Saturday, May 23, 2009

Obama vs. the Church

Is there a difference between the University of Notre Dame and Liberty University? How about the difference between the University of Santa Clara and Bob Jones University, or can you distinguish between Fordham University and Oral Roberts? Which schools would you want to send your child to, and what would be your expectation of the kind of education they would receive? Do parents want their college-age children "educated" or "indoctrinated"? This question is not purely an academic exercise; as it is at the core of dispute between officials of the Roman Catholic Church, Notre Dame, and the Obama administration. At issue is the invitation that Notre Dame gave o President Obama to give the commencement address at this year's graduation ceremonies, and the honorary degree which will be conferred upon him. Some bishops and Catholics including Notre Dame alumni from the Torquemada wing of the Church are outraged that the invitation was proffered. They site Obama's position on abortion (he thinks a woman should control her own reproductive life) and stem cell research (he is in favor of federal research dollars going to explore the possible benefits of using stem cells from fetuses which would possibly be destroyed or frozen forever). Obama also wants to reduce the number of abortions in this country through the use of better contraception and better sex education, both positions the Church finds objectionable. Because of these policy differences, they have been pressing Notre Dame to rescind the invitation and not allow the President to speak. They argue that Notre Dame is a Catholic University, and therefore must adhere to Catholic teachings and cannot give the appearance of honoring or approving moral positions that the Church opposes. Thus the questions at the beginning, what kind of a school is Notre Dame and what kind of school do we want it to be? Is it to be an education of all peoples and beliefs an open market place of ideas where all sides of an issue can be explored, a place that teaches critical thinking; or is it a place where students go to be indoctrinated in their faith, given one position to hold and not others, a place where critical thinking gives way to fundamentalism, a place where you check your brain in at the door and pick up your crayons? The Church finds itself in the unique position of being opposed by the majority of it's own adherents. Recent polls show that the majority of Catholics disagree with the Church's positions on abortion, stem cell research, contraception, married clergy, female clergy, and sex education. In fact, Catholics are more liberal on these issues than their Protestant contemporaries according to Pew Research Poll. The Church also finds itself out of step with it's members in the role of the Catholic University. American Catholics do not believe that great universities like Notre Dame should indoctrinate their children, but rather educate them. Higher education should prepare them for the future, rather than point them to a by-gone era of intellectual despotism. Many Catholics agree with President Obama that reducing the need for an abortion is a good moral goal, while preserving a woman's right to control her own life. The Church also opens itself to the charge of hypocrisy on these issues. The American Catholic Bishops declared the war in Iraq to be immoral and that it did not fit into the "just war theory". As many as one million innocent Iraqis have been killed, many of them pregnant women and children. The use of torture in Iraq, at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has been declared immoral by the Church. The use of illegal chemical weapons against civilian populations(like the use of white phosphorous on the population of Fallujah) is another immoral act condemned by the Church. Yet, despite all of those condemnations, the American Bishops have never criticized or sanctioned a single American politician for their support and active participation in the funding of and prosecution of that war. Further, Pope John Paul II declared the death penalty to be an immoral action, as have the American Bishops; and yet again not once have they ever criticized or sanctioned an American politician for being in favor of the death penalty. New York's late Cardinal O'Connor once remarked that "men of good will can differ on some of these issues." Of course, he excluded questions about abortion from that good will. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadine of Chicago tried to get the American Bishops to adopt the idea of the "seamless garment" of morality. He wanted the Church to take a strong stand for life in all forms. This would include opposition to abortion; but also include opposition to nuclear weapons, the death penalty, poverty, homelessness, and any other issue that denigrated human life and progress. Cardinal O'Connor led the fight to defeat Bernadine's proposal. In his mind it was morally acceptable to kill tens of thousands of innocent people in an immoral war, execute possibly innocent Americans with a lethal injection, and develop weapons which could end life as we know it on this planet as long as you don't allow a woman to have an abortion or have access to effective and affordable contraception. It is not a coincidence that a Church as out of step with its own members cannot inspire many of them to advance the interests of the Church in this country. The average age of an active priest in parishes across this nation is 60+ years old. Vocations have been a disaster for at least 20 years now. There are rumors that the American Bishops could begin importing large numbers of African priests (where there is a surplus) to serve in parishes in this country because of the lack of native clergy. Perhaps the lack of workers in the vineyard is the Holy Spirit's way of telling the Church to clean up its act and begin ministering to all of its people. One thing is clear, no one wants to send their child to a university to be indoctrinated. Catholics are proud of the tradition of intellectual rigor at their universities; and President Obama will be received like a rock star when he stands in front of the Golden Dome to present a message of hope to graduates about to enter a scary world. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


  1. Indoctrinated.
    We need to get that.
    Indoctrinated, not Educated.
    That is what most of the parents want for their kids when they send them to places like Notre Dame.
    This is not your typical Jesuit college where young Catholics learn to question everything and thereby lose their immortal souls.
    I am telling you, this is what they believe in and so you can't get anywhere with your appeal to reason and a liberal education.
    They live in constant fear of the Devil, whom they take to be very real indeed, and always on the path to ensnare and devour our young and innocent ones.

  2. Hey Lion, this is from James of Cloverdale.
    It has been at least four weeks since I wrote to you by shail mail. I am hoping that these comments and emails are getting through with a little help of your friends.
    Also, please let me know if there is any topic about which you would prefer not to communicate. I have no idea whether mail of a too political nature would be held against you in future parole hearings or reqests of any kind.
    I am remembering that you did offer to support me in my current project. I am into an application of Metapolitics, which deals with the context, the realm, in which politics happens. It is just as Metaphysics is to physics. Thereefore it goes very deeply into events and slogans of the day; so let me know whether to cool it or lunge forward without censoring myself when i communicate with you.