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Notre Dame's Useful Service Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell   
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Notre Dame has done a great service to the Catholic Church. Yes, I said service. For the first time in a long while, a noted “Catholic” institution has given clear public witness to its “Catholicism” in a way that cannot be fudged or swept under the rug. It is not every day that you can enlist the President of the United States, and a non-Catholic at that, to help you in making such an unequivocal assertion of your deepest understanding of what it means to be Catholic.

The University of Notre Dame has squarely put before the nation and the world a conception of Catholicism that is essentially a kind of low-church Protestantism, with its view of religion as “what we do in our local community.” In that kind of arrangement, the people in a particular church gathering may accept some common notions of what the Christian faith is, what Christian principles are, but reserve to themselves how they will be lived out institutionally. They have their own “take” on things, fiercely defend that take, and are extremely proud of it.

Needless to say none of this is how the Catholic Church understands things. No offence to low-church Protestantism, but we are by definition not low-church Protestants. Our local communities and institutions belong to a larger whole, the Catholic Church, what we believe to be a global – and universal – society established by God Himself. This larger whole holds to and teaches one truth. In this Catholic Church, at least according to the Second Vatican Council: “in Jesus Christ all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). This one truth describes reality. (Watch that connection to reality!) Thus all of the individual teachings of the Catholic Church are interrelated; there is no possibility of separating them for convenience, for having the President of the United States on campus, or because we have decided it’s of no great importance that we ignore certain of them.

Catholic institutions are Catholic if they teach all of the interrelated truths completely and in harmony with one another – and then live out those teachings in communion with the whole Church. Then they give honorary doctorates, not as you would a box of DVDs to say “thank you for coming,” but to acknowledge that a specific person has promoted and served the cause of the truth in some highly significant way. That is to say: all of the truths together, since mankind is one and there is one truth about mankind – expressed in Jesus Christ.

Coming at this from a different direction: one particular truth in the Catholic Truth is that killing babies (or any innocent human being) is wrong no matter how young they are. This is simply, factually true and it cannot be traded for some other truth such as that “he is the first black president” — by the way kudos to him for that – or that he has a vision of justice and peace. Facilitating the killing of babies or earmarking more money for killing babies, not only here but around the world, are actions that cannot be put in the balance with anything else (and by the way, say something about your view of justice and peace). Every baby’s life is of incalculable value. That is the reality. Honoring the man means participating in the trade-off of a specific human life – tragically and often enough a poor, black life as well – for something of far lesser value. It says: We have found something (his presence on our campus, his aspirations towards some aspects of social justice) that all but eliminates what should be our repugnance towards the wholesale taking of innocent human life. This is seriously flawed thinking, and in a civilized society, worthy of the name, is unconscionable.

So Notre Dame’s service has been to put before the world in blazingly stark and unquestionable terms that there are two Catholicisms in this country — one that simply chooses to overlook what even its own leaders claim to believe is an atrocity, in the name of a peaceful coexistence with modern Western secular culture. And then it promotes the most radical exponent of abortion ever to occupy the White House under the banner of Catholicism — its respect for faith and reason, and its respect and tolerance towards those with whom it disagrees.

Of course, there is another Catholicism, the Catholic Catholicism, the one that is faithful to the teachings of the Church and that therefore challenges Western culture to become more humane.

This division has been apparent for decades, but under the misleading rubric of tolerance the division has been allowed to continue and, as we now see, to develop into a parallel set of institutions. So Notre Dame has clarified the question. What are the leaders of the Church going to do? They led the Church during a confused period while this rift was developing. What are they going to do now?

Bevil Bramwell, priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, teaches theology at Catholic Distance University. He holds a Ph.D from Boston College and works in the area of ecclesiology.

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Comments (25)Add Comment
0
American Schism
written by William Dennis, May 19, 2009
Excellant Father! What is most annoying is that the state has now interjected itself via this president into a moral arena. He seems to have set himself up as the moral negotiator between the Catholic Church and The American Catholic Church in an attempt to negotiate non-negotiable moral truths concerning life issues. Is the State now the head of the American Church? The American bishops after 40 years of indolence, need now to take back the Catholic Church before it is too late. Maybe it is!
0
...
written by Michael, May 19, 2009
The Church has to do something..Otherwise any hope of obedience to the Bishops go out the window. If Jenkins is allowed to "thumb his nose" as its been said, anyone can...The tradition of the authority of our Bishops is totally gone..It needs to be returned...
How the USCCB is going to do this , I don't know, but it has to be done. Otherwise any act of disobiedence will be followed with "If Jenkins can do it so can I"...
0
ND - still Catholic
written by Bradley, May 19, 2009
The challenge to Catholics: what do we do with our teaching about the Truth and how do we convert a sinful world? Do we live in a bomb shelter, shutting out everyone until they come to our view, and call them murderers and devils until then? Or do we engage a sinful world? ND chose the latter without compromising Church teaching and I commend them for it. BTW - If we chose speakers on the basis of upholding every single tenet of Catholic Truth, ND would have an empty dais for many years.
0
A Simple Solution
written by Megs, May 19, 2009
No Catholic school should honor any active politician. Not the guys who stand with Pilate on torture and the death penalty and beat the drums for unjust wars while denying healthcare. Not the guys who stand with Herod on slaughtering the innocent and stand with Sodom on marriage. Simple as that.
0
A question
written by Paul G, May 19, 2009
Why do columns about abortion here always skirt around a central issue: women? They ultimately make the decision to abort and "women's rights" are at the center of the pro-abortion arguments, yet they are ignored or treated as hapless victims, seduced by male devils like the President Obama and murderous doctors. If abortion is murder, shouldn't women who have them be jailed for life? We need to be clearer about the responsibility of women and address "pro-choice" arguments head-on.
0
...
written by Dustan Chaff, May 19, 2009
Amen, Father. It is time for the Roman Catholic Episcopate to do even more than speak out, IMHO. It will take leadership and moral courage to do it in the face of significant push-back from many sides, especially within the Church but it must be done. The herodox leaders have made their version of the "church" in America reminesent of Flip Wilson's "The Church of What's Happin'in Now". (I date myself here).
0
Disobedience
written by Dustan Chaff, May 19, 2009
Bradley- What part of the USCCB 2004 guidance to Catholic Institutions, including ND, to refrain from honoring those whose actions and positions stand in direct opposition to Church Teaching do you NOT understand?

Fr. Jenkins and others is in willful disobedience to that and to Bishop D'Arcy, therefore you applaud disobedience to Church authority.
0
...
written by Wj, May 19, 2009
What Megs said. There is no active national politician who can be said to subscribe to the Church's notion of a consistent ethic of life for the simple reason that our existent political system, with its false options between Republican and Democrat, doesn't allow for one.
0
My Heart is Sore w/Grief
written by debby, May 19, 2009
somehow i think we-those who love God & the Holy Catholic Church- are living in the Garden of Gethsemene. if our Father does not allow this cup to pass (the certain judgement coming upon us) may each of us pray in union with our Lord, "Not my will, but Thine be done." my heart is sore with grief & w/shame i admit i find it a struggle to keep my eyes & mind fixed on the One, True HOPE. pray for me, my brothers & sisters, as if for you, that all we remain firm in Him. St. Maximillan pray for us!
0
To Dustan
written by Bradley, May 19, 2009
The USCCB document is entitled Catholics in Political Life and there is divided opinion about whether it applies to non-Catholics. The point is not to argue technicalities or compromise church teaching, but follow another USCCB directive: "We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials..." (I know...'dialogue' is the new code word for heretic.)
0
...
written by MT, May 19, 2009
Bradley, ND honored Obama--there was no dialogue or debate. He wasn't engaged with people who disagree with his views. They treated him like an idol. That's what was wrong with it. We have to engage the world like the apostle Paul did--by proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. And the time when he tried a "dialogue"like approach-at Athens--he failed badly. He learned he had to just proclaim the cross.
0
...
written by guest, May 19, 2009
"What are the leaders of the church going to do?" That is an excellent question. They did nothing beforehand to stop Fr. Jenkins so what are they going to do now. I pray that it will be something. Fr. Jenkins was wrong. Why is it that no one could stop him? His blatant arrogance was astounding.
0
...
written by marie, May 19, 2009
I do not share your sentiment: such as that “he is the first black president — by the way kudos to him for that." He is not "black," but biracial; and his skin color was an aid in his winning the election. He is as black as he is white. We need to dispense with all references to race as there are an increasing number of interracial marriages. Describing someone according this antiquated notion, which is not supported by science, has always been nonsensical, and it is now becoming impractical.
0
LCDR, USN [ret]
written by Keith Töpfer, May 19, 2009
Bradley,

Are you asserting that Fr. Jenkins is either (a) not Catholic, or (b) not "in public life?" Either argument is demonstrably false. Therefore, the document applies to him. The deeper problem is not whether Obama, as President is invited to speak, but rather that he be awarded the honorary degree. And your comment #2 establishes what can only be considered a similar false dichotomy.

Pax et bonum
0
ocds
written by dawn, May 19, 2009
I am grateful for what has transpired. For many Catholics who sit confused in the pew week after week this has been a clarifying moment. The mask has been removed. Many institutions which call themselves Catholic, have little or nothing in common with the Truths which Catholicism teaches. Additionally many Catholics, even priests and presidents of universities, espouse philosophies which are in direct contradiction to Our Lord's commands. The line has been drawn, who can say he does not see?
0
...
written by Cavaliere, May 19, 2009
The USCCB document is entitled Catholics in Political Life and there is divided opinion about whether it applies to non-Catholics.

Bradley, there are more than 70 Bishops that say it does. While many have remained silent, I know of none who have come out and opposed their brother Bishops on this issue. Most importantly as Bishop D'Arcy said, in his Diocese it is his interpretation that matters.
0
...
written by Cavaliere, May 19, 2009
As a follow-up to my previous post. Cafeteria Catholics like the pick-and-choose option; they have been using it for years on birth control. The Church teaches it is categorically wrong. No matter if you find a priest who will tell you "go ahead." Same situation here. Go out and find yourself a canon lawyer who will tell you it is okay, and that this document doesn't apply. These progressive Catholics are expert at it, they have been offering confused interpretations of Vatican II for 40 years.
0
Keep in Mind . . .
written by WJ, May 19, 2009
. . . that Notre Dame awarded the Laetare Medal to pro-choice Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1992) and to pro-choice Martin Sheen (2008) and has hosted pro-choice Condoleeza Rice to deliver a Commencement Address (1995). Condi Rice was also honored with an honorary doctorate from Boston College in 2006. All of these recipients should not have been honored by a Catholic institution of higher learning, and it is instructive to ponder why Catholics (on the right) were relatively mute in their objections.
0
RE:WJ\\\\\\
written by Dustan Chaff, May 19, 2009
WJ,
Your argument mixes blurs the differences between what constitutes a just war, the legitimacy of capital punishment and the Church's teaching on those issues and that of abortion. The Church's teaching on are very different. Just wars and capital punishment may be permissable. Abortion is non-negotiable. Putting a "left" or "right" label on those who hold to the actual Church teaching on them would indicate you are politicizing them. The Magisterium is apolitical. Truth is what it Is.
0
...
written by JDS, May 19, 2009
WJ,
Since the USCCB statement, Catholics in Political Life, was published in 2004, only the alleged award to pro-choice Martin Sheen in 2008 is relevant. I did not hear one word about that award last year...I guess we can thank President Obama for making this year's awards known to the public. For the record, I would have been opposed to Sheen's award last year also.

ps. Is Condi Rice still pro-choice? Many people actually change their positions as they mature and attain wisdom.
0
To JDS and Dustan Chaff
written by WJ, May 19, 2009
Dustan, I think you need to read my comment again. All those honorees were publicly pro-choice at the time of their recognition. I do also happen to believe that there exist definitive criteria for just war that, regardless of the protestations of Weigel, etc., can easily be shown not to have been met with regard to Iraq, and that consequently no proponent of that evil should be honored, but this is not the issue I raise. JDS, Rice described herself as "mildly pro-choice" in 2008.
0
Lets Dialog
written by charlie smith, May 19, 2009
I do not know what the Bishops will do now, but Fr. Jenkins MUST call on the Obama admin. to convene a commission at ND to develop practical policies to meet a common ground and make abortion rare. Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates to be represented. May I make some suggestions for the commission:1) declare taking the life of an innocent human being to be morally unacceptable 2) cap physician abortion fees to $125.00 3) apply a user tax to the woman (income determined) of $500.00 to $20,000
0
...
written by JDS, May 19, 2009
"mildly pro-choice"...LOL
God is pro-choice, that's why He gave us free will. But he wants us to choose good over evil. The issue is "abortion"; is abortion good or evil? The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is intrinsically evil and no politician/statesman/actor who is pro-abortion should be honored by a Catholic institution. Sorry Condi.
0
RE: WJ
written by Dust, May 20, 2009
I read what you wrote. Is that what you meant to say? I would point out that your arguments addressing abortion supporters are correct but your arguement against the invasion of Iraq, in terms of Church teaching, is your opinion. His Holiness JP II agreed with you but he did not speak "ex-cathedra." I was pointing out there is a difference. Your ideology comes thru again by targeting Weigel et. al. in your comment. BTW, I believed that the invasion of Iraq was a bad move at the time also.
0
Also grateful
written by Fr. Michael Lyons, May 20, 2009
Sunday's sickening display of co-opted Catholicism at Notre Dame leads me, amidst my sadness, to be grateful, like Dawn (#14). It should be clear now where decades of "accommodation" and "dialogue" have taken the Catholic Church in America. The answer lies in personal holiness, growing closer to Christ through His Blessed Mother every single day.

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