Don't waste the Notre Dame "crisis" – UPDATED

Every time I turn around I have another press release or story in my email about another bishop boycotting another commencement ceremony at a Catholic college, because one of the speakers is pro-abortion.

This seems wrong to me. It seems unpastoral – unshephard-like – to either “not show up” or simply hand down the authoritative teaching on the sanctity of life (a teaching with which I whole-heartedly agree) rather than taking the moment not just to “re-iterate” but to find new language, a new tone, to once again make the strong, correct and convincing case for life. A case which can be made, should be made.

We are in a generation where people are less inclined to say, “oh, my church says this, so I will obey.” People need to feel they have come to their conclusions after using the bean, and it is the job of the bishops (and the faithful) to make the argument so sensible, so reasonable, that it cannot be ignored.

I believe the Notre Dame/Barack Obama dustup can be a teachable moment. I think the Catholic Bishops should be taking a page from Obama’s own book, and not allowing this “crisis” to go to waste by simply doing what they have always done – instead of gladly doing battle with renewed voices ready to teach with love, rather than a hammer. The fight for life is urgent, but the movement needs better weaponry than yelling, wagging fingers and stomping off. Those have not been been all that convincing, the last few years; that activity is not turning hearts.

And I say all of that and more in my latest piece at Pajamas Media. For better or worse. Hope you’ll go read it.

I expect a lot of hot responses.

Deacon Greg has more on student-reactions at Notre Dame

He also has a quote from Newt Gingrich on his recent acceptance into the church, which he is keeping (quite rightly, I think) close to the vest and to the heart.

UPDATE: One of the commenters over at Pajamas Media suggested that the best response to Obama’s appearance at Notre dame would be a Eucharistic Procession, before the Commencement address. I think that is so spot on, so brilliant! I wish I’d thought of it. Now THAT is worth a letter-writing campaign. Come on, Bishops – gather together, invite all to come, and have a Eucharistic procession on the campus.

The invaluable New Advent linked. Thanks!

‘The Devil’s Own’ at Notre Dame

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • JuliB


    Boycotting IS the teachable moment! They have been lax for far too long and have thus given scandal. ALL of my friends who are Catholic or are non-Catholic Christians are pro-choice. We’re in our late 30s/early 40s. We never heard it from the pulpit growing up that Catholics are supposed to be pro-life. Our homilies are watered down, our bishops are (were) silent. So you can see that the scandal truly is where the ignorant are lead to accept believe sinful as something that is not sinful/a personal choice. A lack of action lets the faithful wander off to the broad path.

    Now, none of them really understand why you can’t be Catholic and pro-choice – none of them. I’m a revert from 25 years of atheism, so I have to be very tactful when trying to convey the teachings of the Church.

    If the Bishops attend, it would mean that the whole thing is a made up controversy, created by “right wing” extremists. Any boycotting shows that these ‘fanatics’ who complain are actually in sync with the teachings of the Church.

    In addition, I would say that if a speaker is pro-choice, it shouldn’t be an issue. But if the speaker is a politician or someone in the public eye who lobbies for abortion — that should be the trigger.

    [Juli, I have to disagree. Boycotting allows the other side to own the debate. Boycotting, rather than engaging, may make the pro-life crowd feel like it's doing something but it is not CONVINCING anyone else. The abortion issue is not going away until something in the human heart is reached and turned. Boycotting does not do that. Obama is going to go to Notre Dame (they are NOT going to rescind that invite) and he will speak. And he's going to do the whole pro-abortion litany - he's going to do the usual "just words" thing he does. But his invitation and all of this furor is the time to ANSWER that litany and challenge him to think differently, to consider the other side. It's the time for the pro-life side to make their case and then watch him do the stale stuff, and then we respond again later. In terms of publicity and public opinion, the response of the pro-life crowd to this invite - boycotts and yelling - is going to be looked at by the rest of the world as mere 'acting out' and I doubt it will change one mind. It is not enough to be passionate about this cause. We have to also be articulate, and we have no choice to do it in a different way than "the world" would expect. It's my humble opinion - and you're certainly entitled to yours, too. I'm saying this war is stagnant and we need to rehone our weapons as the battle continues. admin]

  • Aunty Franny


    Wonder what Fulton Sheen would do? If he did go he’d open a can of verbal whoop*ss and break it down so the puny minds could follow along. Let me go. I’ll break it down for ‘em.

    Dang it.

    What I’d like to see is, all 250,000 folks who signed the online petitions fly in like it was World Youth Day and sit down on all the roads leading to the campus. There would not be a graduation. A Catholic sit-in.

    I think the Community Organizer In Chief would get that.

  • lsusportsfan

    JuliB I mnust say I agree with you that boycotting is teachable moment.

    I understand the Bishops reaction since the American Bishops are quite clear in their own directives that this should not be happening at Catholic Universities

    In fact part of this is try to do a teachable moment to Notre Dame and not really to Obama.

    The fact is there is no venue to “engage” the President on this issue at Notre Dame. I would like to add that this dialouge has been going rather badly since the infamous Cumo speech at Notre Dame. So badly that if reports are correct the Obama is having a hrad time finding a qualified pro-kife Democrat to be envoy to the Holy See

    I can not imagine that if in 1968 George Wallace would have been elected PResident that he would be invited to speak at Notre Dame at a Commencment exercise and be given a Honorary Doctorate of Law? Can one imagine a Catholic Univerity giving that to him. What is the difference? I can’t see it. I can imagine Catholic Bishops that were doing the painful work to getting their flocks to accept integration would be screaming.

    By the way I think Obama will ignore the abortion issue like the plague in his Speech. I expect ti to be Jimmy Carter like when was there or Bill CLinton like

  • cathyf

    I would be overjoyed at anyone who can come up with a fresh insight into abortion, but I just don’t see it. What I see are people on both sides who agree that murder is wrong, and who agree that women should have control of their own bodies as long as exercising that control is short of murder. What we disagree on is whether killing an unborn baby is murder or not. Sure, there may be some nutcases on one side who believe in parents’ absolute right to kill their children limited only by the kids’ ability to fight back, run, or dial 911; nutcases on the other who believe that it is a violation of natural law for a woman to take advil to relieve menstrual cramps. But it is pointless to even talk about them, let alone to them. (I think that those people are just arguing things that they don’t believe in order to be obnoxious. Ignoring them is the best tactic.)

    When the rest of us talk, whether we shout or not we always circle around to the same place — does being born matter? Is a human in a state where killing him/her is murder starting from conception, or does he/she not acquire that state until later in pregnancy, labor, or at birth? I am utterly convinced that it’s conception, but I have no non-axiomatic argument to defend that position. And I haven’t seen anyone on either side with such an argument. If you’ve got one, don’t be shy about sharing it!

    [Cathy, I tend to think this is a fresh sort of argument, and also to think that the Bishops be much more effective by really talking about what goes on in an abortion. The world has stopped listening to "abortion is murder" but maybe they will listen to "abortion is the violent shredding of a human life, deep within the physical person of a woman..." People do not THINK about what is actually happening within the woman's body, or how that violence echoes throughout her life.

    There ARE news ways to get people to think about this issue. And we have to start articulating them. It's not enough to say "it's a sin" to this generation. They don't respond to "abortion kills children," they're numb to it. -admin]

  • JuliB

    I doubt that Obama will address the abortion issue – it’s a commencement address, and should not be referenced. Additionally, I thought the Bishop was just a guest on the platform – not that he would say anything. And if he does get to give a speech, I don’t think this would be the time for an abortion reference.

    So I don’t see how anyone, even our beloved Servant of God, Archbishop Sheen, can make this a true teaching moment for Obama. Except that this whole situation is imploding – he is learning that the Church has some teeth after all.

    Going back to the teaching moment, I think that it is a teaching moments for priests and board members. Father Jenkins is getting his teaching moment in spades right now. Perhaps we can all agree on that?

    I found the arguments to be compelling in the article, but there are a lot of steps to it, and people want the simple sound bytes, it seems. Additionally, so many worship ourselves as gods that we want only to be validated in our own opinions. Changing our minds is tough when you’re a proud person.

    In my case, I became pro-life while still an atheist (talk about uncomfortable!). What changed me was clicking on a graphic site (and I was forewarned, but since being pro-choice was the correct opinion I knew I had nothing to worry about). Once I saw the pictures of aborted babies, I knew it was wrong. But I think you have to be in the right frame of mind for it, and not be assaulted with it on the side of the road.

    I agree Anchoress, that boycotting isn’t changing anyone’s minds, but it is awakening them to the position of the Church. As I said, there are many who don’t believe that being a faithful Catholic (or Christian in general) conflicts with abortion. This doesn’t convince them – you’re right, but it brings something to their attention. Perhaps it is an initial breaking of the ground (so that the seed may get a chance to get in)?

    Prayers up for those students having their commencement ceremonies splashed with such an ugly situation, as well as everyone involved in the matter.

    [I agree with you that all of this stinks for the students. But I have had about 100 emails from people telling me "Obama gets to speak and no bishop is rebutting him then and there, so it's not a debate," well, no. It's not a debate, it's an ongoing dialogue and the bishops have the duty and right to engage this issue - which some of them are doing - before and after. I do not know if Obama will discuss abortion or not. But there are a couple of bottom lines, here, one of which is, do we simply start creating fences that say, "you don't agree with us, so you're not welcome" - I say we should not. The other is, anyone who thinks that a face-off between Bishops and the president would instantly clarify and "End" the abortion debate in this country is smoking something, and I might want some! ;-). This is a genuine war, it is between life and death, the blessing and the curse, and the war will not end until Christ ends it. Obama is an illusionist, part of a grand illusion that is being played before our eyes. The God of Reality is stronger and will have his day. In the meantime, I just think we would do well to find a way to battle that does not cause people to roll their eyes and say, "there they go, again." When you're trying to slay a dragon, you can't keep trying the same tactic, over and over! ;-) -admin]

  • HNAV

    I like your insight and agree for the most part.

    perhaps a number believe that announcing a boycott, a rejection of the President’s invitation prior, is the most powerful expression for this situation.

    A fine speech, while this new President sits waiting, to briefly reiterate the fine Catholic dedication towards life, and the sound rationale for defending those not yet born, would be worthy as well.

    These days, one must get some attention to make a statement, and a boycott is perhaps the only powerful tool in this regard.

    But the press will not cover those who are boycotting … they are completely unethical in most of the MSM, desperate to aid the Democratic Party, and some are absolutely pushing a secular agenda with great disdain for Religions they deem suitable for punishment.

    Sadly, I think none of it matters, for the fashion in the USA, the overt push of popular culture, with the monopoly of Democratic Partisans controlling most of the Media via CBS, NBC, ABC, Newsweek, Time, Rollingstone, Vogue, Cosmo, PBS, NPR, E!, BET, HBO, NY Times, WAPO, LA Times, etc., will continue to shape all in our Nation and the World.

    They have successfully turned a mission to liberate the millions of Oppressed in Iraq, which nearly all of the Democrats voted for, into an evil plot of ‘meanie’ Republicans. They have Millions dedicated to voting purely on their hatred for the opposition to the DNC. They even seem to have convinced a number of Americans that ‘tax cuts are evil’.

    We just watched a US President, compare Americans working in the banking – mortgage – insurance Industries to Suicide Bombers…

    What can one else say?

    What is the point?

    Even after 9-11, the Democrats now in total control of our Government have provided Orwellian terms to the GWOT, now referencing ‘terrorism’ as mere manmade disasters.

    A new President just went to Turkey, held a tacky Townhall meeting, where he vividly misrepresented the positions of the prior Administration on Climate change, bizarrely referencing a former President as if he is still campaigning in the USA for higher Office.

    It could not be more absurd, deceitful, pathetic.

    It seems the point is now mute.

    My bet is, even with the vivid corruption, overt malfeasance, gross incompetence, etc., the Democratic Partisans will continue to grow with power, and they will continue to elect the most mindless.

    Dodd will even probably win his reelection…