknowledging the mayor first.
“Last week I heard the Mayor speak at a Jesuit fund-raising event in Manhattan,” Fr. McShane said. “In the course of his typically gracious remarks, he noted wistfully that he had not had the benefit of a Jesuit education. Mr. Bloomberg, this is your lucky day: you are now a Fordham graduate and thus a member of the Jesuit family!”
Pro-abortion rights Sen. Charles Schumer also spoke at Fordham Law’s graduation on Sunday, also unbeknownst to the archbishop, the New York Post reports. Archbishop Dolan had criticized the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to be commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree.
According to the New York Post, the archbishop’s spokesman Joseph Zwilling wrote in an e-mail that Archbishop Dolan was unaware that Mayor Bloomberg was speaking or getting a degree at Fordham.
Zwilling also did not know about Sen. Schumer.
Last fall, the now-retired Edward Cardinal Egan had criticized Fordham for giving the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer an ethics award.
Fordham said its hosting of speakers from “across the political spectrum” points to “a vibrant culture of engagement with the real world, rather than an insufficiency of Catholic teaching.”
“The quality of a Catholic education at the university can’t be measured by trying to parse the positions of speakers or honorees in relation to church teachings,” Fordham added.
By Rev. Robert Barron
It was with a great deal of dismay that I listened to the speeches given last Sunday at Notre Dame by Fr. John Jenkins the President of the University and Barack Obama the President of the United States. Both are decent men and both are eloquent speakers, but both, I’m afraid to say, are confused in regard to some fundamental matters. Fr. Jenkins wrapped himself in the mantle of humility and open-mindedness, protesting that he was standing in the great Catholic intellectual tradition of dialogue and conversation, and President Obama cast himself in the role of reconciler and peace-maker, discoverer of “common ground” between people who radically disagree with one another. When protestors shouted out during his speech and Notre Dame students began to chant the Obama campaign slogan, “yes we can” in order to drown out the offending voices, the President calmly passed his hand over the crowd and said, “we’re alright; we’re alright.” He seemed to embody the very principle that he was articulating. So why was I dismayed at such humility and equanimity?
It comes down to that slippery little word “dialogue.” I realize that to say that one is against dialogue is akin to saying that one is impatient with motherhood, patriotism, and sunny days. But the point is this: one should, in certain circumstances, be suspicious of dialogue. The great Canadian Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan laid out the four basic moves that characterize the action of a healthy mind. First, he said, a properly functioning mind ought to be attentive, that is to say, able to take in the facts, to see what is there to be seen. Second, it ought to be intelligent, by which he meant, able to see forms and patterns of meaning. In the scientific context, this corresponds to the formulation of hypotheses or likely theories. In more ordinary cognitional contexts, it means conversation, the sharing of ideas, dialogue. It is at this stage that open-mindedness is a great virtue, because sometimes the most outrageous theory turns out to be right. But the healthy mind cannot stop at this stage. It must move next to what Lonergan called reasonability. This stage of judgment, the moment when the mind, having surveyed a variety of possibilities and scenarios, having listened to a range of perspectives, finally decides what the truth is. Many people balk at judgment, precisely because it is painful. The word “decide” comes from the Latin term “scisere,” which means “to cut.” The same words stand at the root of “scissors” and “incision.” All judgments, all decisions, are bloody, because they cut off a whole range of rival points of view. Then finally, having judged, Lonergan says, the mind must move to responsibility; it must accept the implications, both intellectual and behavioral, of the judgment that it has made.
What I sensed in both Jenkins’s and Obama’s speeches was a sort of fetishism of dialogue, an excessive valorization of the second stage of the cognitional process. The conversation, they seemed to imply, should remain always open-ended, the dialogue on-going, decision or judgment permanently delayed. But dialogue is a means to an end; it is valuable in the measure that it conduces toward judgment. G.K. Chesterton said that the mind should remain open, but only so that it might, in time, chomp down on something nourishing. The Church has come to the considered judgment that abortion is morally objectionable and that Roe v. Wade is terrible law, as bad as the laws that once protected the practices of slavery and segregation in our country. To suggest, therefore, that a Catholic university is a place where dialogue on this matter is still a desideratum is as ludicrous as suggesting that a Catholic university should be the setting for a discussion of the merits of slavery and Jim Crow laws. I would like, actually, to stay with these last examples. Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, the legendary retired President of Notre Dame, was mentioned several times in President Obama’s speech as a model of the dialogue and openness to conversation that he was extolling. Does anyone think for a moment that Fr. Hesburgh, at the height of the civil rights movement, would have invited, say, George Wallace to be the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree at Notre Dame? Does anyone think that Fr. Hesburgh would have been open to a dialogue with Wallace about the merits of his unambiguously racist policies? For that matter, does anyone think that Dr. Martin Luther King would have sought out common ground with Wallace or Bull Connor in the hopes of hammering out a compromise on this pesky question of civil rights for blacks? The questions answer themselves.
Then why in the world does anyone think that we should be less resolute in regard to the heinous practice of abortion which, since 1973, has taken the lives of 43 million children? Why does anyone think that further dialogue and conversation on this score is a good idea? I think those questions answer themselves too.