Obama at ND — Or, Everyone Is Wrong

Joining the fray late, but better (I hope) than never, and probably nowhere near the end of this tortuous, torturous, obscene debate, I feel, if only to keep promises that I have made, that I need to say something about the matter of President Obama’s presenting the commencement address at my alma mater and receiving an honorary degree.

First, Fr. John I. Jenkins, c.s.c, president of Our Lady’s University and, by most measures, I think, a let-down to those many of us who thought that he’d represent a shift back toward “conservatism” — by which we, or at least I (I doubt, actually, that this is true of some of the partisans of the Catholic Right), meant orthodoxy — deserves a good scolding. This I say not necessarily (at least yet) because he invited a president — invited anyone — whose beliefs, comments, and policies on such fundamental issues of life stand in such stark contrast to the Teaching of the Holy Mother Church, but because he lacked the foresight and compassion to realize that such a controversial choice, no matter how it may further Notre Dame’s prestige (at a cost, no doubt), would so inundate the University and the student body — especially the seniors — precisely when they ought to be granted at least so brief a reprieve from the weight of the world to be able to enjoy their last week and ceremonies as undergraduates. Maybe, notwithstanding the obvious reasons to challenge the president’s presence at and participation at commencement, this is a great choice, insofar as, doubtless, Obama will offer some wise words worthy of consideration and, maybe, his experience at Notre Dame will have some positive impact on him as a human being, however seemingly immeasurable it may be. Nonetheless, the benefits, I submit, are simply not worth needlessly furthering the divide between more conservative and more liberal students and alumni/ae or between the University and the Church’s hierarchy; most definite, it is not worth burdening the senior class (and all students) with such divisive tension. Shame on you, Fr. Jenkins.

For accepting the invitation, then, President Obama and his people deserve to be excoriated, too. Surely, a man who has spent time in academia, who is purportedly so very attuned to the concerns of this generation, and who, through his work as a community organizer — and an alleged common-ground-seeking candidate —, understands the need for unity, rather than division (He is, after all, the new Lincoln! United we stand, y’all.) — should have recognized how much unwarranted consternation his involving himself at an ostensibly Catholic University’s commencement would cause and, in as elegant a manner as possible, have declined.


Now, what about the decision to invite someone whose positions on abortion and stem-cell research place him opposite the Roman Catholic Church to address the audience at commencement in violation of a prohibition on granting a platform for pro-choice individuals to speak, even if on matters wholly unrelated to abortion? Well, I think it was a poor choice on the part of Fr. Jenkins, et alios. We pride ourselves on being a Catholic University par excellence, even nonpareil, and Fr. Jenkins has found himself having explicitly to assure the world that welcoming the president to speak, and awarding him an honorary degree, does not mean that Notre Dame endorses or approves of his views on abortion, et c.. Something dreadful, perhaps portentous, inheres in this. On the other hand, President Obama, as Fr. Jenkins has noted, has displayed a concern for the poor, for the maltreated (except for those not yet born), that echoes the Church’s social teaching (even if he’s more reliant on heavy government intervention than many who have embraced Catholic social teaching have historically been). Moreover, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the president of the United States of America, a man with an impressive academic background and more than enough interesting “real-world” experience, has nothing worthwhile to offer a batch of the world’s future leaders.

That being said, I’m still concerned that the University made a decision in direct rejection of the Church’s prohibition, whether or not that interdiction is appropriate or short-sighted. Universities, Catholic or otherwise, need to be places — or, at least, this has become so, perhaps without the necessary boundaries — for sensible, dispassionate discourse, open to opposing points of view. However, an institution purportedly loyal to the Holy Mother Church needs to be just that, too. It raises a fundamental question that, I contend, no one seems to be willing to admit underlies this entire debacle, to wit, whether “Catholic University” has not become a contradictory term, an impossibility in the modern world. (More on this later. I promise.)


Now, having said all of that, I have two things to say. First, the Catholic Right needs to shut the eff up. I sympathize, as I think I’ve made clear, with their cause, at least in part. I’m all for tilting at windmills (as the banner on this humble Weblog suggests), certainly when something as big as this is at stake. But knowing that nothing is going to change, can’t they (including students who, admirably as much as annoyingly, are leading the charge) admit defeat and let the students have their graduation in peace? Let Bishop D’Arcy, Cardinal George, et alios, have their say as members of the hierarchy; let Fr. Jenkins and other University leaders and the hierarchy enter — at least I’d like to see this happen — into constructive, productive debate, muchly needed, over questions about balance and the Catholic identity of Notre Dame — and, really, Catholic Universities, period — away from the limelight and under the light of the Holy Spirit.

I absolutely cannot say all of this and then let the Catholic Left off of the hook. First, though many, I am sure, are sincere in their defense of bringing President Obama to campus in light of the issues where he does agree with the Church, I’ve grown rather weary of the loosely defined notion of “intellectual freedom” as a defense of this. Most important (at least to me), it’s ineffably painful to watch these leftists who objected to George W. Bush the warrior so vehemently defend Barack Obama the abortion-rights-supporting warrior. Blindness and ignorance, my “progressive” friends, is no monopoly held by the mainstream Right.


Coming This Weekend

I know that, as seems always to be the case, I’ve been dreadfully remiss in the upkeep of this humble online bastion of Nathanism, and for this I apologize. I’m sure I’ve been busy or something. Anyhow, I just relieved myself of a serious academic burden, and intend to write a few things this weekend.

This evening I attended a wonderful Tocqueville Forum debate, between Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute and David Schindler of the JPII Institute and moderated by Patrick J. Deneen, at Georgetown. Tomorrow, I’ll venture twice into DC, once for a lunch-hour discussion at the Heritage Foundation featuring Tim Carney and Matthew B. Crawford, and then later in the afternoon back to Georgetown for another Tocqueville Forum event, a lecture by Prof. Bacevich. Doubtless, I’ll have somethings — or some things — to say about any and all of this.

I’ve engaged in a couple of really great discussions that began over at the League, and stemming from those conversations, I’m going to write a bit more on New Urbanism and on Distributism.

Finally, I’ll be offering, finally, my thoughts, on the Obama-at-Notre Dame controversy. For now, Mr. Kain has posted a nice excerpt here.

South Bend is a Peculiarly Lovable City

James Matthew Wilson offers a beautiful elegy here, at Front Porch Republic

On Charlie Weis and Financial Mismanagement

Mike Coffey, at NDNation, has a must-read:

Some people are in that position, however. I’m now looking beyond the Empty Suit and wondering who else’s imprimatur was on Weis’ golden handcuffs. I find it very hard to believe [Kevin] White, who couldn’t manage something as innocuous as a press breakfast without tripping all over his tongue, had a loose leash in doing something like this. There’s a reason you don’t put the good china on the kiddie table.

Was John Affleck-Graves, revenue hawk extraordinaire, aware Notre Dame was going to be on the hook for this amount of money if Weis failed? Did Fr. John Jenkins realize he was promising Weis money that could have financed a high-quality basketball practice facility or the new ice rink the hockey program so richly deserves? Was Richard Notebaert or Philip Purcell in the loop when, in an atmosphere of rising tuition and pressing academic and athletic projects, scads of money was locked in for an unproven coach?

What did these men know and when did they know it? And how soon should they be removed from their positions after Weis if it’s shown they did? These are the things the Notre Dame family should be asking itself right now. If Weis is still Notre Dame’s coach next year, the buyout may be a major reason why.

[ . . . ]

Accountability and transparency are key. The days of “Pay, Pray and Obey” are long in our rear-view mirror thanks to the sheer arrogance and maladroitness of the Monk Malloy administration. It’s time the true stakeholders of Notre Dame got an explanation for this waste of funds, no matter if it’s eight figures or eight dollars.

Well said, Mr. Coffey. I really regret having written a check to the University this year. *sigh*

The Catholic Capitulation: Blame the Leadership, Part I

A few weeks ago, I conversed online with a friend from Notre Dame, a devout, knowledgeable Catholic (undeniably better than I), who is married and the young mother of two adorable children, whom she and her husband intend to raise, and already raise, in the Faith and traditions of the Holy Mother Church, when she inadvertently tested my knowledge of Catholic Teaching. I forget the particular context, but she made some comment about spoiling herself by consuming meat on Friday, remarking that she’d now have to confess her violation of Friday penitence-by-abstinence. I, who had been voluntarily abstaining from meat on Fridays to offer a minute sacrifice of penitence (I’m a professional sinner.) — and as a nod to old-school Roman Catholicism —, urged her not to be so hard on herself, reminding her that the Church long ago rescinded this Friday requirement outside of Lent. She quickly disabused me of this misbelief, as did Wikipedia

Specific regulations are passed by individual episcopates. In the US in 1966 the USCCB passed Norms II and IV that bound all persons from age fourteen to be bound to abstinence from meat on Fridays of Lent, and through the year. In September 1983, Canons 1252 and 1253 expressed this same rule, and added that Bishops may permit substitution of other penitential practices on Fridays outside of Lent only, but that some form of penance shall be observed on Friday in commemoration of the day of the week of the Lord’s Crucifixion. —,

which directed me to the USCCB’s “Penitential Practices for Today’s Catholics”, from 2000, which reminds us that

If we are serious about embracing the penitential discipline that is rooted in the call to discipleship, then we will identify specific times and places for prayer, penance, and works of charity. Growth in spiritual maturity demands a certain level of specificity, for it shows that we take seriously God’s call to discipline and are willing to hold ourselves accountable. In our Catholic tradition we specify certain days and seasons for special works of penance: Fridays, on which we commemorate the death of the Lord, and Lent, our forty days of preparation for the Easter mysteries.

Recalling our Lord’s Passion and death on Good Friday, we hold all Fridays to have special significance. Jesus’ self-denial and self-offering invite us to enter freely into his experience by forgoing food, bearing humiliations, and forgiving those who injure us. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of all spiri-tual transformation, this can be done—and done with a spirit of quiet joy. For Christians, suffering and joy are not incompatible. [My emphasis. – NPO.]

I, a professing, Mass-attending, doing-my-best Catholic had no idea that this very simple, evident, slackened obligation exists. Suffice to say I’ve continued, without lapse, to abstain from meat on Fridays; I suppose that I could proffer some alternate form of penitence (I’m trying to supplement my abstinence with Mass attendance on Fridays, but have yet to turn theory into practice.), but the connection, tenuous as it be, that this creates to the Church’s historical traditions has sufficient meaning for me that I’ll continue to substitute salmon for chicken — unless, you know, someone plops some prime rib on my plate.

I offer this silly little anecdote, and revelation of my own ignorance, not to indict myself, or my parents, but to offer a relatively minor example of a much greater problem: The Church’s hierarchy’s (and lay leadership’s) failure to sustain a rich, vibrant Catholic culture, one imbued with respect for the teachings — and spiritual significance thereof — of the Holy Mother Church; a real, deep appreciation of family and community — both spiritual and social, the latter within and beyond the parish; deep reverence for Christ and His Bride, and the many avenues available to us (e.g., Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament); and active political, civil, and social engagement rooted in and loyal to the Magisterium.

(Second page)

Notre Dame – Stanford, why the Irish had better be floored with anger (as I am)

Stanford offensive lineman Chris Marinelli:

I grew up with a bunch of Irish and Italian Catholic people back home. And all the Irish Catholic people, all they talk about is Notre Dame this, Notre Dame that. And they’ve never even been there, ya know. So I hate those guys, I hate that school.

Methinks that John’s right to suggest that this probably made firing the boys up a lot easier for Charlie. Read the rest of what Marinelli (that sounds like an Italian Catholic name!) has to say here.

Notre Dame welcomes the Cardinal to Notre Dame Stadium at two thirty p.m. Eastern Time.

Goooooooo Irish!
Go Irish!
Beeeeeat Cardinal!
Beat Cardinal!

Mmmm, sweet, sweet victory. Notre Dame actually looks a bit like Notre Dame this season!

Most important game of the season (to me)

The Notre Dame-Purdue rivalry pales compared to, say, Michigan, USC, Navy, or numerous other rivalries. Nonetheless, for me, this is the game. My father has his degree from a Purdue branch, my brother is, presently, a Purdue ex-pat, and many of my closest friends from high school earned their bachelor’s degrees at the cow-college known as Purdue, which is only about an hour to the southwest of my home town.

Gooooooooooo Irish
Go Irish!
Beeeeeeat Boilers!
Beat Boilers!