Holy Cross head writes to Obama re Notre Dame (and updates with Card. George, Archbp. Quinn, et al)
When I first saw the text of the 13-page letter from U.S. Father Hugh W. Cleary, Holy Cross superior general in Rome, to President Obama, regarding Obama’s scheduled commencement address at Notre Dame, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It seemed to circle around on itself so much I thought it was a hoax. But it’s real.
It strikes such odd chords, welcoming Obama and complimenting him with one hand–often the left one–then painting him with the broad brush of “intrinsic evil” and saying Catholics can’t get a hearing from the government. Even though, of course, Catholics make up nearly a third of Congress, just as an example, and five-ninths of the Supreme Court, and there’s the Vice-Presidency, etc.
And he accuses Obama of using the same tactic of “shunning” that is being used against him, and laments it, but indicates it is the only recourse for Catholics? He says he can’t in good conscience vote for any major party candidate–but did he protest Bush’s 2001 speech at Notre Dame? And the comparison to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami? Wassup with that? All the stuff about pope-bashing, a persecuted church…
In any case, I don’t know Father Cleary, but this whole thing seems odd. Saying he has no control over the invitation, as well, though he also indicates he could make Father John Jenkins, the Holy Cross priest who is Notre Dame’s president, do something.
Whether Clearly’s letter is convincing or effective, I guess we’ll see. He seems not to oppose Obama’s appearance, though it’s hard to tell. He wants dialogue–of a fashion. Other, more perceptive reactions/analyses welcome. John Thavis has the write-up from Rome here. I have the full text posted at Pontifications.
ND Outrage Update: America magazine, as promised, has the official redacted version of Fr. Cleary’s letter to President Obama here. It is much more successful, I think, largely thanks to editing.
Better still, from my point of view, FWIW, is a commentary on the whole Notre Dame-Obama controversy by the retired archbishop of San Francisco, John R. Quinn. It is titled “A Critical Moment
Barack Obama, Notre Dame and the future of the U.S. church.” I have always greatly appreciated Archbishop Quinn’s intellect and approach, and they are on display here. Quinn says this is “a critical moment” for the church in the United States, and poses several key question as to how this uproar will affect the future of the faith and the pro-life movement.
We must weigh very seriously the consequences if the American bishops are seen as the agents of publicly embarrassing the newly elected president by forcing him to withdraw from an appearance at a distinguished Catholic University. The bishops and the president serve the same citizens of the same country. It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good even where there are grave divisions, as there are on abortion.
But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach. The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, citing Augustine, points out that “ Certain situations cannot be resolved with asperity or hardness” and goes on to say “(B)ecause his daily pastoral concerns give the Bishop greater scope for personal decision-making, his scope for error is also greater, however good his intentions: this thought should encourage him to remain open to dialog with others, always ready to learn, to seek and accept the advice of others.”
Meanwhile, the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, has called the invite to Obama “an extreme embarassment” and adds: “Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.”
And Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis released his letter to Jenkins, calling the invitation a “travesty” and adding if Jenkins doesn’t withdraw the invitation “please do not expect me to support your University in the future.”
PS: (Always a postscript to this story) Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL reflects on the controversy on his blog, with a sane take, I thought:
“Early ‘markers’ [of Obama's record on the life issues] are not encouraging in this regard but hope needs to spring eternal and while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life. Notre Dame has in the past and continues to give this local Church fine, professional and very Catholic women and men who both know and live out their faith. Most of them I know are ardently pro-life and like myself are probably disappointed with their alma mater. They and I will choose to convey our sadness to the Board of Trustees and Administration in a calm and dignified manner.”
Hat tip to CWNews.