Monday, May 18, 2009

Notre Dame: the Highlights

There is an immense amount of verbiage flying through Catholic cyberspace about the President's appearance and award. So why not add my two cents worth?

The great bifurcation in American Catholicism has been going on for some decades now. It became visible with the public dissent over Humanae Vitae in 1968. With Bishops and the occasional Cardinal or two in the next three decades the "Spirit of Vatican II" Catholics grew apart from the rest while assuming many of the levers of power in chanceries across North America.

But Archbishop Hunthausen is gone, except to make an appearance to testify to his criminal incompetence. Cardinal Mahoney is busy fighting off attempts to force him to do the same. And from a tiny handful of bishops in 2004 who raised the issue of Senator Kerry's fitness to receive Communion, we now have almost 80 bishops publicly rebuking the Notre Dame administration for honouring the most pro-abortion President ever.

The John Paul II priests are becoming Benedict bishops. And so the "Spirit of Vatican II" Catholics are gradually losing their grip on power in the Church and have less and less to tie them to the Church as it exists. In the end they will have to decide just what it means to call themselves Catholic.

In the meantime here are couple of links that I found enlightening. There are many more in the post cited.

Pres. Obama's ND appearance: Links, commentary, analysis:

• The American Papist has a quick post noting that "a Catholic liberal, a feminist liberal, and a Catholic conservative ... all unsatisfied" with Obama's speech. The conservative is Notre Dame legend Ralph McInerny, who writes, in a piece posted today on The Catholic Thing:

division among Catholics has been widening for more than forty years.
How did it come about that so many Catholics have such a mushy notion
of what it means to be a Catholic? The teaching of the faith since the
close of Vatican II in 1965 has been scandalously inadequate. In many
cases it has been the deliberate substituting of stones for bread. It
began with waffling on contraception when theologians, real or
self-proclaimed, impudently rejected Humanae Vitae, one of the
great encyclicals of modern times. The scandal of the encyclical was
that it placed Catholics on one side of a line and the zeitgeist
on the other. Yet dissent from it was allowed to flourish. Moral
theology went into steep decline and the official body of Catholic
theologians issued Human Sexual Morality in which doubt was
cast on the long tradition of teaching on pre-marital and extra-marital
sex, abortion, masturbation, homosexuality, divorce – a systematic
dismantling of Catholic moral teaching.
• George Weigel, writing about "Obama and the 'Real Catholics'", makes some excellent points about the strategy employed by President Obama at Notre Dame:

What was surprising, and ought to be disturbing to anyone who cares about religious freedom in these United States, was the president’s decision to insert himself into the ongoing Catholic debate over the boundaries of Catholic identity and the applicability of settled Catholic conviction in the public square. Obama did this by suggesting, not altogether subtly, who the real Catholics in America are. The real Catholics, you see, are those like the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who are “congenial and gentle” in persuasion, men and women who are “always trying to bring people together,” Catholics who are “always trying to find the common ground.” The fact that Cardinal Bernardin’s undoubted geniality and gentility in bringing people together to find the common ground invariably ended with a “consensus” that matched the liberal or progressive position of the moment went unremarked — because, for a good postmodern liberal like President Obama, that progressive “consensus” is so self-evidently true that one can afford to be generous in acknowledging that others, less enlightened but arguably sincere, have different views.  <snip>

Whether or not President Obama knew precisely what he was doing — and I’m inclined to think that this politically savvy White House and its allies among Catholic progressive intellectuals knew exactly what they were doing — is irrelevant. In order to secure the political advantage Obama had gained among Catholic voters last November, the president of the United States decided that he would define what it means to be a real Catholic in 21st-century America — not the bishop of Fort Wayne–South Bend, who in sorrow declined to attend Notre Dame’s commencement; not the 80-some bishops who publicly criticized Notre Dame’s decision to invite the president to receive an honorary degree; not the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which explicitly and unambiguously instructed Catholic institutions not to do what Notre Dame did. He, President Obama, would settle the decades-long intra-Catholic culture war in favor of one faction — the faction that had supported his candidacy and that had spent the first months of his administration defending his policies.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

No comments: