Today's the day. Notre Dame's commencement ceremony in which President Obama will give the address and receive an honorary doctorate of Laws. Devout Catholics of all different persuasions are split on this item. Some, like myself, believe that President Obama should be allowed to speak at Notre Dame despite his pro choice viewpoints. Others think he should be shown the door. Still others have no problem with him speaking but detest that he's getting an honorary degree.
The sideshow is sure to be in full effect as the nutty end of the pro-life faction is sure to be out in full force. They unfortunately always steal the show from those who do the real work of the pro-life cause and who do it quietly and still effectively.
Regardless some thoughts:
I always respected the fact that Catholics--and most especially, the Bishops, would target issues they abhor over individuals. We always seemed to welcome conversation even with those who disagree with us. Bill McGarvey did a good job of pointing that out in his column on BustedHalo recently.
The controversy surrounding Obama at Notre Dame that rages on among Catholics has made that point painfully clear. Admittedly, as a Georgetown graduate, my first thought was, “If Notre Dame is no longer sufficiently Catholic to do this, what institution is?” Initially, those who made the distinction between inviting the pro-choice President to speak and giving him an honorary degree seemed like a good compromise, until I discovered that in 2007 Pope Benedict himself honored the twice-divorced, pro-choice French President Nicholas Sarkozy by bestowing the title of honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Even pro-choice Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was honored by the Pope in Rome this past April on the occasion of his state abolishing the death penalty.
Are we now more Catholic than the pope? Are we incapable of sharing a stage with those we are in disagreement with? Have we grown — as the former New York State Capital Defender Kevin Doyle has said — too comfortable in our bunkers?
Indeed, my esteemed colleague makes a valid point here. If President Obama shouldn't be invited to speak at Notre Dame, and Catholics should not hear a message given by him then what else should we ignore? Should Catholics also stop reading newspapers that print President Obama's words in them? Should they also pass on listening to the state of the union address? How about even turning a blind eye to Supreme Court decisions since they have upheld Roe v Wade for the past 35 or so years?
This sounds a whole lot like book burning to me--and that my friends is a very dangerous precedent.
What may have been a good option for Notre Dame is something that nobody has even come close to suggesting yet...prayer.
Sure, some of the protesters have gathered for prayer services for the unborn but they have served more as protests than as anything that would move people into transcendence. Has anyone even thought of asking President Obama to come and pray with them? It would do him good to hear their prayers and to ask for him to offer some of his own. It would place us together in a place where we all admit that we struggle to hear God's voice but try our best anyway.
Let me be clear: Abortion is an abomination and I have always detested it. I remember having a long-winded argument with a news director in radio about the issue and grew increasing more frustrated at her lack of charity for my view and for her seemingly inane argument that "Women should have the right to abortion because if they don't it's the children in the end that end up getting hurt by a life in the system."
So her argument was essentially "Let's kill the babies so they don't get hurt."
Sigh. Arguments from the opposing side are just as tedious. Calling people baby-killers is a sure-fire way to get them to ignore you. It's a threat essentially that says "If you kill your baby, bad things are going to happen to you." While psychologically and spiritually that may be true, it still doesn't mention anything about the baby nor the mother being valuable to our community. I don't ever hear people screaming "I love you and your baby" from an abortion protest line. I almost never see mothers with their babies in their arms on those lines either. Perhaps they might have a lot of silent persuasion by their simple presence. Moreover, people who support women in unwanted or unexpected pregnancies often do this anonymously and even worse--the media almost never covers these stories--focusing on the less lucid protests that often end or even start with violence.
Tomorrow I plan to watch the Notre Dame commencement to listen to what the President has to say and to what Judge Noonan also says--but I also plan to pray. I pray for the safety of our President, for the students who are graduating, for Fr Jenkins and for cooler heads to prevail. Of course I also pray for those who die in abortion and for the women who feel they have only abortion as a recourse. Know that the church offers you refuge and that we will always support you and help you serve your child and keep you safe.
Perhaps if President Obama could see those kinds of prayers in action more often, we wouldn't be spending our time arguing whether he should be on the podium tomorrow.