May 19, 2009

Our Lady

Some of you who read this might be upset that Obama was honored by Notre Dame, despite the teachings of the Catholic Bishops of the US. If that's you, you probably are also embarrassed or frustrated or saddened by the so-called "Catholic" university and its identity crisis.

Some of you who read this might think it was right for the president to be honored since he's an honorable man. You may be Catholic or not. But if you are Catholic you probably don't attend Mass every Sunday.

At our house we waited a long time for Bishop Jenky, our bishop, a member of the Holy Cross order which runs ND, and a member of their Board of Trustees, to make a statement on this issue. While we waited we hoped that he was so silent, while 83 other US bishops publicly opposed the choice to honor Obama, because he was using his power as a board member, brother and bishop on the inside to make a difference.

However, even after the graduation day he has remained silent and will most likely remain so. Perhaps he is being obedient, which I can respect, but I would think that his role as a bishop - a leader of the people - would be to make a stance against it. I often checked the diocesan website and carefully read the diocesan newspaper to see if there were any remarks. When I continually found none I called the newspaper to make sure I hadn't missed anything. They pointed me here, to the April 12th edition's editorial written by Bishop Jenky. All it is, though, is a blanket statement: abortion is bad and politicians should work to stop it.

To me, this isn't enough. I really wish he would use this opportunity to talk about the value and dignity of each life and to teach what that should look like:
- no death penalty
- no torture
- immigration laws that make it easier for people to come here, work here and support their families back in their native lands
- thorough support of mothers in need, whether they are pregnant or have a 3 year old
- charity towards immigrants, unwed mothers and fathers, mothers and fathers who chose abortions and others who are often mistreated by Christians and conservatives
- no abortions
- no contraception which cause abortions (ie the pill)

There's a really great list of coverage, reactions and statements about President Obama's presence at Notre Dame here:

I'm interested how other Central IL Catholics feel about our bishop and his silence. Any thoughts?


  1. Bonnie, those are good points. I just had one to add...what about bringing forth the importance of adoption for those children who are saved by abortion, but are then left in the care of the state? What about those children, too? You know I am not Catholic and this is not a debate I am trying to start. It's just something that I never hear brought up in the debate against abortion.

  2. You have some good points. I find myself in need of more education on both sides; one day I'm one side and the next day I'm on the other. I've kind of divulged myself into lots of different readings, trying to find out what I agree more with. One thing I did want to ask- when you talked about the pill, do you mean the morning after pill or birth control? Or both?

  3. "You may be Catholic or not. But if you are Catholic you probably don't attend Mass every Sunday." Whoa, hold on. What's with the judgement? I attend mass every Sunday and, I don't think it was bad to have Obama at ND. Just because he doesn't believe what we/you do, we don't have to demonize him. He is our president, like it or not. What is wrong with coming together to have a level-headed conversation? Maybe it was a step in the right direction towards gaining support for the right to life. Instead of pointing fingers, I think we should do all we can to come to some sort of reconciliation.

  4. Only God can change Obama's heart. Pray.

  5. Mary - it wasn't a judgement it was a result from a poll I heard on the radio. Most Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday didn't like that Obama was honored by Notre Dame. I apologive if you felt judged. And I agree, only God will change Obama's heart.

    Sarah - I agree with you about adoption, and I'm surprised you haven't heard it discussed. I think there needs to be a lot more good people who open up their hearts and homes for foster care and adoption. But I also believe that we need to do a better job of supporting parents so they don't loose their kids (via adoption or foster care) in the first place. Education, babysitting, health care, no judgement, etc.

    Alicia - I meant both. One of the ways that the birth control pill works is it prevents implantation from happening. So conception has already happened, a new life has begun, but because of the pill the fertilized egg cannot implant in the uterus and is therefore passed out of the body. There can be no real way to calculate, but scientists estimate that a woman on the pill with a normal sex life aborts 1-3 children in her reproductive years via the birth control pill.

  6. Also, Mary, I don't think there's anything wrong with having a level-headed conversation but a graduation commencement address is not a conversation. It is a speech. And this instance is not about demonizing President Obama. It's about the behavior of Notre Dame and its administration, who clearly went against the Bishops they should have been listening to.

  7. I don't know, Bonnie. I'm not entirely convinced this is solely about abortion; I don't remember this huge of a hubbub when George W. Bush gave the speech there in 2001, and he is and was a proponent of the death penalty and eventually a variety of unjustifiable military adventures in the Middle East. Why weren't Catholics decrying that speech? I can't tell you how often frustrating it was for me at Newman back in 2004 when people kept saying they were going to vote for GW because he was so "pro-life," which in reality meant "anti-abortion." He was, in fact, against the lives of a variety of prison inmates on death rows and, in a more direct way than anyone else cares to admit, against the lives of a lot of people living their lives in the Middle East. Although I do not necessarily agree with Obama, I would not be so quick to make judgments on the motives of Notre Dame and its administrators, as this has not been the first and will not be the last person they invite to speak who is both simultaneously "for" and "against" life.

  8. Thanks for the clarification. I figured you were talking about both, but before I make a rebuttal I always want the facts.


  9. Bonnie, I also repeatedly searched Google and the Diocesan website. We weren't the only ones hoping for a public statement from Bishop Jenky.

    I feel pretty conflicted about the silence. I think that the "right" thing to do, or at least what I'm trying to do, is to trust that he did the right thing, that he can be most effective by working from the inside, and that he has been busy doing just that.

    I had to agree with Cardinal George that after the president has already been invited, you don't disinvite him. And therefore, perhaps Bishop Jenky has been looking at the long-term, and working towards a strategy.