This is very clear-headed thinking in America Magazine

These questions are not negligible. Cardinal James Gibbons, when he received the “Red Hat,” in a memorable sermon at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, strongly praised the tremendous benefit that came to the church in our country because of the separation of church and state. During our more than two hundred years of history, the American bishops have until very recently steadfastly held to the position of making judgments about policy but never judgments about persons in the political arena. One reason for this position was that the episcopate recognized that the greater good of the mission of the church would be served in this way.

Taking account of what serves the greater good of the mission of the church is not opportunism. It is what Catholic tradition calls prudence. The saints have used various words for this cardinal virtue: discretion, discernment, practical wisdom. The great teacher of discernment, St. Ignatius Loyola, points out in this context the serious evil of the temptation of the good. Not everything that seems good is in fact good. Weighing, discernment and discretion are necessary even in things that seem on the face of it to be good. There is always the twin issue of the objective itself and the means of achieving it. One may be good, the other not.

The bigger question though which Bishop Quinn addressed in the first few paragraphs of the article is a doozy: How do unborn get served in the end by either withdrawing the invitation or by allowing President Obama to speak? Which ends up serving their needs best? I agree with Bishop Quinn on this point:

But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach. The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, citing Augustine, points out that “ Certain situations cannot be resolved with asperity or hardness” and goes on to say “(B)ecause his daily pastoral concerns give the Bishop greater scope for personal decision-making, his scope for error is also greater, however good his intentions: this thought should encourage him to remain open to dialog with others, always ready to learn, to seek and accept the advice of others.”

There’s a lot of good thoughts in the early part of the article as well which you should read by going here

Hat tip to Susan Franesconi who pointed this article to me on Facebook where there’s a good conversation going on that was started by Jeremy Langford.

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0 thoughts on “Archbishop Quinn on Notre Dame and President Obama”
  1. The real outrage isn’t that Obama is to speak at Notre Dame.
    The outrage is that he was invited at all and that A poll shows that 97% fo the graduating class at Notre Dame support having Obama, the baby killer, speak on campus.
    These students should be thrown off campus.
    How they can study there for 4 years and not be outraged by the invitation of a pro abortion president is beyond me.
    The real shame is the attitude of these students.
    Abortion isn’t a subject for discussion for Christians. It is a matter of faith.
    If students can’t get that through their thick skulls they need to look for another University.

  2. Thanks for proving the bishop’s point. If we throw them off campus–WE NEVER REACH THEM!!!

    WE NEVER –read that slowly–N-E-V-E-R have an opportunity to try to get that message of love to them.

  3. Yet another pathetic “call to dialog” with the killers of the unborn. The foolish Catholics and Catholic institutions have been doing this since before Roe. It is easy to answer the question of “how does it help the unborn” — because it can deny Obama (or his surrogates) an updated clone of the infamous Cuomo political cover “…as I said in my September 13, 1984 speech at Notre Dame…” which every pro-abortion Catholic pol uses today as their position slip to defy God and his Church. This dialog has only served to confuse, confound, and contradict clear Catholic teaching on the right to life of the unborn.

  4. I doubt that many Catholics that you cite here are in favor of abortion or would be confused by having President Obama speak.

    Nobody thinks that abortion is just peachy keen, President Obama included. Notre Dame has an opportunity to have him hear who we are and to listen to him as well. But instead people will choose to remain indignant and turn their backs instead of using this opportunity to try to influence a very reasonable man who loves to listen to people who disagree with him and who often give him the opportunity to change his mind.

    BTW–just what have the Republicans done for the unborn anyway? Last time I checked Roe v Wade is still on the books. So perhaps now we actually have someone who might indeed make a difference–but if we don’t talk to him–NOTHING HAPPENS!

  5. I agree that the one thing that is really lacking in this conversation in general is how to serve the cause of life fully.

    I wrote this on another blog yesterday on another topic but I am quoting myself here for a reason…

    How easy it is to judge and how hard it is to walk with Jesus as we enter Jerusalem.

    Before I go on, let me say that I have come to loathe designations such as conservative or liberal, I must say that I would probably be in the latter and not the former. To finish the thought, I find the labels useless tools of exclusion and division more than anything healing or salvific.

    How can we be transformed or transform others if we do not let the Gospel do its work? And how can it do its work if we just name call, reject, decry and ignore?

    Crying out names like “baby killer” – possibly the least effective tool of the pro-life movement – may be an expression of anger, but not of transformational change. Say it if you must but please move on.

    And arguments like this one about Obama keep the topic of abortion on the horizon in a truly superficial manner.

    As Mike wisely points out – no laws have changed yet.

    The bigger matter is how to create the very culture of life that our faith demands of us. Name calling, anger and petulance seem to keep us stalled and as Mike says… nothing happens.

    BTW, here in NY state, home of some of the worst laws that do not support life, it is perhaps more essential to focus on our locality rather than go off on Obama alone.

    If you are in NY and not aware of the Catholic Conference please go familiarize yourself with this essential movement and get involved.


  6. The problem as I see it is not that Pres. Obama was asked to speak at commencement (though I can understand why that raises some hackles). It’s that the school is honoring him with an honorary law degree. To save time, I’ll quote from Mark Shea’s blog post answering a question about why people didn’t obeject to Condi Rice speaking at Boston U: “I would have asked “Are they having her speak our of the competence of her office or are they heaping honors on her?” If the former, I would have no objection, just as I would have no objection to Obama speaking at Notre Dame. Part of the mission of a university is to engage with the movers and shakers, not to retreat from the world. But a Catholic University, while it has an obligation to engage with those who act in high office (such as Presidents and Sec’ys of State) has no obligation to prostitute itself by according high honors to public officials who advocate policies repugnant to the Catholic Faith. Had Boston U awarded Rice an honorary law degree, I would oppose it as vehemently as I oppose ND’s prostration before Obama.”

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