Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Notre Dame Scandal - UPDATE

There are a lot of opinions in cyberspace about the University of Notre Dame inviting President Obama to be their commencement speaker. I am linking to a few of them.

1 - National Review Online - whom I very infrequently link to because of their partisan nature - has a symposium on the issue with some very good commentary from a variety of people. I highly recommend it.

2 - Shrine of the Holy Whapping - which is a very nice blog by ND alums - has some nice comments on the issue, including the following:
I gather that the administration's take is that we need to engage the president in dialogue, and that inviting him to speak somehow fulfills this. I imagine that I do not need to point out the flaws in this argument to our readership, as he is being honored by the university, and not merely invited to lecture or debate. Keeping the lines of communication open is always good; but I doubt they’re turning the commencement exercises into a town hall debate.

The flaws in the argument having been duly noted, I think that being aware of their rationale can be helpful in voicing our objections. It is true, of course, that we are called as Catholics to engage those with whom we disagree. The problem is that the opportunity for scandal to the Faithful has been ignored, perhaps willfully, by the administration. The argument for inviting him is rather nuanced, if flawed, and it behooves arguments against his coming to be well thought out and address more nuanced points. As a commenter elsewhere noted:

"saying ‘ND thinks it's okay to kill babies!’ fails to recognize the complexity of the situation. Something like ‘ND isn't taking Obama's policies toward life issues into serious enough consideration’ is a much better argument.

The difference between an ordinary speaking engagement or debate and the honor of giving a commencement address ought to be highlighted, as well as our duty to avoid giving scandal. We are not trying to retreat to the ghetto, and we do need to live in the world, but given the at least potential appearance of endorsing the president's pro-abortion actions, the choice was a highly imprudent one, at best.

Of course, that "other shoe" mentioned earlier, the bestowal of the Laetare medal upon Mary Ann Glendon, is a rather interesting wrinkle in the whole affair. I have often said that Notre Dame is a microcosm of the Church in America, for better or worse, and this juxtaposition certainly highlights the "here comes everybody" aspect of the place. Now, as Rocco noted, Laetare recipients are informed months in advance, whereas the Commencement speaker was only secured days ago, so please, no jumping to conclusions about the University covering for themselves; Ms. Glendon was chosen on her own merits.

Now, as to responses: I realize that Notre Dame is representative of American Catholic identity in so many ways, and thus we all (in the US, at least) have a stake in this. First, though, please understand that those of us with a stronger connection to the University really do love her; enough, paraphrasing Chesterton, to smash the whole place for the sake of herself, if it comes to that (though I don’t think we’re there yet). If we get a bit defensive at comments made by those who are less tied up in it, it is likely because we see a lot of smashing and not much love, and we ought always to speak with charity, even of institutions. I’ve read from many people ready to abandon the place to the wolves, but, as her "loyal sons," we just can’t do that, no matter how disappointed we are. Besides, those of us who know her beyond what is said on the blogs know that it’s not a Sodom and Gomorrah situation, with only a few good men worth saving. I’m not being sentimental when I say that the academic and spiritual vibrancy there has transformed the lives of too many people to begin naming.

Thus, any sort of protest, public and private, needs to be measured in terms of its effectiveness. I’ve read a lot of word from third parties proposing major protests on the day of the event, and I can understand the sentiment behind this, but it is my strong opinion that any such efforts need to come from within. It’s pretty meaningless to sacrifice someone else’s commencement day, honestly, and I would imagine that even students who disagree with the choice are going to be more annoyed at outside protesters crashing their campus and marring their commencement than anything.
Then the best part:

With regard to letters written to the University, and I do encourage you to write them, please take the time to make them informed, well thought-out, and respectful. As I’ve noted, those who do agree and love the university might get a little defensive at some comments, so how much more will those who are on the fence, or who see no problem at all with inviting the President? I’ve seen blog comments that throw around "facts" such as CatholicTV being one of the few places that doesn’t feature Mass from the Basilica (it does, every Sunday), or that the speaker was announced on the cusp of Spring Break in order to quell criticism (off by two weeks). A little research and sticking to the facts will go a long way towards being heard. And, if I may throw in a pet peeve shared by many fellow Domers, don’t call it "Notre Dame University" or "NDU"; it’s "The University of Notre Dame" (ND for short, of course).

As a note to the fellow alums and other Notre Dame Family members who read the blog, as you're well aware from all those 574-631- phone calls on your caller ID, it's fundraising time. I'd like to encourage you, rather than not giving at all, to consider directing any contributions you might have planned to a new pro-life fund started by the Center for Ethics and Culture. The page goes into very specific detail as to why this sort of fund is the best way to assist campus pro-life initiatives, and how the money will be used. I wish something like this had been around when I was a student trying to navigate the funds allocation process. And, of course, tell the University exactly why your contribution is not going to the general fund (but be nice to those poor minimum-wage students manning the phones).

One of the more unique comments I’ve heard in all of this is the hope that the President would be influenced by Our Lady during his time on campus. But really, why should that be such a singular statement? If we truly believe in the transformative power of our Faith, why should that not be our first thought in this whole affair, rather than an afterthought? So, of course, as we work and pray in prudence and charity, let us recall St. Paul’s exhortation not to empty the Cross of its power. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17)

3 - Here is an open letter to Fr. Jenkins from students of ND.

4 - The Ironic Catholic brings some levity to the situation by volunteering to be the commencement speaker.


Jeff said...

I'm not fan of Notre Dame in particular, nor do I despise them as many do. However, one thing that gets on my nerves is the pronunciation of the name by people, particularly sportscasters.

If you are going to use the French pronunciation for the first word, use it for the second.

I say "NO-tur daim".

Sportscasters/TV personalities usually say "NO-truh daim".

That bugs me to no end. Either say "NO-tur daim" or "NAW-truh dahm".

The Ironic Catholic said...

Yes, and I'm still waiting for the invite. Oh, the rejection. Thanks for the link, though.