News & Views from 465 California Street

Episcopal Partisanship

Clint Reilly
May
11
2009

Certain hard-line cardinals and bishops – whether they get it or not – are coming dangerously close to a permanent alliance with the Republican Right Wing in America.

The long romance among Republican conservatives, the Christian Right and fundamentalist Catholics is walking Catholicism to the brink of extremism in this country.

Let’s examine the record.

After President Barack Obama was invited to deliver the 2009 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, the school was besieged with 350,000 signatures of conservative Catholics urging the university to revoke the invitation. At the same time, 50 U.S. Catholic bishops also urged Notre Dame to ban the President. Why? Because of his pro-choice position on abortion.

Only a tone-deaf church could warmly embrace President George W. Bush during his two terms, then turn around and sanction Obama at the height of his popularity and power.

Whatever positives Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders saw in President Bush, he was also the architect of a controversial war, an agent of torture, a tireless advocate for protecting the perks of the rich and powerful, a banal enthusiast for the death penalty as governor of Texas, and a shocking bungler of the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Isn’t that why America overwhelmingly rejected him when it elected Obama and ushered in Democratic control of both the House and Senate?

No sooner had the Notre Dame debate flared nationally than the wildfire spread. This time, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes announced his refusal to attend Xavier University of Louisiana’s graduation ceremonies because Democratic strategist Donna Brazile – Al Gore’s former presidential campaign manager and frequent CNN commentator – was receiving an honorary degree and delivering the commencement address.

Brazile is a Catholic who is pro-choice. She is also black. She is not an elected official.

It strikes me as peculiar that a woman not primarily known for her beliefs on choice and not an elected official would merit such a public condemnation by a prominent archbishop.

Does a campaign manager merit Episcopal rebuke? How far down the political pecking order will the public scorn reach? Staffers? Business leaders? Will commencement speakers be subjected to a full vetting on choice at every Catholic campus in America?

In 2008, then Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said, “My Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred and personally I believe abortion is wrong. However, I disagree with the notion that criminalizing women and their doctors is an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of abortions in our nation.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City banned Sebelius from receiving communion for vetoing a highly controversial law passed by a conservative Kansas legislature, which would have subjected doctors who approve abortions to potential criminal prosecutions.

The new Archbishop of Washington DC, Donald Wuerl, has announced that he will also prohibit Sebelius from receiving communion as she takes up her new post as Health and Human Services Secretary.

Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten recently wrote, “For conservatives who have been trying for years to pry Catholic voters out of the Democratic Party, the holy grail of political advantage is a long sought clerical edict that would prohibit any Catholic officeholder who has ever cast a pro-choice vote from receiving communion.”

Rutten continues, “If conservative activists can persuade enough local bishops to do to, say, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Christopher Dodd what Naumann has done to Sebelius, the long sought national edict is a fait accompli.”

Rutten finally states his deepest concern: “From there, it would be a relatively small step to extend the ban to any Catholic who has voted for a pro-choice candidate. Catholic Democrats would be forced to choose between their party and their church.”

Would such a self-inflicted schism be healthy for the Church or for America? I think we all know the answer.

Comments (24)

  • Dear Clint,

    You might be a Catholic, judging by the Irish tone of your name. If that is the case, you surely do not have a good understanding of your faith. If you are not Catholic, you have a poor understanding of the issue with respect to the invitation to President Obama to speak at the commencement of the University of Notre Dame.

    As you must know, the invitation by the University also includes the conferral on the president of an honorary degree of doctor of laws.

    This honoring of the president is in direct violation of a directive from the Catholic Bishops, who made their statement exercising their office of teachers of the Church. Catholic institutions in the United States are specifically enjoined from honoring persons who support abortion: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our basic moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors and platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Notre Dame is a Catholic university, which means that it must act in certain ways to have the privilege of being a Catholic university.

    President Obama’s position on abortion is much different than that of any other politician, although one can find much to criticize and worth sanctioning by the Church in the views of prominent Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and others. Barack Obama, as state senator, US senator and now President has actively worked to pass legislation that is not only anti-life for babies in the womb, but also for babies born after a botched abortion.

    This has nothing to do with partisanship. This is all about the integrity of our Catholic beliefs. Your article mentions the discussion that has been going on in the Church for years about whether politicians such as Pelosi, Biden, Kennedy, Daschle, Sebelius and other Catholics should be barred from receiving Holy Communion due to their scandalous support of abortion, including partial birth abortion, and infanticide. Good for Archbishop Wuerl for taking a position on this with regard to Secretary Sebelius.

    As for other bishops who are preferring not to associate themselves with other Catholic universities who are honoring pro-abortion officials, that is their prerogative as teachers of the Church. Catholic universities have ignored Church teaching for too long. It is entirely reasonable for a Catholic university to honor the principles of academic freedom and still follow the directives of the bishops. Those universities can invite any proponent of any position to debate that position in an open forum, and still be consistent with the bishops’ teaching, so this matter of honoring pro-abortion politicians is not at all contrary to the concept of academic freedom.

    Regards,
    Peter Jensen

    Posted by: Peter Jensen | May 12th, 2009 at 9:56 am

  • Agreed Mr. Reilly,

    It amazes me how many can get caught up on one issue, while not looking at the sum of the issues that the major parties and their factions represent. I am against abortion but voted for Hillary then Obama for their entire platform, which was miles ahead in terms of true christian values versus mccain’s. The Republic Right Wing is simply a bunch of hucksters, and it’s remarkable how successful they’re techniques have been to sway supposedly intelligent members of the clergy.

    Posted by: sophie calloway | May 12th, 2009 at 11:28 am

  • Maybe the ole good defense is a strong offense tactic?
    The Church is taking heat for all the pedophilia and sheltering of offending priests. Come out swinging on politicians under the cloak of protecting the unborn could be a strategy of distraction …

    Posted by: melinda maginn | May 12th, 2009 at 11:43 am

  • i wanted to thank you for the advertisement i read in the san jose mercury news today, on the subject of the catholic episcopate’s embrace of right-wing, republican politics.

    i am a committed catholic christian, first and foremost. but i am also a democrat, and i warmly embraced obama. i, like gov. sibelius, personally oppose abortion, and i would work in many ways for a day where people are choosing individually not to commit this horrible act.

    but i recognize that in so many other dimensions obama and the democrats are the party of “life”: his opposition to the war in iraq; his opposition to racism; his opposition to torture and the death penalty; his embrace of health care and social justice issues.

    i was uncomfortable this fall with what seemed to be a clear message coming from public catholic bishops that there was only one legitimate choice a catholic voter could make: mccain/palin. i could not “square” this message with my faith, my conscience.

    i will remain a catholic christian first. if it ever came to it, i would NOT vote republican. i simply would abstain from the voting process. and i would feel the lesser for that.

    Posted by: Jim Mac | May 12th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

  • Perhaps it would help if you made up your mind on whether religion should be free of politics or not.

    You seem to be perfectly happy to have your church be politically correct
    for the left but not for the right. Hmmm . . . . .

    Moreover, to use your examples, since when is opposition to abortion by the Catholic church a political stand?

    My understanding of Catholic doctrine is that birth control and abortion
    were taboo long before the US Constitution got Roe vs. Wade.

    Should not a good Catholic adhere to the Churches doctrine or leave the
    Church? After all, the Church didn’t change, you did.

    I am not Catholic and I am pro-choice, but it seems to me, chiding the
    Church as becoming political is grossly disingenuous.

    Posted by: Erich | May 12th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  • Only 8-10% of people attend church on a weekly bases in the U.S. so I can not understand your fear of the religious right, however, when 350,000 people are against Obama commencement address at the Univ. of Notre Dame no one listens.

    Miss USA answers a political question and she(Miss Calif) has been put over the coals by the “critical mass” of the press. Laws have been passed twice by the people of Calif. regarding “Gay Marriage” but it takes a strong person to give up every thing not to “back down” for their rights . Trump makes the right call.

    Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa…I forgive you for your last article. I read your editorials weekly and enjoyed them; but over the last month they are really “slanted” and not completely factual leaving out vital information–It made me think Are you running for office in the future? What happen to you and the Catholic Church?

    The “usual suspects” of Catholics are listed in your editorial. They are Catholics that publically have been –not the highest level of values that are needed from leaders of the faith whether they admit it or not they need the “Catholic Vote” to be elected.

    Pelosi lies as the recent “waterboarding”(Her Watergate) released documents reveal plus she is directly responsible for the “grid-lock” in Congress. What about her husband’s Tuna connection/her New Jet.? Kennedy has his Chap….bridge event showing a lack of judgment and courage. Kerry disgraced the uniform he wore by calling the military criminals/subject to war crimes; yet he is the husband taking advantage of the Heinz fortune. Dodd- his father was in a scandalous financial debacle that he denied yet the”nut” does not fall far from the tree with his own scandal.

    Sebelius is correct to say the Catholic faith teaches us that life is sacred and abortion is wrong. Why did she not introduce a law/statuate if she feels this strongly and solved an issue for 40 plus years. This is not conservatism vs. Liberalism ; but life vs. non-life.

    I am finally pleased to see the U.S. Catholic church take a position on the items you mentioned ; and not “dance around it”.

    9/11 did awake America that their are people that want to do us harm in anyway possible including the use of Nuclear weapons that they are close to getting in Pakistan.

    The U.N.vote to come in the months ahead to involve legislation will circumvent our laws(per Founding Father’s documents) in family rights to start with; and a fire storm of opposition to it should occur.

    The world–leaders basing their decision on “intelligence” obtained agreed with Bush to act upon IRAQ before the WMD’S were to be given to radical groups and used ounce again on the KURDS.

    Katrina–It was the primary fault of the Mayor and the Governor to be prepared as the surrounding states have done in other hurricanes; but the fact is they did not plus worse than that and by law they must request help from the Federal Govt.(in a timely manner) to avoid a conflict of states rights being infringed upon. They waited until Katrina was upon them for help which would have put the rescuers in harms way thus a delay and they did not evacuate 100%(I have been in numerous Hurricanes so there is plenty of time to leave).

    The WILL OF THE MAJORITY is ignored daily by congress and most are looking for their “15minutes” of fame plus the major news organizations go to Cocktail Parties with congress in Washington, D.C., and wink the eye so to put on a charade when filmed and the public sees them together–each gains from the inter action so Democracy is
    impeded.

    Thank you,
    R. Gill

    Posted by: R. Gill | May 12th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  • First off, I am a practicing Roman Catholic and I am so fed up with the old white men who run my church.
    What a breath of fresh air to read your editorials in the San Mateo
    County paper. Keep up the good work. Almost all of my close friends,
    who are also RC, are disgusted with the powers that be in our beloved
    church. I read the SF Catholic every week and my blood pressure
    explodes. My friends wisely toss it in the recycle bin. Please keep
    up the good work, there are lots of us out there who want to see
    changes take place or at least, an acceptance of folks with different
    outlooks on important issues. By continuing to speak your ideas and
    beliefs gives courage to others of like mind and hopefully will pull
    those living with the mentality of the middle ages into the current
    century.

    Posted by: Joyce | May 12th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  • You really need to look up the word partisanship, if you do, you could very well find yourself and this column in the definition. I read the papers daily, listen to major news daily, and am more amazed daily that none of you folks on the left, and this column of yours does place you on the far left, condemn partisanship while practicing it.

    Papers are going bankrupt and the folks that call themselves reporters continue to preach, seemingly unable to make the connection of a major disconnect with those they want to preach to. Commentators such as yourself from your political vantage point can see and in my opinion fear rightfully the backlash that’s on the way.

    I learned early that climbing to the top of any mountain can expose one to a very deep and steep fall. I’m conservative but your description of me, my belief system, and my world views aren’t even in the same area. If you hate the right so much, why do all your kind practice it from the left. Shame on you for acting and being exactly what you hate.

    Dick J

    Posted by: Dick J | May 12th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  • Thought your article in the Contra Costa Times today was right on the money!!! I agree with everything you said. As a practicing Catholic for over 75 years, I am sick and tired of the church trying to tell me who I can vote for or lose my rights in the church. If that happens I can always become a good Episcopalian or Methodist.

    Thank you very much. Keep up the good work.

    Tom

    Posted by: Tom | May 12th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

  • Sorry to see your article in today’s Mercury. I happen to be a
    registered Democrat (something I feel very ashamed to be these days). I also happen to be a Catholic.

    First item I would hope that you and every other liberal thinking person could eventually separate is the idea that Catholics who believe in
    their faith and take it seriously are “Right Wing Republicans”. I have as much fear and as big a disconnect with the Right Wing Republicans as I do with the Left Wing Democrats.

    I happen to be one of the people who signed the petition to “uninvite”
    Obama to the Notre Dame graduation ceremony. But then again, I feel that many of the “in name only” Catholic Universities are really no longer
    Catholic. Very similar to the “in name only Catholic” politicians of today.

    But on the issue of your article, if you could find it possible to
    separate the word Catholic from the words Republican Right Wing, you may be able to realize that if we Catholics really believe in our Faith, we must find it distasteful and unacceptable to recognize a person such as Obama at a Catholic institution of any kind. Obviously if this were a secular University, then Catholics would not be able to stop his presence. So if we as a society admit and recognize that Notre Dame is no longer a Catholic University, then your points could make sense.

    And as far as your reference to Biden, Pelosi, Kennedy, Kerry, Dodd,
    and Sebelius, I would agree with you that it is not for any of us to judge
    their status with God. However I would add that when they openly oppose the teachings and faith of “their” church, then I would say that in their hearts they have already separated themselves from the Catholic church. In the old days I guess Bishops and church leaders would have “excommunicated” such thinkers. But today, we all realize that what is more important is that these people have already done that themselves. They will indeed answer to God for their actions and so it is not our place to judge them. It is important however that people who look at our faith must realize that these people do not speak or act for the Catholic faith and do not follow it’s precepts.

    I think that independent of Republican or Democrat, Right Wing or Left
    Wing, it is our belief as Catholics that we must promote a Culture of Life
    that Pope John Paul II very clearly defined and Pope Benedict XVI
    continues to promote around the world. So stop hinting that we Catholics are a one issue people and realize that we are a Pro-Life people in all respects: that includes our positions against abortion, stem cell research, death penalty, undeclared wars, cloning, artificial contraception, and our position that marriage is only valid when it is between one man and one woman.

    Please stop trying to connect republican and Catholic as if they were
    the same thing. It displays your lack of knowledge about what the Catholic Church really teaches.

    Bob U

    Posted by: Bob U. | May 12th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  • Your column in the Contra Costa Times today regarding the Catholic Church’s interference in politics is right on. I have noticed this trend for some time. Just before the election, I read about a Catholic priest in Northern California who publicly humiliated a parishioner becuase he or she had an Obama bumper sticker on his or her car; the priest demanded from the pulpit to know whose car it was and ordered the parishioner to remove it from the church grounds. I was absolutely livid. I would have sued that pompous bastard.

    I was born and raised Catholic; I don’t practice it. I am frequently
    annoyed by the church’s meddling in political matters. This also includes
    those fundamentalist nuts who have tried for the last eight years to make
    their religion public policy and to substitute their beliefs for science in
    our schools.

    This blatant interference in political matters, telling people how to vote
    and punishing people for their political stands must stop. Churches that
    engage in this abusive and intrusive conduct should have their tax
    exemptions revoked immediately and permanently and be compelled to register as political action committees. Too bad they weren’t so incensed when priests were raping children for years and the Church covered it up. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. Your columns are always
    interesting.

    Posted by: Eileen R. | May 12th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

  • It might be instructive for the few who read your radical spin to explain why
    “hard-line cardinals and bishops” speak out against abortion. I don’t think it is
    for political reasons. Could it be you are not familiar with Church principles.

    I agree it is wrong, in my opinion, to criminalize abortion. It is a matter that
    should have been left to the states—–not in the jurisdiction of the black robed
    ayatollahs.

    By the way, when are you going to offer to be covered by the President’s health
    care program?

    Posted by: Enrique | May 12th, 2009 at 3:30 pm

  • If the Catholic church decides to go this route with elected officials and pro choice views, can we expect they will be as vigilant with death penalty supporters? Commenters above who strongly support the position taken by the church to deny communion for pro choice advocates do you agree that same should be true for death penalty supporters? Were you as upset with George Bush’s commencement speech at Notre Dame?

    Posted by: melinda maginn | May 12th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  • Melinda,
    The death penalty is not considered by the Church to be a violation of the commandment against murder. Pope John Paul II said that there are almost no circumstances that would justify it, but it is not contrary to the faith and morals of the Church, as abortion is. Sorry, but the Church does not think in terms of pro or anti-choice. The Church speaks out in favor of innocent life. Abortion takes away innocent life. President Obama works actively for abortion at all stages of pregnancy. He has even actively supported infanticide as a member of the Senate of Illinois. His stand is despicable. Also, President Bush’s commencement address took place before September 11. There was no controversy at that time. Argue based on what you should know, not on what you feel.

    Posted by: Peter Jensen | May 12th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

  • Why are we faulting the Bishops? Christian belief is that life is sacred ( thou shall not kill ). Notre Dame states it is a Catholic University. Abortion violates the commandment we have as Christians. Why is a Catholic University choosing to have somebody speak who so violates God’s laws? Even more so why is it choosing to bestow an honorary law degree? Incredibly inconsistent. I am thankful that we still have men of courage that stand up for truth although it may be unpopular. 4,000 lives a day are lost in America due to abortions. It is a grave evil. Why is it when we want the life in the womb do we call the life a baby, then when we don’t it becomes something else other than a human being. Why can’t all political parties honor the right to from the moment of conception? That is a God given right. That might be a more appropriate topic for the author. I’m tired of all of the articles criticizing the Christianity and the Church.

    Posted by: mike | May 12th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

  • Peter,

    Thanks for response on death penalty. If this is correct and I have no reason to think otherwise…well the Catholic Church is being consistent. By the way, it was a question Peter, not an argument.

    Peace.

    Posted by: melinda maginn | May 13th, 2009 at 8:12 am

  • Please, do not think that only conservatives are against abortion.

    I would not condemn a young lady, who lives around the corner, for having an abortion. It’s a black day in her life. I do have a big problem with throwing billions of financial support at abortions world wide, because that is promoting abortion while we should be promoting responsibility. Does our culture have so little to offer that only sex is fun? I can understand that people in third world countries living in very harsh conditions try to find some fun and relaxation between the sheets, but in our country?

    I also think that catholic people with political power who promote abortion policies are hypocritical by going to communion. Just because we can’t see the unborn does not mean that it is not a living human being. Between the 10th and 18th week of the embryonic phase the brain produces an impressive 10,000 neurons every 2 seconds. (Galaburda and Geschwind, Harvard.) And we should kill that development?

    Of course, it does not stop at killing the unborn. Peter Singer, professor at
    Princeton University, suggests “that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same RIGHT TO LIFE as others.” He also proclaims that parents and society should be able to breed children for the purpose of harvesting spare parts for an older child and for the greater good. (National Catholic Register, 4/26/2009, p.11.) Are people parts the same as
    automobile parts?

    Why is it that our society bestows greater rights on apes, fishes, frogs, etc. than on the unborn child?

    Yes, I think that respect for human life, including the unborn, is important.

    Posted by: Antonia | May 13th, 2009 at 9:21 am

  • When did separation of church and state dissolve?

    Bush gained Catholic support because he opposed abortion – but what actually did he do during his time in office to eliminate abortion?

    Obama is not an advocate of abortion – but perhaps he feels as I do: we are a country of freedom of choice. Unfortunately many choose abortion – even when suicides result for the woman who can’t live with the choice of killing her unborn child. But this is a decision that she makes and it is for God to judge, not us mortals who have our own faults. Why should it be my right to demand my moral values on others. That should not determine our choice of a leader for our country. Our leader should be dedicated to insure a better life for all citizens, with health care, education, and concern for our citizens, as we strive for a peaceful world.

    A pleasant memory, making me believe that I had given the right message, was when one of my sons said, “How can a Catholic be a Republican? Republicans only look out for themselves. They are not concerned about the poor and the less fortunate in our country.”

    We need people to look at the whole picture of concern for our people. Let each religion have their values but not inflict them on the nation.

    Jean R

    Posted by: Jean R. | May 13th, 2009 at 9:23 am

  • Clint, I agree with Sibelius – it’s wrong for the church to try to force its morals on the rest of society. Isn’t this the complaint about Islam – church and state are the same? And it’s so ingenuous for the church to not recognize that the easiest way to prevent abortions is to use birth control. The world has changed – technology is available – let’s take advantage

    Jesus was all about breaking rules/conventions when they didn’t make sense. He was the ultimate reasonable man. Look for lost sheep on the Sabbath? Sure. Use common sense and let your conscience be your guide. Don’t force people to comply with the law if it didn’t make sense. I think the church is taking the wrong tack on this issue, and I agree with your conclusion.

    Thanks for writing about this.

    Ed A

    Posted by: Ed | May 13th, 2009 at 9:24 am

  • I appreciate the commentary Bob U., Peter J., R. Gill- even you Mike- have provided. As it turned out my paper was stolen from my doorstep this morning (Eighth Commandment- Thou Shall Not Steal!) so I was deprived of the morning comics and was in need of a good, deep laugh. This CHURCH they have so eloquently defended is majorly flawed- as many would say beyond repair. I know that’s a hard pill for some ‘devotees’ to swallow. The principals and doctrine they speak of are out dated and out of touch with the lifestyles and views of many of their modern parishioners (hence the 8-10% weekly attendance). If these educated men did a little digging around they’d know that there are few people out there who know more about the teachings of the Catholic Church than Mr. Reilly. I applaud Clint for challenging his church to become better. A good true church should listen to it’s followers and evolve with them- not excommunicate or chastise them for disagreeing with it’s teachings. Education works both ways and the church doesn’t seem to have learned much in the last few centuries. “Because I said so…” doesn’t work with children why does the church expect it to work with adults? Maybe if these politicians could figure out a way for the church to profit from the things they condemn they’d change their position on a few things? Just a thought…

    Yes, I am a Catholic and the only reason I can still admit that is because I have defined what that means for me- not the Church or anyone else for that matter.

    Posted by: ARG | May 13th, 2009 at 10:01 am

  • A bishop never more resembles Jesus Christ than when he has his mouth shut.

    Attributed to St. Ignatius of Antioch.

    Authority has simply been abused too long in the Catholic Church, and for many people it just becomes utterly stupid and intolerable to have to put up with the kind of jackassing around that is imposed in Gods name. It is an insult to God himself and in the end it can only discredit all idea of authority and obedience. There comes a point where they simply forfeit the right to be listened to.

    Thomas Merton in a letter to W. H. Ferry dated 1-19-67, as quoted in a letter to the Editor in 10/2/98 NCR.

    NOTE: I’m not the same person as Jim Mac above.

    Posted by: Jimmy Mac | May 13th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

  • I have read your columns since we moved to Walnut Creek and subcribed to the CONTRA
    COSTA TIMES (2 years ago). I admire your writing and your ability to explicate your
    point of view, giving background, analogies, and examples to support your
    conclusions.

    The column in question, “Episcopal Partisanship” finally prompted me to communicate
    with you. It concerned such a vital topic and one that needs to be addressed amid so
    much fanatical verbiage. Your designation of a “tone-deaf church” is so apt. What
    has led the Catholic Church in this country to this point? It is becoming a
    one-issue church, much to the detriment of everyone who adheres to this beautiful
    faith. Never mind that, in its history, the Church was not explicitly anti-abortion
    and, indeed, abortions were allowed, with nothing much said. I fear that a myopic
    outlook has pushed this current agenda; is it an effort to align with the
    fundamentalist/evangelical Protestant outlook – since so many former Catholics have
    gone over to the Evangelical churches, especially in Central and South America? One
    wonders.

    I was born a Catholic and am proudly still a Catholic today. I was eduated in a
    parochial grade school, a private Catholic highschool academy in NYC and a private
    Catholic College in Westchester, N. Y. (Manhattanville College) – where I studied
    theology for four years. I also sang in the Pius X Liturgical Choir and made an
    extensive study of church history. But I also studied at the Juilliard School of
    Music, Manhattan School of Music, Aspen Music School and earned a Master of
    Music degree at the University of Michigan.

    My career as a professional singer took me many places where I met many people of
    diverse backgrounds. Part of my professional life was spent in liturgical music, as
    I was soloist in some major churches in NYC; nearby New Jersey; Ann Arbor,
    Michigan; Nashville, Tn.; and Miami, Fl. You notice I say “churches”, and not
    necessarily Catholic churches; that is because I sang in Lutheran churches,
    Episcopal, Church of Christ, Baptist, Presbyterian, Christian Science, Methodist,
    and also in several synagoges. For several years I was affiliated with the NATIONAL
    ASSOCIATION OF PASTORAL MUSICIANS and presented workshops in the mid-south and in
    Florida on the Documents of Vatican II, Church Legislation on Choral Music, and on
    the Training of Choirs. I have written several articles on music in the church, and
    this is a subject dear to my heart.

    I also served on the music faculty of TREVECCA NAZARENE COLLEGE which was an amazing
    experience! (Do you know anything about the Nazarenes?) I also was Professor of
    Voice at SCARRITT COLLEGE FOR CHRISTIAN WORKERS (Methodist) and, most recently,
    retired as Professor of Voice at the UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI. I mention all this so that
    you should know my comments are rooted in experience and reflection.

    Any member of the Catholic hierarchy who feels a bond with evangelical clergy, with
    fundamentalist thinkers, and who thinks of these folks as colleagues in this
    one-issue area of abortion — is sadly mistaken. I know, from listening to
    countless sermons in Protestant churches, from many conversations with colleagues at
    these places of learning, from reading their literature, and from hearing anecdotal
    comments from adherents of these denominations, is that, the one thing they are
    united in (aside from the anti-abortion conviction) is their hatred of Catholicism,
    a religion they demonize at every turn. If these people ever reach ascendency in
    this country, the first to suffer would be Catholics. This is unequivocal and
    universal. Our clergy should consider clearly with whom they align themselves.

    There are, of course, many logical reasons why one could also attack this position,
    as being simplistic and un-nuanced – but you are well aware of those. Since my
    experience has put me in locations where I have encountered these mindsets, I have
    other reasons for seeing the danger of this monochromatic position.

    My best wishes for your continued success in your writing.

    Sincerely yours,
    Diane F.

    Posted by: Diane | May 18th, 2009 at 9:33 am

  • Diane F. is certainly a sincere, well educated person with great experience that has shaped her thinking in profound ways. I, too, have lived in many places, experienced many cultures, learned many languages, studied many religions, and have come to a different conclusion than Diane does on abortion. I read your reasoning as: 1) The Catholic Church is principally, if not completely, driven by one issue (abortion), you call it monochromatic; 2) The Catholic Church has not always been against abortion; 3) the Catholic Church should be wary of whom we side with, because they will turn against us. I guess the Ergo is 4) well, shucks, there is no Ergo. We don’t know where Diane is taking us.

    Catholic Church teachings have been for life and against abortion since the time of the Apostles. The nuance you seek in Catholic teaching is that there has been some discussion about when abortion should or should not be allowed, and sadly, at least one perverse pope used abortion to try to rectify his own dalliances; but looking at the subject honestly, the Church has steadfastly held that abortion is wrong. As educated as you are, Diane, you know that the Church has nuanced its teachings as advances have been made in human knowledge. This brings us to the point where we are now. Scientific knowledge has proven that the union of human sperm and egg are a uniquely human life form from the beginning. This is miles away from President Obama’s position, which advocates even infanticide, so we should not dance on the head of a pin on the subject.

    The President’s speech yesterday underscored the reason why Notre Dame should not have invited him and given him an honor. He actually said that we cannot know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. That is his basic premise for arguing against the pro-life position, which then takes us down the road of accommodation. Any believing Christian knows that through Scripture and the Church, guided by the Spirit, that we can know God’s will. We can certainly know God’s will with regard to abortion. We all know that the only ones who should do any accommodating, in the eyes of people like the President, are those who oppose him.

    On top of having bad theology, he is completely illogical. His policies and decisions tell us loudly that nothing is wrong with abortion. Why then should we try to minimize the number of abortions? Is that the accommodation that he is willing to give: to cynically limit what he does not think is wrong, so as to coopt those who believe that it is wrong? What arrogance! Even if that is the case, he does nothing to actualize that point of view.

    In conclusion, then, we know where the President stands and where he has always stood. We know where the Church stands and where it has always stood. We are saddened and troubled by where the University of Notre Dame stands, which is in opposition to Church teaching.

    Let’s say that President Obama has all the great qualities that he is admired for having, yet he is for the annhiliation of Jews. Would we still honor him? Of course not. His policies have killed far more people than there are Jewish people in the world, yet we still should honor him? And you call this monochromatic? If nothing else, the abortion issue reveals how a person views life, responsibility, the purpose of the state and more. President Obama fails the test for what constitutes a responsible Christian, if not Catholic, point of view. The University of Notre Dame fails the same test, and it is far more culpable in this matter because of what it purports to teach and uphold.

    This has nothing to do with partisanship. It has nothing to do with the scandals of the Catholic Church. It is a call for Catholics, and all Christians, to return to the essence of our faith, and to stand up for what we know is right. As for fearing who we align ourselves with, it does not matter when one stands for what is right. On the issue of abortion, the Catholic Church stands with those who are the stated enemies of our faith, our culture and our civilisation. Perhaps it is on this abortion issue, that we really can find common ground with our worst enemies, and move past those differences. Best regards.

    Posted by: Peter Jensen | May 18th, 2009 at 10:24 am

  • A healthy institution is one that can tolerate discussion, rather than quash it. As for the church and her scandals, I am curious how this has nothing to with the scandals of the Catholic Church. I’d say on the issue of scandals the Catholic Church stands far more for enemies of our faith, our culture and civilisation. The Church has done everything it can to quash investigations and come forward with names. It is an atmosphere of deceit and coverup. The uproar over Obama’s attendance at Notre Dame is another example of quashing discussion.

    Here’s the latest on the Irish scandal:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090520/ap_on_re_eu/eu_ireland_catholic_abuse

    Tragic.

    Posted by: melinda maginn | May 20th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

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