Archive for the ‘Catholic Identity’ Category

A Study in Contrasts

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I would like to invite you to consider some photographs, and consider which is a true expression of Christian discipleship.

First, let’s look at some pictures from Georgetown University, the site of the President’s recent economics speech. According to news reports, in order to make the room more to their liking for a Presidential address, the Administration asked the University to make some changes in the room. This is the image of the site before the University redecorated, at the White House’s request:

This is what the key spot in that scene looked like after the redecoration (sorry about the quality of the picture, it’s the best I could find online):

Notice what’s missing?

That’s right, the gold-lettered inscription of the Lord’s name, IHS, was covered over by the University.

Think about that for a moment. A Catholic institution, covering over the name of our Lord, at the request of the government.

I wonder if officials at Georgetown University have read Mark 8:38 recently: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” I believe that passage can still be found in Bibles “in the Jesuit tradition”.

For contrast, check out this image from the installation ceremonies of Archbishop Dolan:

So there it is, folks. We can be ashamed of the name of Jesus, or we can embrace the Cross.

There really are no other choices.

I’m Not Embarassed — Notre Dame University Should Be

Monday, April 6th, 2009

I’ve already written on the disgrace of the University of Notre Dame giving an honorary “doctor of laws” degree to the President, who believes that unborn children do not deserve any protection of the laws and can be killed with impunity. I’m not going to go over that ground again.

What interestes me now is the strong reaction by the actually Catholic Church to this act by a dubiously “Catholic” university.

As of today, over 245,000 persons have signed an online petition protesting the award. A peaceful, prayerful demonstration was held at NDU on Palm Sunday, and over 400 people were present. Many leading Catholic thinkers and writers have expressed their disamy and outrage. And at least 16 bishops have spoken out — including the Bishop of South Bend, and two cardinals, one of whom is the incoming Chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the USCCB, and the other is the President of the USCCB. Our own incoming Archbishop has said that the university “made a big mistake”.

The most prominent response was from Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago and the President of the USCCB. His statement is significant, not just because he does, in some respects, represent all of the Catholic bishops of the United States, but also because of the strong historical connections between NDU and Chicago. Cardinal George’s statement was clear and precise, particularly in this comment: “Whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation.” Just so.

With all respect to the Cardinal, however, I have to take issue with another thing he said. He stated that NDU is an “extreme embarrassment” to Catholics.

Sorry, but that’s just not so. I’m not embarassed, but NDU should be.

I must have missed the memo in which we were all informed that this “Midwestern university” (to quote Fr. George Rutler) is the shining exemplar of Catholicism in the United States. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the Bronx and Yonkers, and not Indiana, but NDU has nothing to do with my identity as a Catholic, and thus cannot embarrass me.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I did not attend a rival school to NDU, I couldn’t care less about college football, and I did not receive a rejection letter from them. I received my “higher” education from the pagans at Columbia and Harvard, and, to be honest, I have no regard for either place. Don’t get me started on what they’re up to.)

This whole affair, including NDU’s sad and pathetic attempts to justify it, should be — but apparently is not — an extreme embarassment to the NDU’s lay-controlled board, administration, faculty, alumni and students. After all, it’s their school. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have embarassed them at all. But it does not and cannot “embarrass” ordinary Catholics — it scandalizes, outrages, upsets, disappoints, and betrays us.

This scandal should also serve as a clear lesson in what happens when an ostensibly “Catholic” entity fails to place a vigorous and clear Catholic identity at the core of its “mission statement”, and then devote its energies to ensuring that it is so. Without that, these formerly Catholic institutions will drift into some kind of “in the Catholic tradition” limbo, where they like the historic sound of their name but are ashamed to have the Crucifix of Our Lord on their walls, or are indifferent to the teachings of His Church.

In this time of economic stress, there is a strong temptation to “privatize” Catholic entities like hospitals, charities agencies, and schools, to make them financially independent under the control of lay boards. But we’d better be very careful about who is selected for those boards, because unless they are deeply committed to living out and expressing their Catholic faith, then we’ll have a whole host of new NDU’s on our hands.

Cardinal George was absolutely right. This scandal shows that NDU has lost sight of what it means to be Catholic. It should serve as a reminder to all of us that we need to be clear about what it means to be an authentic disciple of Christ in all of our activities. All of them.

Disgrace in South Bend

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

The University of Notre Dame describes itself as a Catholic institution of higher learning. They consider themselves to be a great university, and something of an exemplar of Catholic higher education. The school is, it must be noted, named in honor of the Mother of Our Savior.

Well, now we all know something else about the university. They are a disgrace to their purported Catholicism.

On Friday afternoon, the traditional day to drop controversial news stories in hopes that people won’t be paying attention, the university announced that they have invited the President of the United States to give its commencement address, and to receive an honorary doctor of law degree. Yes, you read that right. The same man who produced a 100% anti-life voting record in the United States Senate, has spoken of his ardent support for legalized abortion, and is glowingly endorsed by all the pro-abortion groups. The same man who co-sponsored and promised to sign the infamous Freedom of Choice Act, the most radical pro-abortion bill in our history, and a bill that would endanger the religious liberty of the Church. The same man who is in favor of same-sex marriage. The same man who just opened the floodgates of federal funding for the destruction of human embryos, and who left the door open for human cloning so long as the cloned human beings are destroyed. The same man who made it possible for American tax dollars to pay for the promotion of abortion around the world. The same man who said he didn’t want his daughter “punished with a baby” if she became pregnant out of wedlock.

So that it’s clear — a university named after the Mother of God will give a “doctor of law degree” to a man who advocates for a legal regime that permits the wholesale killing of unborn children. If nothing else, this is an infamous insult to Our Lady, who, as you recall, had to flee from the original slaughter or the innocents.

In the words of Prof. Ralph McInerny, who has labored in South Bend for half a century to teach Catholic philosophy, “It is an unequivocal abandonment of any pretense at being a Catholic university.”

I can’t think of anything remotely charitable to say about the people who issued this invitation, or those who defend it, so I’ll just offer you the relevant statement from the US Bishops: “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.” You’ll notice that there’s no “but he’s the President” exception to that principle.

I know we have to respect the man, who is a child of God. We also must show due honor to the office that he temporarily holds. But as disciples of Christ, we are duty bound to speak the truth about the objectively grave moral evil of his actions. We cannot pretend that advocacy for abortion is an extraneous matter, that it’s something we can set aside for the moment or “dialogue” about.

Our faith demands that we make choices — for God or against him, for his law or against it. In St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, he includes a meditation on “The Two Standards” — the flag of Christ and that of the Devil — and he confronts us with the stark choice. Which will we choose? Which has the President chosen? Which has Notre Dame chosen?

Threats to Life and Our Church

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

The man who was a 100% anti-life Senator and a 100% anti-life candidate, continues in his path to be a 100% anti-life President. And now he has shown either disrespect or disregard for the Catholic Church with his two most recent moves.

On Friday, the Administration announced that they would be rescinding some important regulations promulgated by the last Administration. The regulations were designed to strengthen protection of the conscience rights of hospitals and doctors who did not want to cooperate in abortion.

You must understand that, in general, the protection of conscience rights for individuals and institutions is not very strong in the United States right now. The Supreme Court has essentially eviscerated the First Amendment Free Exercise clause, holding that a neutral law of general applicability does not have to make exceptions for those who have religious objections. If a general law is passed that would require all hospitals to perform abortions, or all doctors to refer for them, the law would not have to contain a “conscience clause” permitting those hospitals and doctors to opt out because of their faith. The only conscience protection currently available is in state and federal statutes, all of which can be repealed or re-interpreted tomorrow.

Everyone knows what’s at stake with these regulations. Everyone knows that the only hospitals with conscience objections are Catholic hospitals. The repeal of these regulations is a direct attack upon the ability of Catholic institutions to survive.

In another move, the President nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This post is crucial, since it oversees the regulations discussed above, as well as medical research like that involving stem cells. The Secretary will also play a significant role in shaping and implementing any health care reform plans put forward by the Administration.

And what do we know about Kathleen Sebelius? She’s 100% anti-life in her political positions, to such an extent that she’s been endorsed by the Cult of Moloch, er, I mean Planned Parenthood and NARAL. She’s consistently opposed pro-life legislation, vetoing several important bills that would have protected unborn babies and their mothers — including a bill designed to protect women against coerced abortions.

The perfect example of Gov. Sebelius’s membership in the death cult of “pro-choice” politics can be seen in an event she hosted at the governor’s mansion in 2007. The guest of “honor” was George Tiller, the notorious late-term abortionist, who was at that time under criminal investigation for his flouting of Kansas law. Think of it for a second — honoring a man who makes his living by destroying unborn children in the last weeks of pregnancy.

The worst part of all of this is that Gov. Sebelius is a Catholic. Her “pro-choice” stands are so blatant, in fact, that she’s been warned by her Archbishop not to present herself for Holy Communion until she publicly repents for her manifest grave sin of supporting and promoting abortion rights.

In reviewing the policies of our government, and our duties as Catholic citizens, we all must bear in mind a fundamental point of Catholic social teaching, as articulated last year by Cardinal George:

Catholic Social thought is built upon the foundational truth that every single human life has an inherent human dignity and must be respected and protected. The unborn child, who is alive and is a member of the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the defenseless. Our present laws permit unborn children to be privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling principle of Catholic social teaching. One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good.

Pope John Paul, in his great encyclical, The Gospel of Life, made the issue crystal clear:

Abortion and euthanasia are crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.

Basic civility requires us to be respectful towards the secular authorities. But when our rulers show disrespect for the sacredness of human life, and indifference towards religious liberty, we cannot stand by mutely. When they appoint to high office people who have publicly broken Communion with our faith, then we cannot ignore it.

Let me say this bluntly. This Administration is hostile towards innocent human life to an extent that is unprecedented in our history. And it is beginning to show an indifference — if not outright hostility — towards our Church. We must be ready to discuss the consequences of this.