A View From the Cheap Seats

April 15, 2009

Dialogue – Part 1

Filed under: Abortion,Politics,Religion — trzupek @ 9:00 am
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lincoln-douglasEXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 15, 2009

By Rich Trzupek

Much has been said about the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at commencement exercises this year and to award him an honorary degree at the same time. As a committed Catholic (or, perhaps, a Catholic who should be committed) I feel compelled to add my two cents.

First of all, the reasoning that newly elected Presidents always speak at Notre Dame commencements is not quite true. Among those who did not address graduates in recent times, we have Presidents Clinton, Nixon and Johnson. It’s not clear to me why it would be disrespectful if this President did not speak as well.

Secondly, although President Obama will surely accumulate many honorary degrees throughout his term in office, as every President does, a Catholic university should not accord him that particular honor. An honorary degree is both a gesture of respect and, to some degree, a sign of approval for a job well done.

Whatever else the President does or does not do, his positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research are contrary to what Catholics – and indeed most Christians – believe. These are not small matters to the Catholic Church. They are issues that reach to the core of our beliefs. Issuing the educational equivalent of a medal to someone who has taken actions that are inherently sinful, in our view, makes no sense to me at all.

All of that said, I have decided that the other part of this controversy – having the President speak to graduates – is, or rather can be, acceptable to this particular Catholic. There is however, as you might have guessed, a catch.

The primary reason advanced for inviting the President to speak at a Catholic university is that it is important to maintain a dialogue with the opposition. We must keep talking with those we do not agree with, in other words. Keep the lines of communication open and all that.

Indeed. Dialogue is indeed a good thing, in most cases. There are exceptions, most of them involving providing seeming legitimacy to hateful and fanatic people when they are provided with a pulpit on the world stage. Inviting the President of Iran to speak at Columbia University comes to mind. But, whatever disagreements that I and others of my ilk have with President Obama, I would agree: let’s keep talking.

Yet, there is a problem with this whole “dialogue” thing: the word necessarily involves at least two people and at least two points-of-view. The enormous prestige and power that accompanies the office of the Chief Executive of the United States of America, when that power and prestige are on display in front of an audience of awed young men and women, pretty much trumps any possible dialogue for the day.

Not that one expects that the President will talk about abortion and stem-cell research during graduation day at Notre Dame. It would be foolish to do so, in that forum, so we may be rather certain that his speech will strong on the platitudes, as most every politician’s commencement speech is wont to be. Yet, the presence of this President, whose positions on these issues are so well known and have been so much discussed in the context of this appearance will speak volumes in itself, no matter what words he chooses to use.

So how do we maintain this dialogue, which most everyone will agree is so important? How do we complete this balancing act, during an event at which one opinion is represented only in a powerful symbolism (rather than words) and the other is not represented at all.

The answer should be self apparent. If we are to have dialogue, let there actually be dialogue. Someone – a student, one of the priests from the order of the Holy Cross, someone – should also speak at commencement ceremonies and stand up for the Catholic values and principles that we espouse.

I am not suggesting that someone should “call the President out” during the commencement ceremonies. Personal attacks in this setting would be inappropriate. He is the President and the office deserves respect, especially in this context. I am rather suggesting that someone should deliver a speech which clearly delineates the positions that Catholics, and most of our fellow Christians, hold dear. The spotlight will be burning brightly as Notre Dame’s seniors gather to receive their diplomas. What better place than this to establish the dialogue that everyone says they want?

What would such a speech sound like? That question has occupied my thoughts. I have done a bit of speechwriting in my literary career and the contents of such an address have begun to take form. Space prevents me from sharing those thoughts this week, so I will beg your indulgence until next Wednesday dear readers, when I will offer a suggestion regarding what should be said at the University of Notre Dame when the 44th President of the United States comes to call.

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1 Comment »

  1. “These are not small matters to the Catholic Church” you write, and that is correct. The problem today is that it is becoming difficult if not impossible, since the Second Vatican “pastoral in nature” Council, for the Catholic faithful to ascertain who is truly teaching on behalf of the Catholic Church. You’ve done a great job in presenting the problem in an allegedly Catholic University inviting a pro-abortion (pro-infanticide) President to their University. The issue of course goes much deeper: are these Universities truly Catholic anymore? If not, what is the cause of them becoming “un” or “non” Catholic?

    The facts speak for themselves, and here are some important facts: we have the example of Georgetown University that recently covered over the “IHS” symbol of the Holy Name of Our Lord, at the request of the White House, before President Obama would speak. One could only imagine the outcry of discrimination if the President were to visit a Mosque or Synagogue and a request was made to cover up their particular religious in nature symbols. But, the “Catholics” were of course most liberal and gracious about being ashamed of the Holy Name of Jesus. Those who remember Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (forgotton in most parishes today) recall the wonderful Divine Praises “Blessed be the Holy Name.” But, not so blessed at Georgetown University. Not to mention an “honoris causa” doctorate degree for an proabortionist.During Lent, this same put on a “GU” Pride event or homosexual festival on various “alternative” lifestyles and called it “Sex Positive Week.” For Ash Wednesday, they had “Torn AboutPorn” and it only gets worse. Yet, we are supposed to believe that Georgetown is a Catholic University? Honestly, is that what the official Church teaches? It must be so, because they remain “Catholic in good standing.” How is it, as we are frequently informed that Rome and the “conservatives” in the hierarchy are concerned about the depravity in the modern-day priesthood, but yet, we see that “Catholic” Universities and schools (as well as parishes around the world) permit scandalous immoral programs in an attempt to “soften” the minds of the faithful to various “alternative” lifestyles?

    One could go through an endless list of other schools: Loyola, Catholic Seattle University,and of course Notre Dame. A letter to Father John Jenkins, one of the 12 Notre Dame University trustees (written by a Catholic bishop, I don’t recall the name now) asked Father Jenkins to “convert” back to the Catholic faith! Now, “conservative” Catholics would think “wonderful” -a bishop who has some guts! Yet, I say this is an outrage that a bishop would have to ask a “Catholic” priest to convert! If the priest in question, Jenkins,is not Catholic…then why is he a trustee at an allegedly Catholic University? The answer is clear: neither Fr. Jenkins or the University is Catholic. Georgetown is not Catholic, nor are most of the rest of them. Parents send their children to such institutions and imperil their immortal souls by doing so.

    Of course we can find thousands of examples of what is simply called heresy (of course, that is an ugly word by New Church standards, but it is very much a relevant word by Catholic standards)that is taking place in the structure of the Church since the 1960’s, all in an attempt to undermine and make the Church more “relevant” and “up to date” with the world. Notre Dame and most “Catholic” Universities and (in general) the entire “Catholic” education system today are accomplishing what? Teaching the Catholic faith, Catholic morals? Ask a child, any product of a Catholic School of the “Church of today” to recite the Ten Commandments, to recite the prayers for Confession (just a plain act of contrition!)…you’ll be hard pressed to find one who can. Of course we need not even go deeply into their knowledge of morals, since most of the once-Catholic faithful believe in birth control, and we know how many “in the pews” and elsewhere support abortion. Of course, the Baltimore Catechism is outdated anyway, as is the faith that one learned in those wonderful pages.

    The fact is that the average “Catholic” of today holds very little in common with the faith of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Dominic, St. Francis Xavier and in fact, with the faith of 2,000 years. The logical outcome of dissenting from the true religion is to fall into what even Pope Benedict called as the “desert of godlessness.”

    We have what we have at Notre Dame (a mindset, a non-Catholic Fr. Jenkins) only because the New Church organization of the 1960’s spawned these institutions, these scandalous thinkers. What is taking place at Notre Dame and elsewhere could never, would never happen at a truly Catholic (orthodox) institution. It is just that simple.
    Fr. Brown

    Comment by Fr. Brown — April 28, 2009 @ 9:15 pm | Reply


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