Saturday, May 09, 2009

God and Obama at ND

Jody Bottum via Amy Welborn's Via Media (more to come at First Things):
... (T)here's not much use in pretending that Catholic legal analysis isn't opposed to abortion. Do all the casuistry you want. Bring in the sharpest canon lawyers from Marquette, and the cleverest Catholic ward-heelers from Chicago, and the slipperiest Jesuits from Georgetown. Sit them all down and show them again the tape of Mario Cuomo's 1984 speech about abortion at Notre Dame--you remember, the famous "personally opposed, but publicly supportive" speech that has provided Catholic politicians with talking points for 25 years--and let them spin the president's May 17 visit to campus as hard as they can. Still, there's something peculiar about the honoring of Barack Obama with a Catholic law degree. Couldn't they have made it a degree in sociology or something? Ah, well, an honorary doctorate of law it is, and now the Catholic faithful are up in arms across the nation.


(lots more - he walks through the various stages in the controversy and then -)

As it happens, they're wrong. Politics has very little to do with the mess. This isn't a fight about who won the last presidential election and how he's going to deal with abortion. It's a fight about culture--the culture of American Catholicism, and how Notre Dame, still living in a 1970s Catholic world, has suddenly awakened to find itself out of date.

The role of culture is what Fr. Jenkins at Notre Dame and many other presidents of Catholic colleges don't quite get, and their lack of culture is what makes them sometimes seem so un-Catholic--though the charge befuddles them whenever it is made. As perhaps it ought. They know very well that they are Catholics: They go to Mass, and they pray, and their faith is real, and their theology is sophisticated, and what right has a bunch of other Catholics to run around accusing them of failing to be Catholic?

But, in fact, they live in a different world from most American Catholics. Opposition to abortion doesn't stand at the center of Catholic theology. It doesn't even stand at the center of Catholic faith. It does stand, however, at the center of Catholic culture in this country. Opposition to abortion is the signpost at the intersection of Catholicism and American public life. And those who--by inclination or politics--fail to grasp this fact will all eventually find themselves in the situation that Fr. Jenkins has now created for himself. Culturally out of touch, they rail that the antagonism must derive from politics. But it doesn't. It derives from the sense of the faithful that abortion is important. It derives from the feeling of many ordinary Catholics that the Church ought to stand for something in public life--and that something is opposition to abortion ...

Read all of Amy Welborn's God and Obama at Notre Dame.

1 comment:

David Nybakke said...

I read these articles and I get a sense that the authors seem to think that they represent the majority opinion of the American Catholic and that the other opinion represented here by 'Fr. Jenkins group' are a minority opinion and this is not correct. Clearly 'we' (the minority 'party' of the American Catholic) are getting a wake up call.

The fact is that the majority of Catholics on the campus of ND are in support of I Won as much or more so than the majority of American Catholics who have given I Won a vote of confidence after his first 100 days. The fact is that the vast majority of bishops in the US are in support of I Won (or at least have not voiced any disapproval of I Won being invited to ND).

What the heck does it mean to be an American Catholic? Isn't this part of the problem? Are we not Roman Catholic that happen to live in the US?

As long as we have this identity problem - American Catholic vs. Roman Catholic then I don't think these articles really have much of a bite.