Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Notre Dame Commencement....Fallout continues
I found two wonderful articles in AMERICA magazine on the Commencement at Notre Dame in the spring. Excellent reading. Check them out:
The Public Duty Of Bishops
Lessons from the storm in South Bend
John R. Quinn | AUGUST 31, 2009
E ditors’ note: Archbishop Quinn originally prepared these observations for consideration at the June meeting of the American bishops. Circumstances did not make that possible at the time. He has submitted them to America as a contribution to the debate on the role of bishops in dealing with public issues.
The right to life is a paramount and pre-eminent moral issue of our time. The Catholic bishops have borne a consistent and prophetic witness to the truth that all other rights are anchored in the right to life. When Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, this conference was nearly alone among institutional voices pointing out the defects and dangers of this decision and calling for its reversal.
Our witness to the sanctity of human life cannot diminish and our effort cannot cease. We must continue to enlist new vehicles of communication to highlight the grave moral evil inherent in abortion. We have to design effective and imaginative strategies to help people see that the choice for life is the most compassionate choice. And we have to speak with courtesy and clarity about why the protection of the unborn is a requirement of human rights and not their diminishment.
There is no disagreement within this conference about the moral evil of abortion, its assault upon the dignity of the human person, or the moral imperative of enacting laws that prohibit abortion in American society.
But there is deep and troubled disagreement among us on the issue of how we as bishops should witness concerning this most searing and volatile issue in American public life. And this disagreement has now become a serious and increasing impediment to our ability to teach effectively in our own community and in the wider American society.
The bishops’ voice has been most credible in the cause of life when we have addressed this issue as witnesses and teachers of a great moral tradition, and not as actors in the political arena. Coming out of the Catholic moral tradition, this conference has defended human life in the context of the pursuit of justice, covering the whole continuum of life from its beginning in the mother’s womb to its natural end. The Second Vatican Council rightly described abortion and infanticide as “unspeakable crimes.” But the council did not stop there. In a coherent moral logic, the council exhorted bishops to be faithful to their duty of teaching and witnessing concerning “the most serious questions concerning the ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries” (“Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church,” No. 12). The more recent “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life” proposes an equally broad spectrum of concerns. This consistent focus over nearly 50 years, as well as the teaching of the popes, including Pope Benedict XVI, underline that neither the bishop nor the Catholic Church can confine itself to one single issue of concern in human society. If we proclaim that the right to life is necessary for the exercise of all other rights, then we must also address and defend those other rights as well.
Consequently, the Catholic Church brings to the defense of life and the pursuit of justice in this world the vision of faith and a living hope that transcends the limitations of what can be accomplished in this world. This comprehensive and transcendent vision must provide the benchmark in weighing proposed pathways through the thicket of public policy choices that confront us. This traditional benchmark provides a challenge to us bishops today in evaluating our future approach to those who disagree with us on issues of fundamental importance.
The dilemma that confronts us today is whether the church’s vision is best realized on the issue of abortion by focusing our witness on the clear moral teaching about abortion and public law, or whether it is preferable or obligatory to add to that teaching role the additional role of directly sanctioning public officials through sustained, personally focused criticism, the denial of honors or even excommunication.
This dilemma has troubled us for many years now, but it has been crystallized in the controversy over the decision of the University of Notre Dame to award an honorary degree in May of this year to the president of the United States. This is the first time in the history of this conference that a large number of bishops of the United States have publicly condemned honoring a sitting president, and this condemnation has further ramifications due to the fact that this president is the first African-American to hold that high office.
The case for sanctioning President Obama by declaring him ineligible to receive a Catholic university degree is rooted in a powerful truth: The president has supported virtually every proposed legal right to abortion in his public career, and abortion constitutes the pre-eminent moral issue in American government today.
Notwithstanding this fact, the case against a strategy of such sanctions and personal condemnations is rooted in a more fundamental truth: Such a strategy of condemnation undermines the church’s transcendent role in the American political order. For the Obama controversy, in concert with a series of candidate-related condemnations during the 2008 election, has communicated several false and unintended messages to much of American society. There are four such messages that call for our serious consideration today.
1. The message that the Catholic bishops of the United States function as partisan political actors in American life. The great tragedy of American politics from a Catholic perspective is that party structures in the United States bisect the social teachings of the church, thus making it impossible for most citizens to identify and vote for a candidate who adequately embraces the spectrum of Catholic teaching on the common good. For instance, Republican candidates are, in general, more supportive of the church’s position on abortion and euthanasia, while Democratic candidates are generally stronger advocates for the Catholic vision on issues of poverty and world peace.
For most of our history, the American bishops have assiduously sought to avoid being identified with either political party and have made a conscious effort to be seen as transcending party considerations in the formulation of their teachings. The condemnation of President Obama and the wider policy shift that represents signal to many thoughtful persons that the bishops have now come down firmly on the Republican side in American politics. The bishops are believed to communicate that for all the promise the Obama administration has on issues of health care, immigration reform, global poverty and war and peace, the leadership of the church in the United States has strategically tilted in favor of an ongoing alliance with the Republican Party. A sign of this stance is seen to be the adoption of a policy of confrontation rather than a policy of engagement with the Obama administration.
Such a message is alienating to many in the Catholic community, especially those among the poor and the marginalized who feel that they do not have supportive representation within the Republican Party. The perception of partisanship on the part of the church is disturbing to many Catholics given the charge of Gaudium et Spes that the church must transcend every political structure and cannot sacrifice that transcendence, and the perception of transcendence, no matter how important the cause.
2. The message that the bishops are ratifying the “culture war mentality,” which corrodes debate both in American politics and in the internal life of the church. Both poles of the American political spectrum see our society as enmeshed in a culture war over the issues of abortion, marriage, immigration rights and the death penalty. In such a war, they argue, the demonization of alternative viewpoints and of opposing leaders is not merely acceptable, but required. More intense tactics and language are automatically seen as more effective, as necessary and more in keeping with the importance of the issues being debated. The “culture war mentality” has also seeped into the life of the church, distorting the debate on vital issues and leading to campaigns against bishops for their efforts to proclaim the Gospel with charity rather than with antagonism.
The movement toward sanctions against public officials will be seen as ratifying this trajectory in our political, cultural and ecclesial life. Whatever our intention may be, the acceptance and employment of a strategy that deliberately moves beyond teaching and pointing up the moral dimensions of public issues to labeling those with whom we disagree, will inevitably embolden those who de-Christianize our public debate both within and outside the church.
3. The message that the bishops are effectively indifferent to all grave evils other than abortion. Perhaps the most difficult task we face, as teachers on the moral dimensions of public policy in the United States today, is emphasizing the pre-eminence of abortion as a moral issue while defending a holistic view of the rights intrinsic to the defense of the dignity of the human person. This task of balancing arises not only in the formulation of our policy statements, but also in the steps we as bishops take to achieve justice in the political order. The pathway of sanctions and personal condemnation will open every bishop to the charge that if we do not use the tactic of sanctions and condemnations on issues such as war and peace or global poverty, we are tacitly relegating those issues to a level of unimportance. And it would indeed be difficult to explain how it is appropriate for a Catholic university to honor those who authorize torture or initiate an unjust war or cut assistance to the world’s poor. To assert on the one hand that the tactics of sanction and personal condemnation are legitimate tools for episcopal action in the public order, while on the other hand refusing to employ those tactics for any issue other than abortion will only deepen the suspicions of those in American society who believe that we bishops of the church in the United States are myopic in our approach to Catholic social teaching.
4. The message that the bishops are insensitive to the heritage and the continuing existence of racism in America. The election of Senator Barack Obama as President of the United States in November 2008 was a unique and signal moment in the history of racial solidarity in the United States. L‘Osservatore Romano compared it to the fall of the Berlin Wall. All over the world the election was hailed as ushering in a new chapter in the rejection of racial stereotypes and the enhancement of international relations.
Yet here in the United States, there has been the perception that we bishops did not grasp the immense significance of the moment. African-American priests, religious and lay persons have related that they felt they had to mute their jubilation at the election of an African-American president, and that we bishops did not share their jubilation. Some have expressed deep hurt over this, precisely because they respect the bishops and they love the church.
Added to this, the spirited condemnation of the president’s visit and degree at Notre Dame last May have reinforced for many African-American Catholics those feelings of hurt and alienation. It is not that African-American Catholics do not understand that the church must oppose abortion, or that they themselves personally believe that the bishops are acting out of racist motivations. It is rather that when the church embraces a new level of confrontation when an African-American is involved, this readily raises widespread questions about our racial sensitivity. And these questions will only continue to be raised more forcefully if we continue to walk down the path of confrontation with this administration.
A Policy of Cordiality
As we confront the admittedly difficult task of balancing the need to uphold the sanctity of human life while avoiding the enormously destructive consequences of the strategy of sanction and condemnation, we bishops could profitably look to the example of the Holy See, which wrestles with these same complex issues of integrity of witness, fidelity to truth, civility in discourse, and political, national and racial sensitivities every day.
The approach of the Holy See might justly be characterized as a policy of cordiality. It proceeds from the conviction that the integrity of Catholic teaching can never be sacrificed. It reflects a deep desire to enshrine comity at the center of public discourse and relations with public officials. It is willing to speak the truth directly to earthly power.
Yet the Holy See shows great reluctance to publicly personalize disagreements with public officials on elements of church teaching. And the approach of the Holy See consistently favors engagement over confrontation. As Pope John Paul II put it, “The goal of the Church is to make of the adversary a brother.”
These principles of cordiality will not make our task as bishops in the public square an easy one. But they do provide the best anchor for insuring that our actions and statements remain faithful to the comprehensive and transcendent mission of the church, our ultimate mandate. Much of this is summed up in the council’s decree on bishops, Christus Dominus (No. 13):
The Church has to be on speaking terms with the human society in which it lives. It is therefore the duty of bishops especially to make an approach to people, seeking and promoting dialog with them. If truth is constantly to be accompanied by charity and understanding by love, in such salutary discussions they should present their positions in clear language, unagressively and diplomatically. Likewise they should show prudence combined with confidence, for this is what brings about union of minds by encouraging friendship.
For more on President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame see America's archive on the controversy.
Most Rev. John R. Quinn is archbishop emeritus of San Francisco. He served as president of the U.S. Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980.
And from the local Ordinary, Bishop John D'Arcy, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, IN:
The Church and the University
A pastoral reflection on the controversy at Notre Dame
John M. D'Arcy | AUGUST 31, 2009
A s summer plays itself out on the beautiful campus by the lake where the young Holy Cross priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., pitched his camp 177 years ago and began his great adventure, we must clarify the situation that so sundered the church last spring: What it is all about and what it is not about.
It is not about President Obama. He will do some good things as president and other things with which, as Catholics, we will strongly disagree. It is ever so among presidents, and most political leaders.
It is not about Democrats versus Republicans, nor was it a replay of the recent general election.
It is not about whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day. This is what universities do. No bishop should try to prevent that.
The response, so intense and widespread, is not about what this journal called “sectarian Catholicism.” Rather, the response of the faithful derives directly from the Gospel. In Matthew’s words, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your heavenly Father” (5:13).
Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and decisions—especially by a decision to confer its highest honor? If not, what is the meaning of a life of faith? And how can a Catholic institution expect its students to live by faith in the difficult decisions that will confront them in a culture often opposed to the Gospel?
Pope Benedict XVI, himself a former university professor, made his position clear when he spoke to Catholic educators in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008:
Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.
In its decision to give its highest honor to a president who has repeatedly opposed even the smallest legal protection of the child in the womb, did Notre Dame surrender the responsibility that Pope Benedict believes Catholic universities have to give public witness to the truths revealed by God and taught by the church?
Another serious question of witness and moral responsibility before the Notre Dame administration concerns its sponsorship over several years of a sad and immoral play, offensive to the dignity of women, which many call pornographic, and which an increasing number of Catholic universities have cancelled, “The Vagina Monologues,” by Eve Ensler.
Although he spoke eloquently about the importance of dialogue with the president of the United States, the president of Notre Dame chose not to dialogue with his bishop on these two matters, both pastoral and both with serious ramifications for the care of souls, which is the core responsibility of the local bishop. Both decisions were shared with me after they were made and, in the case of the honorary degree, after President Obama had accepted. For the past 24 years, it has been my privilege to serve as the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. During this time, I have never interfered in the internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of higher learning within the diocese. However, as the teacher and shepherd in this diocese, it is my responsibility to encourage all institutions, including our beloved University of Notre Dame, to give public witness to the fullness of Catholic faith. The diocesan bishop must ask whether a Catholic institution compromises its obligation to give public witness by placing prestige over truth. The bishop must be concerned that Catholic institutions do not succumb to the secular culture, making decisions that appear to many, including ordinary Catholics, as a surrender to a culture opposed to the truth about life and love.
The Local Bishop
The failure to dialogue with the bishop brings a second series of questions. What is the relationship of the Catholic university to the local bishop? No relationship? Someone who occasionally offers Mass on campus? Someone who sits on the platform at graduation? Or is the bishop the teacher in the diocese, responsible for souls, including the souls of students—in this case, the students at Notre Dame? Does the responsibility of the bishop to teach, to govern and to sanctify end at the gate of the university? In the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which places the primary responsibility on the institution, I am proposing these questions for the university.
Prof. John Cavadini has addressed the questions about the relationship of the university and the bishop in an especially insightful manner. He is chair of the theology department and an expert on the early church, with a special interest in St. Augustine. His remarks were a response to Father Jenkins’s rationale for presenting the play mentioned above.
The statement of our President [Father Jenkins] barely mentions the Church. It is as though the mere mention of a relationship with the Church has become so alien to our ways of thinking and so offensive to our quest for a disembodied “excellence” that it has become impolite to mention it at all. There is no Catholic identity apart from the affiliation with the Church. And again, I do not mean an imaginary Church we sometimes might wish existed, but the concrete, visible communion of “hierarchic and charismatic gifts,” “at once holy and always in need of purification,” in which “each bishop represents his own church and all of [the bishops] together with the Pope represent the whole Church...” (Lumen Gentium, Nos. 4, 8, 23).
The ancient Gnostic heresy developed an elitist intellectual tradition which eschewed connection to the “fleshly” church of the bishop and devalued or spiritualized the sacraments. Are we in danger of developing a gnosticized version of the “Catholic intellectual tradition,” one which floats free of any norming connection and so free of any concrete claim to Catholic identity?
The full letter can be found on the Web site of the Notre Dame student newspaper, The Observer: www.ndsmcobserver.com.
It has been a great privilege and a source of joy to be associated with Notre Dame in the past 24 years as bishop. In so many ways, it is a splendid place. Part of this is because of the exemplary young men and women who come there from throughout the country. It is also because of its great spiritual traditions. The lines of young people preparing to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Masses in the residence halls, the prayerful liturgy at the basilica and the service of so many young people before and after graduation in Catholic education and catechetics, and in service to the poor in this country and overseas, is a credit to the university and a source of great hope. The theology department has grown in academic excellence over the years, strengthened by the successful recruiting of professors outstanding in scholarship, in their knowledge of the tradition and in their own living of the Catholic faith. This growth is well known to Pope Benedict XVI. It is notable that a vast majority has been willing to seek and accept the mandatum from the local bishop.
Developments on Campus
Yet the questions about the relationship of the university as a whole to the church still stand, and what happened on campus leading up to and during the graduation is significant for the present debate about Catholic higher education. I released a statement on Good Friday, asking the Catholic people and others of good will not to attend demonstrations by those who had come avowedly to “create a circus.” I referred to appropriate and acceptable responses within the Notre Dame community led by students. Titled “ND Response,” and drawing a significant number of professors, these responses were marked by prayer and church teaching, and they were orderly.
This journal and others in the media, Catholic and secular, reporting from afar, failed to make a distinction between the extremists on the one hand, and students and those who joined them in the last 48 hours before graduation. This latter group responded with prayer and substantive disagreement. They cooperated with university authorities.
In this time of crisis at the university, these students and professors, with the instinct of faith, turned to the bishop for guidance, encouragement and prayer. This had nothing to do with John Michael D’Arcy. It was related to their understanding of the episcopal office—a place you should be able to count on for the truth, as Irenaeus contended in the second century when he encountered the Gnostics.
I attended the Baccalaureate Mass the day before graduation, for the 25th time, speaking after holy Communion, as I always do. Then I led an evening rosary at the Grotto with students, adults and a number of professors. We then went to a chapel on campus. It was packed for a whole night of prayer and eucharistic adoration.
It was my intention not to be on campus during graduation day. I had so informed Father Jenkins and the student leadership, with whom I was in touch nearly every day. This is the kind of deference and respect I have shown to the Notre Dame administration, to three Notre Dame presidents, over the years. I found it an increasingly sad time, and I was convinced that there were no winners, but I was wrong.
As graduation drew near, I knew I should be with the students. It was only right that the bishop be with them, for they were on the side of truth, and their demonstration was disciplined, rooted in prayer and substantive. I told the pro-life rally, several thousand people on a lovely May day, that they were the true heroes. Despite the personal costs to themselves and their families, they chose to give public witness to the Catholic faith contrary to the example of a powerful, international university, against which they were respectfully but firmly in disagreement. Among those in attendance were many who work daily at crisis pregnancy centers on behalf of life.
The Silent Board
In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting. They said nothing. When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots. We learned nothing about their discussions.
I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer. They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment. This requires spiritual and intellectual formation on the part of the men and women of industry, business and technology who make up the majority of the board. Financial generosity is no longer sufficient for membership on the boards of great universities, if indeed it ever was. The responsibility of university boards is great, and decisions must not be made by a few. Like bishops, they are asked to leave politics and ambition at the door, and make serious decisions before God. In the case of Notre Dame, they owe it to the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has turned this magnificent place over to a predominately lay board; they owe it to the students who have not yet come; they owe it to the intrepid missionary priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and the Holy Cross religious who built this magnificent place out of the wilderness. They owe it to Mary, the Mother of God, who has always been honored here. Let us pray that they will take this responsibility with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit.
As bishops, we must be teachers and pastors. In that spirit, I would respectfully put these questions to the Catholic universities in the diocese I serve and to other Catholic universities.
Do you consider it a responsibility in your public statements, in your life as a university and in your actions, including your public awards, to give witness to the Catholic faith in all its fullness?
What is your relationship to the church and, specifically, to the local bishop and his pastoral authority as defined by the Second Vatican Council?
Finally, a more fundamental question: Where will the great Catholic universities search for a guiding light in the years ahead? Will it be the Land O’Lakes Statement or Ex Corde Ecclesiae? The first comes from a frantic time, with finances as the driving force. Its understanding of freedom is defensive, absolutist and narrow. It never mentions Christ and barely mentions the truth. The second text, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, speaks constantly of truth and the pursuit of truth. It speaks of freedom in the broader, Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, as linked to the common good, to the rights of others and always subject to truth. Unlike Land O’Lakes, it is communal, reflective of the developments since Vatican II, and it speaks with a language enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
On these three questions, I respectfully submit, rests the future of Catholic higher education in this country and so much else.
For more on President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame see America's archive on the controversy.
Most Rev. John M. D’Arcy is the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., in which the University of Notre Dame is located.
Posted by Fr. Gene Vavrick at 10:08 PM