The Church of Kharma Futures

The Rev's views on politics, events,faith, and the world. All content copyright Church of Kharma Future 2007-2015 All rights Reserved

More on Notre Dame

Posted by revkharma on May 18, 2009

( Please make sure to read to the end of this post, as I have added a clarification that some have asked me for. Thanks! The Rev)

Note that I did not title this with any reference to the President of the United States. Despite the headlines this morning, the objections to the awarding of a degree were not an objection to President Barack Obama receiving a degree. There has been much written to imply that this is a political argument with President Obama’s views on abortion. Quite simply, this is not the case, or at least it is only a very small part. The issue is, and has been one of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the requirement of Catholic institutions to adhere to such teachings. The Bishops in the United States, following the direction of the Pope, and the historic teachings of the Church, have directed that any institution which is affiliated with the Church MUST follow the teachings and doctrines of the Church. For some reason, this angers many academics, who deem this an infringement on their freedom. The problem with this is in a Roman Catholic Institution there are, and should be, regulations which conform to the teachings of the Church which chartered the university.

Had the President been invited to give a commencement address, and perhaps a discussion on the issue of abortion, there would not be an objection.  Had he been speaking at a private college, unaffiliated with the Church, there would have been no objection. ( Note that when giving a similar address at Arizona State University, The President was not awarded an honorary degree)The issue of conflict arose with the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Barack Obama, a strong proponent of unrestricted abortion. This contravenes the direct teaching of the Church on abortion. Abortion is not merely another issue. For the Catholic Church, abortion is a grave moral evil. This cannot be understated. Facilitation of, support for, or public acquiescence to abortion is in a category entirely different than other disordered or sinful behaviors.  While there certainly are objections to the death penalty, and clearly Pope John Paul II opposed the Iraq War, however these issues are simply not in the same category.

All that discussion leads up to a major point, which is simply this: the focus of criticism was, and has been the University of Notre Dame, and the current president, Fr. Jenkins.  All attempts by various media outlets and even by President Obama himself to cast this as a political attack on his abortion views are incorrect, and perhaps an attempt to mobilize support for Mr. Obama and his policies. Father Jenkins also had a strong interest to shift the spotlight toward ‘intolerant abortion foes’ who were unwilling to engage in debate. This change of focus worked for all the parties involved.  Jenkins gets to appear the ever tolerant academic, oppressed by an intolerant Church, instead of a recalcitrant priest, disobeying a fundamental ruling by the Church he professes to follow. The President, instead of giving yet another commencement address can once more draw attention to himself as a noble fighter for freedom and women’s rights against the intolerant right, which will attack him everywhere.

The losers in the whole thing are  the Bishops who now have appear powerless to control a defiant university president who is willing to go his own way seemingly with impunity.  The students at Notre Dame had their graduation exercises hijacked by a wholly unnecessary and far too public controversy which could have been avoided merely had the one of the principle actors acted in a less self aggrandizing manner. Had Father Jenkins thought clearly he would have issued an invitation to give the address, without the additional step of bestowing an honorary degree. There may have been protests, but this is the American way. There would NOT have been such a conflict with the Church.  President Obama could have done something honorable, and upon seeing the unavoidable conflict, he could have issued a statement to the effect that he did not wish to tarnish the student’s graduation with such controversy, and moved on, perhaps returning for another speaking engagement, without the conflict. Neither man possessed the maturity, the grace, nor the respect for others such  an adult gesture requires. Both appear diminished by their quest to be center of a stage, strutting about claiming the role of victim, standing up to intolerance. Both showed remarkable intolerance, and a stunning lack of concern for the cost of their self promotion. 

********************* Addendum****************

Some have asked me to clarify just what is the difference between an ordinary injunction and ‘grave moral issue’ within the Church. I speak only as a layman, and if there is a theologian out there, I would ask for assistance and guidance. So, understand I am speaking from my own knowledge and understanding, here is as clear an explanation I can offer.
One way to illustrate could be this:
Driving on your local roads, you are bound by speed limits. They are posted with the force of law. Should you break that law, you will receive a ticket,and be send on your way, paying the fine, and having the infraction recorded on your license.
However, should you intentionally run down some innocent pedestrian the reaction will be significantly more harsh. You will be arrested and prosecuted for a serious crime.
Clearly there are some rules which are far more serious than others. One can debate the need for a speed limit of say, 40 mph, where the current speed is posted at 25mph. However there can be no debate over the seriousness of a law which which will prosecute you for willfully killing a pedestrian with intent.
Similarly, while there is internal debate on issues ranging from Just War theory to the death penalty to divorce, there is no debate permitted within the Catholic Church regarding the gravity of the moral instructions on abortion, and the requirement that the Church and it’s institutions and organizations should not provide any honors to those who promote abortion.

Keep the Faith!

The Rev


For a significantly more educated and eloquent discussion on this topic, take a few minutes and read this essay, by Father Jonathan Morris.  He speaks with far greater authority than I can claim.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: