Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Truth Over Prestige"

Before all else, buona festa to one and all on this Annunciation Day -- what should be the great ecclesial celebration for the defense of human life... and, sadly, isn't.

Responding to heavy criticism of the University of Notre Dame for its choice of President Obama as this year's commencement speaker, the Dome's ordinary -- Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend -- released the following statement yesterday announcing his boycott of the 17 May graduation:
On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. 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.

I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.

I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.

Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.

Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.
Of last word, though, as the petition protesting the Obama invite quickly passed the 100,000 signature mark, the university was holding "firm" on its plans:
"The invitation to President Obama to be our commencement speaker should not be taken as condoning or endorsing his positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem-cell research," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.

"Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement," he said in a March 23 statement....

"We fully expected some criticism and have received it, though nothing more than we anticipated," said Dennis K. Brown, a spokesman for Notre Dame. "I can't foresee us rescinding the invitation."

Brown told Catholic News Service March 23 that he has heard anecdotally that most students are pleased with this year's choice of Obama as the commencement speaker and feel honored the first black U.S. president would accept Notre Dame's invitation from among the many he has received.
Meanwhile, on a related note from Hoosier Country, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger of Evansville has announced his boycott of a local pro-life dinner given the presence of Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.

The former lieutenant governor of Maryland -- a Catholic who once spent three years in formation for the Augustinians -- raised eyebrows with an interview in GQ earlier this month where he said that abortion is "an individual choice."

Under pressure from the party's anti-abortion base, Steele later clarified the remark.