Now Batting For The Ideologues …

I have to admit a fantasy. President Obama goes to Notre Dame, gives a speech largely in favor of supporting unborn life in the womb, and Randall Terry, Bishop D’Arcy, Deal Hudson, and Mary Ann Glendon sit home with egg on their faces. It would be a lovely day for an omelet. Dang, but I don’t think that will be on the menu.

Like half a million other internet Catholics, I read Professor Glendon’s statement on First Things. Unlike most of them, I come away unimpressed. Here’s why:

We’re what: less than two weeks from ND commencement? This story has been brewing a lot longer than that. What took her so long to make up her mind? It was clear from the first post on a Catholic conservative web site this was going to be ideological anti-abortion armageddon. Has Professor Glendon spent so much time in Rome she’s not aware of the magnitude of issues like this within Catholicism? Didn’t Bishop D’Arcy encourage her to attend and receive her award when he announced his own boycott last month? So one strike for just plain bad manners.

As for this statement:

U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Professor Glendon, like many other Catholics, seem to gloss over the clause “which would suggest support for their actions.” I suppose you can read it that every award, honor, and platform automatically suggests support. Those of us who do not apply Liturgiam Authenticam in daily speech might also realize that a Catholic institution might well be able to invite a pro-choice person to speak, as the witness of the Church and institution clearly give others the impression the speaker is not being honored for his beliefs on pro-choice issues, but in spite of them. But this principle and document seem open to interpretation, so ball one for the prof.

However, Professor Glendon has a valid point if her perception is that she’s being used by the ND administration as sort of a pro-life antidote. Her quotes from the university reveal something clumsy is afoot in the spin game. I would rather ND just said, “Look: we invited him, and we’re not going to take it back. Like it or lump it.” Ball two on a hard inside pitch.

I wasn’t impressed with this reasoning:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Say what? This commencement has been touted as a battleground ever since the conservatives got whiff of it. Do you think that South Bend graduates and their families aren’t aware of who their commencement speaker is and why people are upset? Professor Glendon, if she was really concerned about keeping the day nice and sunshiney, should have also written a letter to the president’s detractors and told them to cool it.

This is some kind of courageous decision, I hear it touted, not to disrupt the joy. Sheesh. This is exactly the time for people to get a rip-roaring taste of life in the outside world, as much as the Culture Wars can be evidence of that world. We’re not talking kindergarteners, but young men and women who will very soon be dealing with real life morality in the world (if they haven’t confronted it already on campus). They don’t need spoonfeeding.

So that makes it a generous two-and-two count for the pinch hitter from Harvard.

Beyond this at-bat, I don’t see a good short-term solution for bishops, universities, or the political pro-lifers. This is like the bottom of the eighth, trailing 9-3 with two outs. Bishops, more and more, come off as pouty and ineffective. Rather than boycott these speaker events or insist on a disinvite, why wouldn’t they attend, take advantage of the platform, and really stir up the pot with some strong words? Maybe some of them wish they’d been stronger in preaching and public speaking–I don’t know.

Universities will be doing a better job vetting speakers from now on. I predict a lower quality of presentation or a lower quality of content delivered at commencement. I don’t see how university presidents are suddenly going to go hat in hand to their bishop to get their speakers approved. Worst case scenario would be some conservative getting her or his hands on prospective lists and tallying up the disinvites. Which bishop vetoed the most speakers? Give him a medal. Which speaker was vetoed by the most bishops? You have the antichrist of the year.

Political pro-lifers have a pyrrhic victory. The movement can’t break abortion numbers, can’t get laws passed, and resorts to pep rallies for the disillusioned faithful. Which bishop was it that suggested the local Birthright or other pro-life service gain extra volunteer hours in reparation for the sins of society? Oh wait, it was another pep rally–I mean Mass.

Maybe Professor Glendon can hit the summer speaking circuit now that Harvard is on summer break. I’m sure she could reap lots of medals in return for declining the Laetare.

Update: I think RP Burke has delivered the strikeout pitch.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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14 Responses to Now Batting For The Ideologues …

  1. Ann says:

    What does ” largely in favor of supporting life in the womb” mean? And could she not have been torn over the right thing to do? I do not know if this is ‘plain bad manners’ or a difficult decision. I do not think that Father Jenkins is the only one acting in good faith.

  2. Todd says:

    Fair enough, Ann. I can give Professor Glendon the benefit of the doubt, and acknowledge that discernment time is needed for something like this. I can tell you if I were in her shoes, my first instincts would have been similar: rewrite my talk and try to judge what would be appropriate in the situation.

    On the other hand, it was clear from the moment the award was announced that this was going to be an unusual situation, and maybe my first discernment isn’t rewriting my speech but reconsidering my attendance.

    Sure, it’s a tough assignment to wade into this situation. She determined she wasn’t up to it. I can respect that. I can also respect a decision by a university president I might not agree with, too. It doesn’t mean I agree or support.

  3. Patti says:

    I liked this quote from the article on this in the Boston Globe this morning:

    “There are some well-meaning people who think Notre Dame has given away its Catholic identity, because they have been caught up in the gamesmanship of American higher education, bringing in a star commencement speaker even if that means sacrificing their values, and that accounts for some of this,” said the Rev. Kenneth Himes, chairman of theology department at Boston College. “But one also has to say that there is a political game going on here, and part of that is that you demonize the people who disagree with you, you question their integrity, you challenge their character, and you brand these people as moral poison. Some people have simply reduced Catholicism to the abortion issue, and, consequently, they have simply launched a crusade to bar anything from Catholic institutions that smacks of any sort of open conversation.”

  4. Tony says:

    I’ll get on deck in the next “ideologue” batting order.

    The difficult position that Professor Glendon was placed in was as the ideological counterpoint to the culture of death as embodied in Barack Obama. She found herself as the second side of a supposedly two sided “discussion”. She refused to be used as a prop to allow Fr. Jenkins to disobey the American Bishops with a supposed “freedom of competing ideas” meme.

    Notre Dame is supposed to be a Catholic college. As such they are supposed to uphold Catholic teaching. If they want to adopt a secular teaching style, they should be intellectually honest and drop the “Catholic” from their designations.

    Barack Obama has is being honored with an honorary law degree from Notre Dame when during his entire career he has used the law, most notably as a legislator, to not only sanction the killing of children inside the womb, but outside the womb in the event that the child survived the abortion attempt.

    This man is a monster. And to honor him with a law degree spits on the graves (oops, medical waste bags) of the millions who have been killed in the name of “choice”.

    How you can support this, Todd, I guess I just can’t understand. This man not only is directly facilitating (paying for) abortions through his reversal of the Mexico City policy, and has increased federal funds for the experimentation on tiny humans (embryos), but he has cut funding for adult stem cell research which has over 70 proven cures to its credit.

  5. Todd says:

    “How you can support this, Todd, I guess I just can’t understand.”

    The con case in a nutshell. Like many others you presume that because I criticize you, I’m supportive of the opposite view. I’m an equal opportunity critic on this issue: I think it’s been handled badly on pretty much every front.

    And like others on the extremes, you don’t understand because you don’t listen.

  6. JC says:

    If Notre Dame invited me to anything, I would refuse.

    Since when does opposing abortion in the Catholic Church constitute ideology?

    Todd, once again, you are showing you care more about your Americanism than your Catholicism.

    I think of what Dr. Bruchalski (of Tepeyac Clinic fame) says about the day of _Roe v. Wade_, when he came home and his father was wearing black. “Today, America has gone over to the Devil,” his father said.

    24 years later, the Supreme Court issued a ruling–Gonzalez v. Carhart–in which it said that abortion is a fundamental right, up until the moment of birth, but that a particular form of abortion can be outlawed because it’s “gruesome” and there are alternatives, and the USCCB and the NRLC and the GOP call this a victory.

    *No law which violates Natural Law is valid*. Period.
    This is not “ideology”. It is the Catholic faith.

  7. Todd says:

    JC, thanks for the post, but your reply is mystifying. Those whom I’m criticizing oppose ND or the president. I agree with them on abortion, as does Fr Jenkins.

    Natural Law does not include agreement with everybody on every particular. We don’t all choose to wear black.

  8. JC says:

    Obama says he wants abortion to be “limited.” Abortion needs to be illegal. Rape is against the Natural Law. Rape is illegal. Rape happens all the time. Murder is against the Natural Law. Murder is illegal. Murder happens all the time. But the *law* must be against it, in order for society to be whole.

    No one is saying “disinvite the president because he wears the wrong clothes.” That would be ideology. We’re saying, “Disinvite the president because he denies Natural Law.”

    Now, I happen to oppose Notre Dame as such, whether or not it invites, awards or even gives a thumbs up to Barack Obama.

    But my challenge to your characterization is *Why* Obama and/or ND is being opposed. I oppose Notre Dame because it allows heresy to be taught in its walls. Does that make me an ideologue? That I think a Catholic university should teach only Catholic doctrine? That a Catholic university should support the teachings of _Evangelium Vitae_ (which requires us to support an immediate end to abortion and only allows “incremental” approaches if they are done in tandem with attempts to completely outlaw it)?
    That a Catholic university should–as Cardinal Arinze (whom I’m sure you consider an “ideologue”) said in his Georgetown Commencement speech–prepare its students to be good *Catholics* more than anything else?

  9. “That a Catholic university should–as Cardinal Arinze (whom I’m sure you consider an ‘ideologue’) said in his Georgetown Commencement speech–prepare its students to be good *Catholics* more than anything else?”

    JC, so what about Glendon’s statement saying that commencement is not the time to say that?

  10. Grandma K says:

    Since when does being faithful and obedient to ALL the teachings of the Catholic Church make you an idealogue? This is one of the real victims of the last 50 years of catechesis that there would even be discussion on this issue. The Church is not a democracy and we may not decide for ourselves which teachings we will follow and which we will ignore. That is why we are CATHOLICS and not Protestants!

  11. Grandma

    It is often the confusion of methodology and strategy as with the goal itself, and calling people names for not accepting the same methodology.

  12. JC says:

    “JC, so what about Glendon’s statement saying that commencement is not the time to say that?”
    She said it was not the time to engage in an argument, which what Fr. Jenkins suggested she do.

    Cardinal Arinze was telling the graduates what they should do with their Catholic educations. That’s the difference.

    Also, the Cardinal Arinze speech is a fantastic example, since the Georgetown faculty walked out in protest. Shows what little respect they had for a Prince of the Church and for the Students’ “important day”.

    Presumably, a graduation speaker should be talking about “What do you do next” or “How my life is an example of success you can have,” or some such thing.

    Let’s put the question this way: what, exactly, in Barack Obama’s life is there for a Catholic to emulate?

    In the controversy over his attendance at a Muslim school, he said, “I attended both Muslim and Catholic schools, and I made fun of religion class at both.”

    His life is all about ambition and self-aggrandizement, politics and selling out. What exactly has he achieved that’s worth emulating?

    The presidency of the United States? Hardly. The presidency of the United States means absdolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.

    The nice lady from the St. Vincent de Paul society would make a better graduation speaker than the President of the US.

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