On D’Arcy Point Five

The Fort Wayne/South Bend diocese has put up Bishop John D’Arcy’s letter to the Catholics of his diocese. It would seem we have an attempt to dial down the temperature of the President/conservative Catholic/ND/bishops/Jenkins tangle. This is a good start. Nothing is going to get decided by 340K-signature petitions. I know how Catholic clergy work. Try to tell many of them how to do their job, and they’ll do the opposite to show the laity they operate on another level of power. (Ever wondered why clergy and bishops avoid public confrontation of each other? Same stubborn reflex.)

Bishop D’Arcy’s point four is a gotcha. But maybe not a complete tag on the university president. Ex corde ecclesia was accomplished, but like many recent Church documents, without much collegiality. And before the conservatives in the commentariat start going rabid for anti-democracy here, let’s take a pause for a deep breath and a real world consideration.

My family is not a democracy. But my wife and I see the value in consulting with our adolescent daughter on matters of importance. Homework will get done every day, but if the young miss wants to breeze through it or take her sweet time, it matters little to me. No hw, no tv. We discuss potential family vacations together, but the parents make the final call. We discuss her potential summer activities (like volunteering at VBS or the public library) and the offspring makes the final call. I like encouraging independent thinking, judgment, negotiation, and the like.

Back to Catholic adults. For bishops, curia, and university presidents to sit down together and discuss mutual responsibilities: that would be a meeting of adults, of well-formed Catholics, assessing the best courses of action. Why wouldn’t a university president consult bishops other than her or his own? It’s not forthright, but given the climate created by ex corde it’s not surprising.

Bishop D’Arcy’s only silly point is number five.

In his letter to Bishop Olmsted and in the widespread publicity, which has taken place as the points in the letter have been made public, Father Jenkins declared the invitation to President Obama does not “suggest support” for his actions, because he has expressed and continues to express disagreement with him on issues surrounding protection of life. I wrote that the outpouring of hundreds of thousands who are shocked by the invitation clearly demonstrates, that this invitation has, in fact, scandalized many Catholics and other people of goodwill. In my office alone, there have been over 3,300 messages of shock, dismay and outrage, and they are still coming in. It seems that the action in itself speaks so loudly that people have not been able to hear the words of Father Jenkins, and indeed, the action has suggested approval to many.

This invite has done no such thing. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics are politically embittered. They cannot abide even the suggestion that thirty-plus years of anti-abortion strategies have, by their own uncompromising standard, failed. They hitch their wagons to a corrupt, inept, and irresponsible political party and they complain about dizziness when circling the drain with the GOP?

In order to give scandal, one has to lead, or have the potential to lead others to sin. That a president from the Democratic Party would be pro-choice is not a surprise. That the last handful of presidents have been invited to speak at Notre Dame commencement … again, no surprise. That Republicans would manipulate pro-life dismay for their own reasons: naturally, not surprising.

The real scandal is the Bishop Wenski Point: the public display of anger, disrespect, and bile. It makes Catholics look bad to outsiders. It makes non-extreme Catholics worried to see this distraction from the real issue. Like most of them, the speech and special degree do nothing for me: I’m not a member of either political party; I’m not a Notre Dame grad or prof; I’m not in the South Bend diocese; I haven’t cut back on my donation dollar or volunteer time for local pro-life stuff and gotten duped into the great sucking sound of Republican fundraising.

That President Jenkins and Bishop D’Arcy will be talking in the future: this is a good thing. One would think adults have this figured out. We know many bishops are having a hard time with it, otherwise, why would things get to the point of “terrible breach” so suddenly? Maybe someday they’ll all get a lesson in the importance of dialogue. It’s not so the adolescents can run the family vacation, but to lubricate the conversations, and stimulate a sense of what bishops and university presidents share. That would be leadership. You know: when people follow. The question for the moment is this: do we want Republicans leading Catholics, or do we want pastors in the lead?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to On D’Arcy Point Five

  1. Jason says:

    “[T]his invitation has, in fact, scandalized many Catholics and other people of goodwill.”

    As if the appalling politicized behavior of some bishops and fellow Catholics around this issue and others, which lend the impression that the bishops, and by extension the Catholic Church, are a wing of the Republican Party, hasn’t scandalized many Catholics and other people of goodwill.

    There’s been some good commentary on this issue at A Jesuit’s Journey: http://ryandunssj.blogspot.com/

  2. Some of my own thoughts on the letter:

    The first is an issue of clarity, because I do not know. Is Notre Dame directly under the local bishop or is it under the direction of the order? If it is to the order, then some of what is in the letter is even more mysterious, though as it stands, I think some questions remain. Such as my second point:

    Since it is known that Notre Dame has had a history of inviting new presidents to give commencement speeches and honorary degrees, would it not have been prudent for the bishop himself to approach the university beforehand, and suggest this might be an issue? That no such approach was made, I think Fr. Jenkins could take the silence as acceptance of the policy. It’s not as if this practice was not known, as if this were a new thing. In this respect, I can understand why Fr Jenkins didn’t think there was a need, since the bishop didn’t see a need beforehand. More importantly, this leads to the third point:

    The USCCB document itself says, “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” This is vague. I interpreted it, and obviously Fr Jenkins interpreted it, to say: one should not give an award which would suggest support for their actions. I do not think the Notre Dame speech and honorary award is because of Obama’s abortion policies, but because he is president, and this is a practice of Notre Dame with new presidents. In this way, I would not see how this applied, especially when other precedents show “honors” given to “pro-choice” politicians, both in the US and abroad, some far greater than this. So without any pre-word from the bishop and this interpretation, it is clear that Fr Jenkins did not think he was doing anything wrong. This would explain why he went ahead, and why he would not think there was any need to ask the bishop anything, since the bishop didn’t see the need to address this, either.

    Fourth, now that he has made his own determination of the document, my first question stands, but even if he is the ordinary and the legitimate authority for Notre Dame, we still have other issues to go on. The criticism of Fr Jenkins for not listening to the “authority” is a judgment of Fr Jenkin’s action BEFORE such a declaration was even made. And there is more. While the local ordinary is the primary interpreter, this is not to say there can be no different interpretations, that there can not be disputes, that the bishop’s word is necessarily final and the only possible interpretation, unless a formal declaration has been made. Everything has been far less than formal here.

    Fifth, and last, will we hear such criticism aimed for supporters of other intrinsic evils being given such honors at Catholic universities now? It seems it is all aimed at the person, because it is not a standard being followed the same all around. That alone would suggest the informal, and prudential, nature of the bishop’s interpretation, which again goes back to point four.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    For an interesting discussion on the blindsidedness of the US bishops when it comes to matters other than abortion, take a look at this:

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=3105#comments

  4. Tony says:

    St. Ignatius, please protect us from your sons. Amen.

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