Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some Clarification

[Note: Much of what follows I originally wrote as a comment in the comment thread of the below post. Since the comments were quite long, I thought it best to reproduce the gist of my response to accusations of "equivocation" in more easily readable post. - JGB]

The 2004 US Bishop’s statement instructs:

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.

I thought it debatable as to whether Obama, in giving the commencement address, is being given a platform which would suggest support for his actions, especially since he will be sharing the stage and podium with pro-life-to-the-core Mary Ann Glendon (who is receiving a much higher honor, the Laetare medal, than Obama) and Fr. Jenkins. It would be tempting to argue that he is being given such a platform, and should therefore be denied it; in response, one could reply that one has no idea what he is going to say, and follow that by invoking "academic freedom" and "role of dissent" - terms that make debate almost impossible, as you soon find yourself splitting hairs as to what those terms actually mean: Been there, done that, slammed head against wall. It is a debate that would go round and round, and I have no interest whatsoever in engaging in debates that will bear no fruit - it may allow me to feel good and bask in the glow of like-minded individuals, but would only harden the resolve of my opponents and give them plenty of ammunition. So I would hold my tongue, and if I were a student, bring a "I am thankful my unwed teenaged mom didn’t think I was a ‘punishment’" sign to the commencement.

However, it is not debatable at all that Obama, in being awarded an honorary law degree, is being given an honor which would suggest support for his view of law and its application, especially in regards to legally unsound and morally reprehensible Roe decision. Protesting this is a cause I will pursue with great fervor. As such, I...

a) am signing the petition put forward by the Sycamore Trust, a group dedicated to preserving Notre Dame's Catholic identity, of which I am a member.

b) have composed my own letter of concern and protest that will be sent to ND's president, Fr. Jenkins.

c) spent Sunday afternoon compiling a list of addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of Board of Trustees members at the request of William Dempsey, president of the Sycamore Trust. Each of these folks will receive the letter I am sending Fr. Jenkins.

d) will contact the Law school, to inquire as to what role they played (if any) in the decision to award this honorary degree to Obama. I have a hunch that this was not their initiative, but I'd like to know. If it was, they'll be getting a letter from me also.

As a faithful Catholic, strident pro-lifer, and enthusiastic alumnus of Notre Dame, I am attempting to be faithful to all three while being careful not to play into the hands of those who harbor contempt for any or all of them.


  • Your commentary in this issue is outstanding and right on.

    By Anonymous Matt F., at Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:36:00 PM  

  • Bravo again Jerry. You have great Faith and fortitude to spend so much time on this important issue. I applaud you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, March 25, 2009 8:21:00 PM  

  • I appreciate your (and other commenters') willingness to engage in civil discussion on this topic.

    I believe the fundamental problem is that the powers that be at Notre Dame even invite speakers and events as Barack Obama, the vagina monologues, Queer Parade, etc. in the first place. Sure there's outrage every time the Vagina Monologues is produced at the campus, but as a dog returns to its vomit, the admin continues to invite speakers and events which are contrary to Catholic teaching. They never learn that such events/speakers shouldn't be considered in the first place.

    Tio is right. Having Catholic departments and many Catholic students does not make it a Catholic school. Texas A&M has a massive Catholic student life, but they are not a Catholic school.

    It seems as though Notre Dame admin is merely paying lip service to Catholicism, and God willing, will be overrun with the fullness of truth and will return to orthodoxy.

    By Anonymous unfatmatt, at Friday, March 27, 2009 9:45:00 AM  

  • unfatmatt:

    My wife is a graduate of Texas A&M. However, of the two of us, it is she that is exponentially more insistent that our kids' will go to Notre Dame, due to

    a) the numerous incarnations of Catholic identity and practice currently present there, and

    b) the large body of alumni (and faculty and BOT members) working to preserve and enhance its Catholic identity

    both of which you and Tio are determined to ignore.

    By Blogger Jerry, at Friday, March 27, 2009 1:22:00 PM  

  • Here's a link to as story about Cardinal DiNardo addressing the situation at Notre Dame. Having Catholic people working to become orthodox doesn't mean the school is orthodox. It means there are Catholic people doing what they're supposed to do. However, it seems the administration, even though led by a roman collar, is not interested in following that which the roman collar symbolizes, life in Christ.

    By Anonymous unfatmatt, at Sunday, March 29, 2009 11:29:00 AM  

  • unfatmatt:

    I would appreciate it if you read my posts and comments a little more carefully.

    I never claimed Notre Dame to be "orthodox". I have offered an overview of the school's numerous faults in fulfilling its mission as an authentically Catholic university, of which Obama's honoring is a glaring example. I have also offered an overview of its numerous virtues in fulfilling its mission, that would not be possible for a school that has abandoned this mission, as evidenced by Boston College, Georgetown, Duke (founded as a Methodist school), etc.

    Notre Dame's Catholic identity - its status as an authentically Catholic university - is not in a state of health, and nowhere on this blog have I claimed it to be. However, it is also not in a state of terminal illness nor death. I believe the entirety of the university's actions over the last 40 years supports the thesis that Notre Dame's Catholic identity - as I stated in "One Step Forward..." comment thread - is "sick", suffering from a particularly resistant virus, but still very much alive, resilient, and capable of returning to complete health with the proper care. I am devoting my time, talent, and treasure to the cause of returning it to health.

    P.S. - If you read the piece you provided a link to, you will find that it takes the exact same position that I have in my posts and comments:

    The speaking gig could be rationalized as keeping with an open debate policy. The university will also have Mary Ann Glendon speak at the same commencement. Glendon served as US Ambassador to the Vatican and who just received the Laetare Award from Notre Dame for her tireless effort on pro-life causes. The commencement could serve as a teaching moment, although it’s probably more accurate to say that it will send a very mixed message from the university about its view of the Catholic mission in public life.

    Notre Dame has no ground on which to stand over the award of the honorary degree, however. Barack Obama used his influence in law to pursue a path that allowed the maximum latitude in destroying innocent life, which is anathema to the Catholic Church and should be to Notre Dame as a part of it.

    It seems a little more care in reading the articles you marshal in support of your position is in order also.

    By Blogger Jerry, at Monday, March 30, 2009 12:33:00 PM  

  • unfatmatt:

    Look, you seem like a fellow of good will. I have no doubt that you are a devout and loyal Catholic. It is clear that you wish Notre Dame, and all Catholic institutions of learning, to be fulfill their missions as authentically Catholic entities.

    You either believe that a) insisting that, not merely has Notre Dame failed to live up to its mission in various ways (which is my position), but that the university has abandoned its mission altogether, will affect change on the university's behalf, or b) you've given up on Notre Dame as a Catholic institution and wish to berate those that have not. If the former, I think you are mistaken, and have provided a wealth of evidence to support my assertion. If the latter, then I cannot say that I have any idea what it is you are trying to accomplish.

    I've made my voice heard through the Sycamore Trust, a group that is fighting the good fight in service of Notre Dame's Catholic identity. The Trust protests the failures of ND, as do I. The Trust also believes ND still has a Catholic identity capable of being protected, enhanced, and strengthened, as do I. Besides the Trust, there are also many groups and individuals, on campus and off, who are employing their efforts in service of Notre Dame's Catholic identity. In contrast, those who stand at a distance and bitch about how the university has failed, without doing anything positive in service of their cause, are doing Notre Dame's Catholic identity no service whatsoever.

    So, in closing, I would urge you to spend the effort you intend to spend reiterating your disgust at ND's decision to honor Obama, and/or futilely arguing that ND's Catholic identity has been abandoned, into donating your intellect and passion to a group that is working to preserve, enhance, and strengthen ND's Catholic identity.

    In Christ and His Mother,


    By Blogger Jerry, at Monday, March 30, 2009 1:23:00 PM  

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