Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notre Dame Commencement

More commentary on ND's invitation to President Obama:

-Francis Beckwith says that the administration doesn't think of Bishop D'Arcy as a bishop. From these comments he quotes, it seems he is correct.
These seem strange to me. First, from the South Bend Tribune:
"Bishop D'Arcy is a longtime friend and supporter of Notre Dame. We spoke to him in advance of the announcement on the president coming here. We're sorry that he won't be able to attend," Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said.

Actually, Bishop D'Arcy is the shepherd assigned to the Catholic diocese in which Notre Dame resides. He is not merely a "longtime friend and supporter of Notre Dame." Now that's an appropriate title to bestow on members of the DeBartolo family, who have generously donated millions of dollars to the university. But when Notre Dame employs such language to describe the bishop in whose diocese it resides, it diminishes the bishop's stature in relation to the university and its community. Notice also the careful language on Mr. Brown's part: "we spoke to him in advance of the announcement...." Mr. Brown did not say, "We spoke to him before the invitation was issued in order ask for his blessing." Mr. Brown did not say that because that is not what happened. To put it bluntly, Notre Dame chose not to treat its bishop like a bishop. It chose to treat him like a "longtime friend and supporter of Notre Dame," the sort of character that has no real authority or influence over the direction of the institution including the health and well-being of its theological and philosophical infrastructure.
Then Beckwith quotes more:
Second, another quote from Mr. Brown:
Asked about the volume of complaints to the university, Brown said it was "nothing beyond what we anticipated."

It would have been much better for Mr. Brown to have admitted that the university was surprised at the controversy. For it seems almost cruel for Notre Dame to now admit that it anticipated the outcry. First, by admitting this, it is confessing that it intentionally invited a graduation commencement speaker that the university knew (according to Mr. Brown) would result in disturbing the consciences of many graduates, their families, and alumni who are now unsure about whether they should attend the ceremony. (See, for example, Stephen Barr''s First Things essay) Second, by admitting this, combined with its decision to not consult its bishop prior to inviting President Obama, it means that Notre Dame likely knew that its invitation would require that its bishop not attend the ceremony in his final year in office. Thus, the university intentionally put Bishop D'Arcy in a position where he would have to recuse himself from a ceremony in which he would receive the sort of farewell and congratulations that a man of his accomplishments should receive at the commencement exercises of America's premier Catholic university that resides in his diocese.
-Another good commentary came from William McGurn at the Wall Street Journal. Here is a snip:

"We hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him." So explains Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, as he discusses the university's choice of Barack Obama as this year's commencement speaker. In yesterday's student newspaper "The Observer," where the quotation appears, the thought is introduced with another helpful bromide: The honor accorded President Obama, it is reported, will be a "catalyst for dialogue."

Now, if the president were going to Notre Dame to engage in dialogue, that would be one thing. But Mr. Obama will not be going to Notre Dame to "dialogue." He will be going to help advance his agenda.

At the center of that agenda is abortion. Leave aside his enthusiasm for the Freedom of Choice Act, or the way he misrepresented his role in killing an Illinois state ban on partial-birth abortion. Already as president, Mr. Obama has ended restrictions that prevented taxpayer dollars from funding abortions overseas; opened a path for using taxpayer dollars to encourage the destruction of embryos for research; and taken aim at a "conscience clause" designed to protect doctors, nurses and others from being forced to participate in procedures (including abortion) that violate their consciences.

-Several ND student organizations have put up a website as a protest to the speech.

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