Framing the Dialogue

True American Hero – Bishop John M. D’Arcy

“The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas-a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated.”

                                                                         Ronald Reagan

Growing up Catholic nearly 50 years ago did not entail a great deal of “gray” areas when it came to right vs wrong debates.  The Ten Commandments are pretty clear and Sister Mary Margaret let us know when we strayed.  Punishment was swift and we survived and were better for it.  As a parent, I especially like number Four (Honor your Father and your Mother), I am not sure my children get the whole “honor” thing (that should trigger a comment if they read my posts).

As I read about Notre Dame University inviting President Obama to deliver the commencement speech this year, I wondered how the Catholic Church could accept the contridictions between the President’s beliefs and actions and the Church’s Ten Commandments and Bible teachings.  The University president, Reverend John Jenkins has defended the invitation.

Most of my True American Heroes are ordinary folks who stood up for their beliefs.  This hero, Bishop John M. D’Arcy, stood up for his beliefs and spoke out against allowing the President to address the graduating class, but also is against the university bestowing an honorary doctorate.  In his statement, Bishop D’Arcy said:

“I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well.  I have always revered the office of the presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words – but by his actions. My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.”

Bishop D’Arcy has announced that he will not attend the commencemet this year.  This will be the first commencement that he has missed during his 25-year tenure as bishop of the region in which Notre Dame University is located.  In addition to the Bishop, many others will not attend the ceremony including ten priests from the Order of the Holy Cross which founded the university.

Obama’s views, votes and actions on issues such as abortion, partial-birth abortions, and embryonic research put him at odds with basic Catholic precepts.  Notre Dame’s own web-site claims:

“At the very heart of Notre Dame’s mission is its profound faith heritage and aspiration to be at the center of Catholic intellectual life-to be a bellwether institution in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, while remaining guided and elevated by the moral imperatives of the Catholic faith.”

One of the most elloquent pieces about the issue was written by a student from the University of Dallas, Michelle Bauman.  Bauman wrote:

“An invitation to a dialogue of this sort would have been acceptable from a Catholic university.  But in welcoming Obama as commencement speaker, Notre Dame is not engaging in such a dialogue.  Rather, it is inviting the president to a monologue.  He will speak and the crowds will listen; no one will be permitted to present the Catholic viewpoint.  Thus, the purposes of a Catholic dialogue will not be achieved.”

You may read her full article here.

I will end with a quote from the current university president, Reverend John Jenkins.  Reverend Jenkins invited President Obama to speak and has defended the decision.  This quote can be found on Notre Dame’s web page under the “Faith & Service” tab.  It seems to contradict Rev. Jenkins arguments in support of the invitation. 

“We have a much more challenging mission than most universities. Most universities strive simply to be excellent educational institutions by the accepted standards of the profession. We do this at Notre Dame, and we have had great success. But we also foster and celebrate a distinctive mission to be a Catholic university, inspired and guided by a great spiritual tradition.”

You decide.

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