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?