Fr. Jenkins: Choose your Church or your new chum, Barack


Ok, as if it wasn’t already obvious that Fr. Jenkins inviting Obama as a commencement speaker at Notre Dame this year and awarding him an honorary degree was a huge mistake, I’m not sure it can get much clearer now.

Even though 42 Catholic Bishops have come out against Fr. Jenkins’ invitation to Obama, Fr. Jenkins has still been stubbornly supportive of his decision.

And nevermind the hundreds of thousands of students, alumni, and Catholics who have come out against it as well.

And nevermind that it is completely obvious that as a faithful Catholic it is not permissible to honor leaders who enthusiastically support policy in extreme opposition to many of the most fundamental teachings of the Church and the dignity of human life.

If all that wasn’t enough, Bishop Darcy – Fr. Jenkins’ own bishop – has clarified it more. You can read more here.

He confirms what the USCCB document so clearly says when instructing institutions like Notre Dame to not do things like Fr. Jenkins has recently done.

“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.” (Catholics in Political Life, USCCB)

He concludes by saying:

“I consider it now settled – that the USCCB document, Catholics in Public Life, does indeed apply in this matter.

The failure to consult the local bishop who, whatever his unworthiness, is the teacher and law-giver in the diocese, is a serious mistake. Proper consultation could have prevented an action, which has caused such painful division between Notre Dame and many bishops, and a large number of the faithful.

That division must be addressed through prayer and action, and I pledge to work with Father Jenkins and all at Notre Dame to heal the terrible breach, which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church. It cannot be allowed to continue.” – Bishop D’Arcy

And please don’t comment back here about engaging in dialogue, being accepting of those who oppose us, or being loving. Nobody is protesting anybody inviting Obama to debate or have a dialogue about these important issues. Nobody is protesting engaging Obama or those with opposing views in loving conversation to learn from each other and reconcile our differences.

Inviting a person to do a commencement address for graduation is honoring somebody with a platform – not engaging in dialogue. Such a person is supposed to be someone that the graduating students can look up to. It is the university saying to the students “this is somebody that stands for what we’ve taught you.”

At the very least it should be somebody who doesn’t support the killing of millions of innocent human lives every year in our country. Is that asking too much? Honoring somebody in this manner as staunchly opposed to the dignity of human life as Barack Obama is a disgrace to the Catholic Church and all who call themselves members.

Even worse – it’s a slap in the face of unborn human beings who depend on the the voice of the Church to defend them.

And then Fr. Jenkins is giving him an honorary law degree, too? Lord, help us. Thank God for good Bishops who are willing to stand up for the Truth. It will be interesting to see if Fr. Jenkins chooses his Church and the Truth or his new chum, Barack.

49 comments Add comment

Cindy April 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Notre Dame is wrong. Georgetown shouldn’t have covered up their symbol. We are not able to impose our beliefs on others but we should maintain our beliefs and our identity despite the pressure of the larger culture.

Dan Mihaliak April 22, 2009 at 1:07 pm

This is only the beginning and I don’t know if people are blind to the truth or just don’t care.

Chris Slattery April 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I agree 100 percent with Matt.

I think Bishop D’Arcy should join the protests physically at ND, and announce the de-listing of the University in the Catholic Directory.

If ND wants to abandon the children, and the faith, then they should be free to outside the Church. Truth in advertising should oblige the Church to remove institutions that are no longer Catholic. If this isnkt done now, when?

Can we honor a worse more pro-abortion politician than Obama?

There are no worse cases than his.

kath gastaldo April 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I’m not Catholic but my children and husband are…we’re outraged…there’s an underling agenda or Mr Obama would politely decline.

Carl April 22, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I was outraged when I fist got wind of the scandal and my feelings have not changed. Obama denies the right to life. What is the next group whose rights will be marginalized?

Phil April 23, 2009 at 7:49 am

Reagan and G.H Bush gave commencement speeches. GWB has also spoken at ND. All three support the death penalty, no?

Last time I checked the Catholic church was against the death penalty too. Why no uproar when these Presidents were allowed to speak? Why honor them with a platform? Seems like the same old pick-n-choose from those who oppose this decision.

Yet another politically driven motive? Far right Catholics say Obama’s bad. Far right Catholics say say Bush’s, Reagan are good. But the Church says they are all bad. If anything, at least ND is being intellectually consistent in their poor decision making. In the eyes of the Church, none of these Presidents whould have been allowed to visit (pro-death penalty or pro-choice).

And let’s try to keep this in perspective here and not be too hard lined. Graduating students from Notre Dame have many, many reasons to look up to our President, Barrack Obama and only a handful of reasons not to. Nobody’s perfect. All IMHO.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 8:08 am

Phil – that would be true if the death penalty were an intrinsic evil and represented in the gravity that abortion is in our society.

While many Catholics like to rationalize that the moral implications of these two issues in our society are equal in weight…it just isn’t anywhere close to true.

Whether or not the death penalty is morally just has to do with individual moral application to a complex real world situation. In other words, there is room to support it in good faith as a Catholic. It’s a far stretch in the modern US to do so – but it can theoretically be done.

So from an administration point of view and as matter of preventing public scandal, a Bishop doesn’t have the full knowledge usually necessary to make such an absolute ruling on such a matter.

Abortion is TOTALLY different in Catholic moral theology. It may take studying it a lot more for a non-catholic to fully understand where the Church is coming from. Even many Catholics don’t understand the difference.

But abortion is an intrinsic evil. That means it is everywhere and always wrong no matter what the situation. Because that is the case, Church admins (Bishops) DO have the clarity to make such absolute rulings – such as invalidating politicians who support abortion. There is no room for it as a Catholic. It is utterly and totally incompatible with being Catholic. That’s not my opinion. It’s the consistent teaching of the Church from the beginning.

Further, it’s not a matter of right vs left at all. Anyone who claims such doesn’t understand the Church or how this works. Jenkins’ BISHOP has spoken and clarified definitively that Jenkins was in the wrong and things need to be fixed. Read the statements.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 8:18 am

42 other bishops have felt compelled to speak out. It’s not a matter of right or left. It’s a matter of either being Catholic or not. There is no such thing as a “conservative” or “liberal” catholic in truth. You are either Catholic or you aren’t.

Further, abortion kills over a million people every year in our country. Comparing the gravity of that moral CRISIS in our country to the death penalty is like comparing 9/11 to a single case of vehicular manslaughter. When you actually put it out there it makes no sense at all to compare the two when speaking in terms of the whole issue.

ALSO – Nobody is asking their commencement speaker to be perfect. Of course everyone has their flaws. But a Catholic University should not be honoring a person who promotes the killing of millions of human beings in our country every year. In a STRICTLY MORAL sense it’s like inviting Hitler to speak at a jewish university and giving him a degree. I mean, nobody’s perfect.

And no matter what anyone thinks, in terms of the Church – Fr. Jenkins Bishop has spoken definitively on the matter and is very clear about what needs to be done. It’s not about politics at all. That’s just what people from the outside media and culture who have no idea what they are talking about write it off as.

It’s about truth and integrity.

Phil April 23, 2009 at 8:25 am

Matt, I understand your points and agree to a certain extent. The point I was trying to make is that if the argument is that the Catholic church is against abortion and therefore Obama should never have been asked to speak, then the other Presidents should not have been asked either because the church is also against the dealth penalty.

It seems to me that is the issue at hand, i.e. what the church believes vs. what Obama believes.

I agree with you that statistically abortion is the greater evil of the two. But one theological discussion would result in the same result, i.e. murder is wrong – which is why, I supose, the Catholic church maintains the belief that the death penalty is wrong in the eyes of God. I just wish these protests would be done in ways that are more intellectually consistent with the beliefs of the church.

Phil April 23, 2009 at 8:31 am

“42 other bishops have felt compelled to speak out. It’s not a matter of right or left. It’s a matter of either being Catholic or not. There is no such thing as a “conservative” or “liberal” catholic in truth. You are either Catholic or you aren’t.”

Are Regan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Catholic? Is it acceptable for true Cathloics to believe in the death penalty? If politics does not play a role in this decision (of course it does) then why were these Presidents allowed to speak at ND without protest?

Perhaps I am misinformed – I thought the Church was pretty firm in it’s stance against the death penalty. Pope John Paul II???

Phil April 23, 2009 at 8:34 am

Added addendum to my “murder is wrong” statement, from the Pope’s pen:

‘ “While the vast majority of U.S. Catholics support capital punishment, Pope John Paul II has declared the Church’s near total opposition to the death penalty. In his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) issued March 25, 1995 after four years of consultations with the world’s Roman Catholic bishops, John Paul II wrote that execution is only appropriate “in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady immprovement in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” ‘

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 8:48 am

You’re still misunderstanding. JPII’s quote is exactly the difference between the two issues.

On the one hand you have abortion – which is infallibly defined as intrinsically evil by the Catholic Church forever and always.

On the other you have the death penalty which is not defined as such and is ok in SOME cases of absolute necessity. What is “absolute necessity” can only be assessed in each individual case of which has a multitude of circumstances that WE (as the hypothetical discussers) have no information on. So you can’t make blanket statements on the belief. It’s not INTRINSICALLY evil and the circumstances of the instance are important.

Further, the statement you read above is simply the fallible opinion from a great man (JPII) about how the moral principle would be applied today in our modern world.

Now, don’t misunderstand me – I happen to totally agree with JPII. And I think he is 100% right.

But when we’re speaking in terms of what is ALLOWABLE for Catholic institutions to do and what Bishops have a right (and a duty) to react to in terms of public scandal – Abortion and the death penalty are SO very different.

Because abortion is always and everywhere evil regardless of the circumstances, a Bishop is then justified indoing these types of things.

I’m not saying Bush/Reagan are perfect in Catholics’ eyes. And it is reasonable to not expect commencement speakers to be perfect. But Obama is clearly way over the line of reason. That’s why there’s a fuss.

Phil April 23, 2009 at 8:54 am

Maybe you could help me understand how the vast majority of U.S. Catholics are allowed to call themselves Catholic when they support something that the Church is in near opposition of. That may help me in my understanding as to whether or not someone can call themself a Catholic or not. This is where I see the inconsistency and political overlap.

Furthermore, that explanation may also help me to understand why it is sometimes ok (other times not so ok) to lend support as a Catholic institution to a figure, politician or not, who maintains a belief that is in clear opposition of the Church. (i.e. the Bush’s and Reagan’s)

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 8:56 am

And while politics may play a role for some people of course – I’m speaking in terms of the Church. And politics do not play a role in what is going on here.

I’m not sure how having 42 bishops speak out against you and NONE in your favor is politics?

Phil April 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

Ok…I suppose understand :). So it’s not a fight about right or wrong, moral or immoral, it’s a fight about moral weight, i.e. even though the Church is against both abortion and the death penalty, since abortion is intrinsically wrong and the death penalty only slightly wrong, it’s acceptable even though the Church opposes both?

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 9:08 am

First – i don’t think the vast majority of Catholics support the death penalty? And I don’t think any of the ones that I know support it.

If we are going to start speaking in terms of the US Catholic population – it’s slightly more complex. Because many of them don’t understand their faith and therefore often support all kinds of things not consistent with their faith. Which is sad but an entirely different discussion.

I don’t know how to more clearly explain it. The death penalty is theoretically OK in some cases that involve specific real world circumstances that are impossible to generalize to the point that the Church can deem ALL Catholics must believe this or that about it. It’s not as “definitive” a teaching of the Church. And where there is not full definition, Catholics are free in that sense to make up their own minds.

JPII’s assessment of it is an honest and true one I think…in our modern society we very likely don’t meet the “absolute necessity” of it. But he admits there may be rare cases. And that is why he leaves it open because he simply can not make a perfect generalized assessment of such a complex application.

Phil April 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

Also, can you really call the Pope’s statement a “fallible” opinion when it was arrived at after “four years of consultations with the world’s Roman Catholic bishops”?

Chris April 23, 2009 at 9:15 am

“It will be interesting to see if Fr. Jenkins chooses his Church and the Truth or his new chum, Barack.”

Thanks for your time and thought in our Twitter chat yesterday. You raise excellent points, but something bothers me about your language and that’s the implication of guilt by association. To suggest that Fr. Jenkins’ support for the President is automatically a choice against the Catholic Church logically implies that ANYONE supporting the President is a bad Catholic. It’s a kind of “love it or leave it” rhetoric that undermines patriotism when used in jingoistic nationalist arguments, and I fear undermines faith in a religious one.

I couldn’t agree more that the degree is highly inappropriate. I call into question whether merely being invited as a speaker is giving a platform for anti-Catholic thought (if he’s not directly promoting abortion at the event), but I defer to his Bishop’s judgment on that.

But I urge restraint. It is never appropriate for lay members of the Church to go around making judgments on who is “in” or “out.” Christ himself in his parables indicated that’s not how the kingdom is run. Weeds will grow alongside the wheat, he said. And no one knows which is which but the planter, who will make it clear at the time of the harvest. Therefore, my role in the Church is never to decide whethr others love it enough or should leave it. It is simply not to be a weed, and place faith in God to decide so.

Forget Fr. Jenkins. Write letters to the President.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

And as far as Bush/Reagan go…i’m not pretending they were totally 100% catholic approved at all. And that’s what I’m sayin in terms of inviting people to speak. As you said, everybody has flaws. I don’t think anyone is expecting everyone they invite to be 100% Catholic approved. But again, while we may largely disagree with Bush on the death penalty, it’s theoretically allowable as a Catholic. So there are nowhere near the same grounds to oppose. I hope you can see that.

Of course some prudence has to be used in who you invite, but Obama just put it way over the top. He is SO radically opposed to a fundamental teaching of the Church on the dignity of human life that there was absolutely no question he had no place being honored there. No question! And because there is NO QUESTION it is easier to oppose him from an administrative point of view and as a Catholic in general.

It’s like inviting Ahmadinejad to speak at a jewish school and when the jewish community protests against it then coming out and saying, “Well wait a second now, if you are going to oppose Ahmadinejad then you should have opposed Jimmy Carter awhile back too cuz he is anti-israel. I mean, let’s be consistent at least.”

It’s just not even in the same league in terms of prudence.

Phil April 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

Ok. My whole point is that the way in which Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. utilized the death penalty is nowhere near consistent with the opinion of the Church, as expressed by JPII after 4 years of deliberation with the world’s bishops. That is my point. And you summed it up, no they aren’t perfect Catholics. And they should have met at least some opposition but they did not.

I agree that asking Obama to give this speech at a Catholic University was over the top. But to say that it is over the top because the Church opposes abortion is not a consistent arguement when past speakers have been openly against something the Church believes is wrong also. And you know how much I hate inconsistencies.

What I find most interesting is that apparently the consensus opinion on campus is that he should be allowed to speak, which makes me wonder what being Catholic really means (which is why I ask you again and again) :)

Phil April 23, 2009 at 9:20 am

Good talk. Thanks for your time this AM.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

And yes, i can call it fallible! Are you saying since he had “four years of consultation” that it is an INFALLIBLE statement?

I think it is 100% correct…but it was not an infallible statement itself. There is a huge difference. Further, even if it WAS infallible, he still allows for some cases where the death penalty may be OK. So it doesn’t matter either way.

You have to understand Church teaching and its capacity to teach INFALLIBLY. Anything that is not INFALLIBLE is fallible.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 9:27 am

Well, that’s the sad part of where “pop culture” catholics are today in their faith. They don’t understand it because they were never taught it. An entirely different problem and discussion all together!

But again, it’s NOT inconsistent because the two moral teachings you are comparing are NOT consistent. If the two issues were equally weighted or treated the same in the Catholic faith, then you may have a case. But as it is…you really don’t. :-) But i do understand that it is harder to understand when you are not catholic and are approaching it from the outside looking in.

Heck – many Catholics don’t understand it either. Which is part of the source of the problem here.

Anyway, yep, back to work! :-) Thanks for your thoughts!

Phil April 23, 2009 at 9:27 am

So if everything is fallible how can there be full conviction in any beliefs???

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

1) I didn’t say everything is fallible. Read here if you want more info on infallible teaching of the church:

2) Even though a teaching of the Church may not be infallible, Catholics are still obligated to give assent to “authentic” teachings of the Church.

But again, this particular statement from JPII is not definitive in nature. Even if it is definitive that the death penalty should be “absolute necessity” or “only in cases to defend life” – determining what it means to defend life is not itself definitive and clear.

For instance, does that mean assuring 100% that prison guards or those in contact with a dangerous person are 100% safe from being physically hurt while doing their job? Or does it simply mean not letting this dangerous person out into the public to kill another innocent citizen? Or somewhere in between?

This part of the teaching is not definitive and Catholics are free to make up their minds on it. And that’s why it is actually totally different than abortion (not only a matter of gravity or severity in our society). Hope that helps.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 10:07 am

Chris – read what the Bishop wrote. I’m not putting anyone “in or out” of the Church. I’m not sure you read what I wrote. Please do.

The Bishop is clearly calling Jenkins out and saying that what Jenkins did was “simply wrong.”

Jenkins has a choice to make. He can either be obedient to his Bishop or be obedient to his decision to invite Obama. That is what I mean when I say he must choose between his Church or his chum.

It has absolutely nothing to do with weeds or wheat or planting or harvesting. I’ve not implied any guilt by association. I’m simply reiterating what his Bishop said – and that is that Jenkins is guilty of making a bad decision here that is causing public scandal in the Church.

And yes, it IS our job as lay people to call those things out and work for justice when it is clear what should be done. It’s not only our place to do so but our moral obligation.

As for Catholics being able to support Obama in good conscience – I posted here:

Chris April 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm


I agree Jenkins made a mistake.

I think we are doing the wrong thing making it about correcting Jenkins choice, and not Obama’s policy. any lasting change that matters will only come from the latter.

As for your statement about not being able to vote for Obama, well I enjoy you, I respect you… and I know that you are wrong.

-The guiding principles of USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship confirm our freedom to weigh evils and make that choice in good faith.

-The Bishops consistently teach that the Church only only endorses/condemns policies, not candidates, unless a candidate is so gravely evil across the totality of his/her policy that the only moral good to be gained is in removing them from office. That kind of prohibition is reserved for the Robert Mugabe’s of the world, not the Barack Obamas:

-At every opportunity the Bishops have had to voice a unified teaching on the President’s policies during his candidacy, they have issued no such condemnation of President Obama’s candidacy. Priests who have taught what you just posted about Catholics voting for Obama have been reprimanded and corrected by their dioceses:

Peace and all good-

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Chris – I respect you as well. And I hope we’ll have many more discussions in the future.

I just hope you’ll see these kind of excuses for supporting an obviously very immoral candidate are very bad excuses. You are twisting things at every SINGLE point.

1) Nobody is denying you your freedom. Not sure why you would even suggest that. Of course we ALWAYS maintain our free will to make the decision we choose. This is always the case. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a “right” answer in many cases.

2) OF COURSE the Bishops consistently only endorse/condemn policies, not candidates! It’s illegal for them to do otherwise as a religious organization.

3) The only reason bishops have “reprimanded” as you say when priests have made such statements is because of point 2 – it’s illegal and will get the Church in trouble. It’s not because the priests aren’t right! Fr. Corapi has the advantage of speaking as an individual on the matter and not as a pastor that is bound by such restrictions.

It is BEYOND obvious that the USCCB and all of these bishops who have spoken out have gone as far as legally possible in saying YOU CAN’T RESPONSIBLY VOTE FOR a candidate as radical as OBAMA when you have another option that is nowhere NEAR as morally grave. Any attempted justification of it is just poor rationalization.

But if somebody REALLY just wants to vote for Obama they’re gonna find some little legalism in it to justify what they want to do. Doesn’t mean it’s right.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

It is the wrong attitude to ask “Can a Catholic vote for Obama” anyway. If you want to twist statements or try to find a way that says, “well, technically, the Church never said ‘don’t vote for Obama’…and since I have a free will and a conscience, therefore I’m justified in voting for him.”

You know that’s not how we should be as Catholics. We should ask “SHOULD we vote for him” and the answer is a resounding NO from every bit of authority the Church has to offer on it.

It’s the same with sin…like asking, “How far can I go with my girlfriend before it’s a sin.” That’s the wrong question all together and missed the point.

I pray more Catholics will see that for what it is and vote responsibly. If Catholics would come together on this and vote for LIFE for one election cycle there wouldn’t be any more viable pro-abortion candidates. But too many catholics compromise their faith for their political ideology. It’s sad.

Peace be with you sir!

Chris April 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I’m someone who slowly came to opt for Catholicism as an adult after a long and fruitful life as another flavor of Christian. Therefore, it’s out of much prayerful, personal reflection when I observe that one area where I think God is directly challenging the culture of our Church to evolve: Catholic devotional spirit has left us with a reflex that’s more concerned about avoiding “compromise” than embracing effective “engagement.”

In other words, in the broadest of strokes, I find we’re more morally concerned about “keeping our hands clean” than “rolling up our sleeves.” Sure, we’re hugely charitable. But do we embrace the enemy and hope to convert him? Jesus sat down with sinners. St. Francis met with the Sultan on the eve of battle. They didn’t just scold and keep their hands clean. We should be doing the same with our President and any elected leader when their policies conflict with our deepest values.

We, as a Church, are simply giving away any effective power we might have had in this matter because we focused more on correcting Jenkins’ wrongdoing than we did on addressing letters to the President explaining what, precisely, we were outraged about. If even a tenth of the population who waxed so eloquent over the Interwebs did so in writing to the President, I think we’d all have ‘compromised our faith’ a lot less.

Christ’s church is big enough for everyone. Even people who voted for their President.

Matthew Warner April 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I don’t equate standing up for the truth when it calls for it as “keeping our hands clean.”

You’re presenting a false dichotomy.

We are called to BOTH “engage” AND “not compromise.” To pretend that we have to give up one to do the other is making excuses again.

And you are making a false conclusion if you think that just because people are calling out Jenkins they are not also reaching out or letting our president know where we stand. Again – gotta do BOTH. You are making excuses for not doing one because you want to focus on the other. It’s not either/OR. It’s both.

I agree we have to engage Obama. Nobody is protesting that. But there is a proper way to do it that doesn’t ALSO compromise who we are and what we stand for.

To pretend we have to choose one or the other falls short and we should expect better of ourselves.

Bringing up the wheat and the weeds and the Jesus sitting with sinners and the “Christ’s Church is big enough for everyone” are all distractions that shirk the real issue.

Jesus ate with sinners, but he also NEVER compromised his beliefs. Gotta do BOTH.

H. Renshaw April 23, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Amen, Matthew. Thank you VERY much, brother. Please continue doing what you’re doing. It is VERY necessary. May St. Michael the Archangel defend you in battle.

truthfinder April 24, 2009 at 10:51 am

Great dialogue! Your right Matt about many Catholics not knowing their faith. I constantly find myself defending the faith to family and friends who find it easier to assimilate into the world by diluting certain tenets, rather than stand up for what is objectively right. Excellent blog by the way.

Marnie April 24, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for the time you take in answering comments. I learned a lot from your discussion with Phil.

Pax Christi,

mike April 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Phil, I’m just curious after reading your REPEATED comparison of abortion to the death penalty – When it comes to these two enforcements of a death sentence, do you see any difference in the two individuals being put to death? Abortion is intrinsically evil because it ALWAYS takes an INNOCENT life.

Life is the inalienable right that provides the foundation for all others. Chris’s idea that the USCCB tells us to make a choice in good faith, gives us permission to be a morally relativistic as we want is just wrong. ‘In good faith’ is based on a properly formed conscience. In other words, we’re not free to pick and choose which lines from a USCCB document will help us justify our vote for someone who is in the pocket of Planned Parenthood, and has lived up to his promise to promote an increase in abortions – not just in the U.S., but globally!

Cindy April 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I’m enjoying this exchange greatly. Personally, I don’t think any Catholic college has any business handing out degrees to individuals who support abortion or the death penalty. I think I initially commented that I think Notre Dame and Georgetown have been wrong in these past weeks regarding their administrations’ approach to President Obama. That said, I consistently sense that we are not considered good Catholics by Matt unless we agree with him politically. You continually point out that we must have lukewarm faith or be intellectually deficient somehow if we have more progressive ideas that embrace dialogue, love and social justice. (cheap shot in your opening post by the way to ask that anything reflective of those Christian and civic values not be raised) Sadly, there is not a political agenda out there that adequately addresses the civics of practicing Catholics. I AM a prolife, anti death penalty pro social justice practicing Catholic. I reject the ungenerous, shrill, divisive politics of the GOP and the fiscal irresponsibility of the Dems. I reject the pro abortion stance of the Dems and the pro death penalty of the GOP. So where does that leave Catholics? Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I think it’s deliberate. The parties have lined up to split the single largest voting bloc in the US. Is that an accident? Or, since we’ve always been viewed with suspicion in this country, is it deliberate?
I think I’m unsubscribing.You can’t judge faith by politics

Matthew Warner April 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Cindy – I never once said anything about having to agree with me politically to be a good Catholic? That’s a little far fetched. Where did I do such? I think you’re getting a bit defensive.

And what cheap shot are you talking about? Are we reading the same post? Please be more clear.

I do agree with you on the splitting of the Catholics. Politics is a messy thing. And it’s a great sadness that Catholics are split in our faith so much when it comes to acting politically. I wish we could be more unified in that respect.

I’m not endorsing either party. My faith is first. My politics is just a product of how I think it can be best implemented. There is plenty of room to disagree on the politics part. I always appreciate your thoughts, Cindy. I hope you won’t leave.

mike April 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I’m perplexed by Cindy. She begins by saying she’s enjoying the exchange greatly, and ends by saying she’s going to unsubscribe. Without knowing Cindy, here’s my guess. Cindy was raised in a era when most Catholics were Democrats because of social justice issues. Now, abortion has changed everything. Her political ties are being challenged because the Church has so clearly stated that life transcends ‘political issues’ – trumping all other issues (I hate referring to life as an issue). And, as Archbishop Burke said, the Democratic party has become the party of the culture of death. So, more pointedly, where does that leave her. It is becoming harder and harder for a pro-life Democrat to find their place in this world.

The Church didn’t politicize the life issue – the courts did. You accuse Matt of believing you aren’t a good Catholic unless you agree with his politics. We can’t degrade life to a political issue. I will say it this way – if you think that the economy, the war on terror, the future of social security, etc. are all issues to be weighed equally with abortion, you are NOT a good Catholic. The Bishops are not in an uproar over the invitation to ND because they are all Republicans. Please people, wake up, and stop letting your political sensibilities override what your Church is teaching. If we take care of the Right to Life, most of these other issues will begin to resolve themselves.

Phil April 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Hello Mike:

“Phil, I’m just curious after reading your REPEATED comparison of abortion to the death penalty – When it comes to these two enforcements of a death sentence, do you see any difference in the two individuals being put to death? Abortion is intrinsically evil because it ALWAYS takes an INNOCENT life.”

Mike, my whole point is that supporting the death penalty and calling yourself ‘Pro-life” is intellectually inconsistent and just plain silly. One commits murder. Murder is a wrong. So we should murder the murderer? How in the world is supporting the murder of another human being, innocent or guilty, pro-life?

I don’t see how being ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’ changes the fact that no one should be murdered, period. Unless, of course, human being ‘A’ is realistically capable of taking the life of human being ‘B’.

One instance of such risk would be the health of the mother in abortion cases (a rare occurance). But, on the other hand, as far as murderers are concerned, as JPII said very commonsensically, “such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”, i.e. the penal system keeps murders from murdering so why is it necessary to murder the murderers? That’s vengence.

I think it’s absurd and non-sensical for people who support the death penalty to say they are pro-life. Murder is murder, period. Aside from rare instances where a human being is a realistic threat on another human beings life, we really don’t own the right to determine life or death.

mike April 26, 2009 at 8:38 pm

First, I agree with you in principle. And, I agree that the death penalty is frequently used as a form of vengence. Quick example, I was robbed one night. A guy broke an empty beer bottle over my forehead, came down across the ridge of my nose, and made a huge flap down my cheek. A lot of people who knew my situation would say, ‘I hope they catch him, and hang him to bake in the hot sun; they should string him up’ etc. I was amazed by the vindictiveness of some of my acquaintances. At his trial, his atty. asked what I hoped the sentence would be. I said, “My prayer is that you get what is right for you. I hope it’s sufficient to make you never think about doing this again, but I wouldn’t take any pleasure in the jury locking you up and throwing away the key.” So, I try to be consistent in my respect for life.

However, I do believe there are probably instances where a person is such a threat to society, that it may be best to eliminate the possibility of them ever hurting anyone else. Therein lies the thelogical loophole, if you will. I think we’re burying the lead if we focus on the intellectual inconsistencies of a few, rather than recognize and unite behind the fact that abortion is always evil.

Abortion is one of the Church’s non-negotiables. The death penalty isn’t. Bush was consistently strong when it came to protecting the sanctity of the unborn life. I disagreed with many things he did and didn’t do, but I am eternally grateful for his stance on unborn life.

Allen April 27, 2009 at 11:10 am

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invi

Artie April 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I think this is a great blog spot! Great work Matthew!

To sum it up, you have Catholics that vote who really do not how to vote as Catholics when voting for pro abortion candidates like BHO. It is sadly a common trend.

Phil April 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Matt…this statement stuck in my head a bit.

“JPII’s assessment of it is an honest and true one I think…in our modern society we very likely don’t meet the “absolute necessity” of it. But he admits there may be rare cases. And that is why he leaves it open because he simply can not make a perfect generalized assessment of such a complex application.”

You and I have gone back and fourth on abortion. Correct me if I am wrong, but you believe abortions should never happen, period.

I, on the other hand, agree to a certain extent. 99% of abortions should not occur. However, when in *realistic* cases where the health of the Mother is a *serious* concern, I believe the Mother should be allowed to choose.

Which leads into my issue with what was said above. If JPII believes that society doesn’t meet the “absolute necessity” of the death penalty, but it may be the correct moral decision in some *rare* instances, then why can this not be the case for *rare* instances with abortion? If the stance of the church is the protection of human life, then why should a mother who carries a strong health risk with her pregnancy not be viewed the same as you or I when our health is in danger because of another human being? Why can’t there be ‘rare’ cases where abortion is permissible just as there are ‘rare’ cases where the dealth penalty is permissible? How is it that the Church can make a “perfect generalized assessment of such a complex application” like abortion?

Phil April 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm

If JPII’s assessment of whether or not the death penalty is permissible, in rare instances where another human being may be at risk, is based on the protection of human life, then why wouldn’t a Mother who risks death by birthing her child fall into the same criteria?

I guess my biggest issue with all this is what pro-life really means. What I struggle with most is why the Church must differentiate between innocent and guilty. I think they both deserve to live 99% of the time (except my Mother’s health example). What I find most interesting is that JPII and the Church believe that in rare instances murdering a murderer is the correct moral choice.

It seems to me that the role of innocent vs. guilty plays a determinent role in the views of the Church in that it is sometimes ok to murder a murderer who may pose a life threat on another human being but it is not ok to murder an innocent baby who may pose a life threat on it’s Mother). Innocent vs. guilty. Innocent should live and guilty should die. I guess I just believe for the most part innocence or guilt don’t equate to life or death.

Seems to be the difference maker. Would love to hear what you think on the topic. Thanks in advance.

Artie April 28, 2009 at 7:52 am

Moral dilemmas and extraordinary circumstances are variables that don’t make cases like this black and white, however when you apply Church teaching to these circumstances they become black and white again. I have been on the pro-life movement for years and when people talk about the extraordinary circumstances people begin to think they got one over the Church.

The Mother’s health and ectopic pregnancy are usually the 1% issues that people confuse of a choice between mother and child. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy there is never a chance the developing child will live, it will always die.

This is what the New Catholic Encyclopedia has to say:

“What is particularly noted in all cases of the discovery of a tubal pregnancy is that one is never permitted to remove or destroy the human fetus directly. The only legitimate surgical approach to any tubal pregnancy is based on the necessity of excising all or part of a seriously damaged fallopian tube in those circumstances in which the danger to the mother is already imminent and the chance for fetal survival is negligible.” (Vol. 5, pg. 88)

I always recommend those who are seriously concerned about the issue to contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center. I am not studied in every circumstance, but I concur that abortion is always intrinsically evil as the church states and there are other options then giving a shot of methotrexate which directly kills the fetus in order to save the mother.

truthfinder April 28, 2009 at 9:25 am

I have heard similar arguments from others as to being against abortion accept in cases of the mother’s health, but the funny thing is that none who hold to such a position can say what exactly are these health conditions that warrant the direct killing of the unborn baby. I often asked the question to those who hold to such a position to tell me in their own words the definition of “health” in regards to this issue; and what health issues are they particularly worried about that the child needs to be directly killed? The latter part of that question often goes unanswered. Frankly, there are virtually no conditions I’m aware of that threaten the mother’s life in which abortion is a medically recognized treatment.

Capital punishment is not a good apples-to-apples comparison with abortion, and in my opinion a much less of a black-and-white issue, because while in one case you have someone who has done evil acts, been arrested, was given due process, convicted, incarcerated and given chances to appeal before the determination of ending his/her life was finalized; in the other case, innocent babies are falsely made the “aggressors”, reduced to “things” or sub-human parasites in which according to Roe V. Wade can be freely destroyed for any reason (social, economical, mental…etc.) so long as the word “health” is placed after those reasons. Finally, in contrast of those that die (1.2 million a year) by a murderous practiced disguised as a right/law versus those in prison via execution (only 1,151 since 1976), it shouldn’t come to no surprise where the high level of urgency should be applied.

mike April 28, 2009 at 10:07 am

I just read back through some of these posts, and all I can say is thank God for the Catholic Church. Thank God we can question why the Church teaches what it does. We are free to dig into it, question it, and come to our own understanding of why the Church teaches what it does. And what we always find is that the Church is consistent. All teachings are rooted in the Scripture and Traditions passed down from the Apostles, and we are guided by the Magisterium. — The three legs of the stool. You take one away, and the stool falls.

I converted in 2005. I was raised in a Protestant “Bible church.” With all the emphasis on sola scriptura, I couldn’t understand why my parents thought it was a sin to drink alcohol. – Christ’s first miracle? – When my questions got a little too difficult, I was told not to question the church – ‘it’s blasphemy.’ Blasphemy? – under what authority? Certain beliefs would change slightly every time the church would change preachers.

I love the authority and consistency of the one true Church. The Church with the Fullness of Truth. I applaud those of you who are questioning this, and making every attempt to intellectualize it. I pray that you recognize how wonderful it is to be in THE Church, and that the Church encourages your questions, and offers tomes of valuable answers that you can explore from any approach — educational, theological, anthropological, scientific, spiritual…

JYCAR May 7, 2009 at 5:37 am

As a French catholic, I discover this discussion and the roar about an invitation of President OBAMA at an event in Notre-Dame University.
According to some of commentators (including Bishops), it should not be correct to invite President OBAMA, or even it should be a guilt or a sin to do so because he is not against abortion in any case!… Are you sure that not to be against abortion in any case is to promote the killing of millions of people as some people are saying ?
I’m sure that President OBAMA would be enthousiastically invited in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (France) and the Catholic University of Paris, because he is building a new economic and social policy in the US according to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. And dozens of millions of people are concerned with this policy within the US and abroad … And I’m sure this policy will save lives !

Artie May 7, 2009 at 11:22 am


I have disagree with your statement that, “Mr. Obama is building a new economic and social policy that is in agreement with social doctrine in the Catholic Church.”

The church has always been against socialism.

Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on 28 December 1878.

For, indeed, although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: “for what participation hath justice with injustice or what fellowship hath light with darkness?”

Let it be known that know that John Paul II wrote an encyclical in 1991 affirming Rerum Novarum and went on to explicitly condemn the “Social Assistance State”.


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