Mar 24, 2009

Notre Dame and the Pro-choice President

MSNBC has the latest on the number of Notre Dame alumns and students who object to having President Obama come to give the commencement address this May on the campus. The issue is of course, abortion.

"We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life,” (University Present Fr. John) Jenkins, CSC told campus paper. “On the contrary, we invited him, because we care so much about those issues, and we hope … for this to be the basis of an engagement with him."

Amen. Here's my take on this. Look at the statement from the USCCB here:

In 2004, the United States of Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a policy statement called "Catholics in Political Life," which says, with reference to pro-abortion politicians, "They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

The question arises whether having a President speak at a University elicits support for his position on abortion in particular, or perhaps on any other position for that matter?

I would not only say that the answer is unknown and that at best a survey could reveal whether that was the case--but more importantly, it would deny the university ANY opportunity to engage the President on these issues to refuse him a visit. Perhaps the honorary degree can be given to him for a specific issue he's worked on--say, his work for peace or for the environment and then an explicit reference can be made to the Catholic principles that those positions espouse? Perhaps he can speak on those positions but not receive an honorary degree? There are tons of solutions to that issue. But here is where I really think the opportunity lies:

What is Notre Dame doing with regard to promoting life? What initiatives are those who are complaining about the President's visit taking on that they can show the President while he's there? You have world-wide media coverage at the time of his visit--give them something to cover! I would think that meeting with three of Notre Dame's student athletes who have participated in "life-changing" direct service opportunities offered by the University's monogram club including one who worked directly with pregnant teens would be quite a way to show their support for the unborn in a personal and straightforward manner and may indeed even sway the President to consider a new plan in taking care of poor women and teens who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. One student's experience:

"The women and girls who live (at Elizabeth House) form an incredibly supportive and devoted family ... Each girl is responsible for cooking a dinner for the house and house chores. These factors make it very much a home, rather than a shelter or program. I truly felt welcomed and part of this larger family, an amazingly funny, loving collection of unique women from all walks of life. ...

"By providing a supportive family during the pregnancy, yet respecting a mother's rights as an adult and promoting independence, the staff truly empowers the women. (The mother's) often begin as troubled teens brave enough to make an important life decision, yet terrified and excited at once. They emerge as strong, confident mothers with resounding hope for the future.

We will only win converts when we show them that we are Christians by our love, by our love. For the complainers, I'm with you. But what I'd like to challenge you to think about is the following:

"While the law says abortion is OK. What have you done for the unborn today other than complain loudly to a faction unlikely to listen? How have you SHOWN your support to people by helping to change a circumstance of someone who is pregnant and therefore made an impact on the life of the unborn. Even saving one life is important enough.

We need to lobby our President, congress, the courts and most especially the world stage through the media. How do we do this most effectively? I think it's by putting our actions where our teachings direct us.


St Edwards Blog said...

Thank you for your reasoned thought here.

I see all the complications of this invite but I also see possibilities. And if we can't see possibilities as Catholic Christians, we are lost.

Jesus continued to invite all the very worst sort of people to dine and to speak with him. Two examples that come immediately to mind are Luke 19 and Zaccheus (I always see Danny DeVito in the film version, if one were to be made!) or the woman at the well in John 4. (Speaking to a woman AND a Samaritan? *faint*)

If our mission is to love one another, to transform the world, that can only be done by engagement and by example.

I left the church in 1972 as an adolescent, I returned - albeit reluctantly - in 1990, in my early 30's. Today I have left behind a corporate career to work in a parish and attend theology school.

It was not a matter of one day - OH, I AM CATHOLIC! It has been a journey and one filled with love, engagement and example.

Sorry for the long comment, but to restate my earlier point - how can we transform or be transformed? Is this not how metanoia happens?


god googler said...

Agreed. My other thought is that what we're really afraid of is not being judgmental but rather, being condemnatory.

By inviting the President and then engaging our differences in order to best be persuasive, we are certainly judging his actions to be wrong. However, we are not condemning him--which I fear would be the message we send by dis-inviting him.

Jesus judged everyone he met--but what he was not was condemnatory. Everyone had an opportunity for a change of heart and indeed is was in that encounter with this Jesus that they were converted.

If Jesus didn't turn anyone away--why should we?

St Edwards Blog said...

"If Jesus didn't turn anyone away--why should we?"


More and more I realize a few things -

I am to the left of the right and to the right of the left.

This constant definition by demeaning of the other just has to stop. Conservative, liberal - whatever. We are Catholic, hence universal. No one of us possesses the truth, it is only what we do as one.

OK, shutting up now, off to a Faith Formation Board meeting.

Thanks for the forum Mike. Albany will look forward to seeing you at Spring Enrichment in May!


Googling God

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