I want to thank those of you who have visited this blog over the past several days to read my Open Letter to University of Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and additionally thank those of you who left comments of encouragement. Special thanks as well to Thomas Peters at AmericanPapist, Amy Welborn at BeliefNet, and Kathleen Gilbert at LifeSite News for helping spread the word. Fortunately, the Cardinal Newman society has taken command and done an admirable job of getting people motivated on this issue – and you may sign their petition here, as I and over 17,000 others have done, if you are so inclined.
Father Jenkins has responded to the tidal wave of criticism with what I expected him to say: anemic claptrap that speaks more about him than it does about the teachings of the Church. You may read his words here, in an interview with the Notre Dame Observer. My more savvy readers in need of a little fun can craft an amusing game for themselves. Sit down for a few moments, and write out what you think this sort of administrator would say in response – making ample use of the words “dialogue” and “engagement”. Then compare your imagined text to the actual interview. Be sure to gloss over the words, “suggest support” in the USCCB directive.
On Friday, when I wrote my letter to Father Jenkins, I did so for two reasons. First, because as an alumnus of Notre Dame I was stung by the invitation of, and indeed, the conferral of an award upon President Obama by my old school. That school must know fully well that this Administration has already enacted and is set on a policy with respect to the unborn, as well as Catholic medical providers, that is, frankly, breathtaking in its scope.
This leads to my second point, since Notre Dame is not just any university, and not just any top-tier university either. It is a Catholic institution. That word “Catholic” has to mean something more than simply some pretty statues surrounded by landscaping, and chapels where you can have your picture taken or get married. It means having to make hard choices, and not go down certain paths.
The error here, it seems to me, is not that Mr. Obama was invited to speak at my alma mater, or that he will be given an honorary degree. The error was that the university even considered inviting Mr. Obama to speak at graduation in the first place, knowing full well Mr. Obama’s policy actions to date, as well as his stated intent to widen his attack on the unborn and indeed, on Catholic medical institutions, in a scope unprecedented in American history. A Catholic university’s leader, particularly one who is an ordained priest, should not need to be told that inviting an activist pro-abortion politician to speak at graduation AND receive an honorary degree is wrong. (By the way, Father Jenkins, don’t put your hand on a hot stove, either.) Clearly, this is not a university administration that takes fidelity to the Magisterium seriously, and steps should be taken by the proper ecclesiastical authorities to investigate this.
Would I have taken the step of writing to the President of, say, Boston College had Mr. Obama been invited to speak there? Probably not – I have no connection to that school. I would have shook my head and rolled my eyes, and said, “Doesn’t surprise me.” Sadly, my own apathy at times, convicts me.
But not this time.
Those of us Catholics in the under-40s, who were born after Vatican II, and who only recall two Popes in our lives, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, are inheriting the wasteland of the culture wars that have decimated Western society. Like appeasement makers of old, we are led by Catholic priests who announce that a Catholic university is “honored” by the presence of an individual who intends to persecute Catholic institutions that do not bend to his will. We are soft, and we are too willing to shrug our shoulders and say, “What can I do?”
If my experience over the past several days provides any wisdom to anyone reading these words, it is that each one of us must raise our voice in alarm when the moment is right to do so. Oftentimes it is our lot to remain silent, or unheard, because we cannot chase every monster, defend every outcropping. Let it not be said, however, at the end of our lives when an accounting is called for, that when the battle came to our turf, we failed to stand up to be counted.