The National Catholic Review

The clouds roll with thunder, the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth, and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak—‘We are the only Christians!’” So wrote St. Augustine about the Donatists, a perfectionist North African sect that attempted to keep the church free of contamination by having no truck with Roman officialdom. In the United States today, self-appointed watchdogs of orthodoxy, like Randall Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society, push mightily for a pure church quite unlike the mixed community of saints and sinners—the Catholic Church—that Augustine championed. Like the Circumcellions of old, they thrive on slash-and-burn tactics; and they refuse to allow the church to be contaminated by contact with certain politicians.

For today’s sectarians, it is not adherence to the church’s doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program. They scorn Augustine’s inclusive, forgiving, big-church Catholics, who will not know which of them belongs to the City of God until God himself separates the tares from the wheat. Their tactics, and their attitudes, threaten the unity of the Catholic Church in the United States, the effectiveness of its mission and the credibility of its pro-life activities.

The sectarians’ targets are frequently Catholic universities and Catholic intellectuals who defend the richer, subtly nuanced, broad-tent Catholic tradition. Their most recent target has been the University of Notre Dame and its president, John Jenkins, C.S.C., who has invited President Barack Obama to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at this year’s graduation. Pope Benedict XVI has modeled a different attitude toward higher education. In 2008, the pope himself was prevented from speaking at Rome’s La Sapienza University by the intense opposition of some doctrinaire scientists. The Vatican later released his speech, in which he argued that “freedom from ecclesiastical and political authorities” is essential to the university’s “special role” in society. He asked, “What does the pope have to do or say to a university?” And he answered, “He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others.”

The divisive effects of the new American sectarians have not escaped the notice of the Vatican. Their highly partisan political edge has become a matter of concern. That they never demonstrate the same high dudgeon at the compromises, unfulfilled promises and policy disagreements with Republican politicians as with Democratic ones is plain for all to see. It is time to call this one-sided denunciation by its proper name: political partisanship.

Pope Benedict XVI has also modeled a different stance toward independent-minded politicians. He has twice reached out to President Obama and offered to build on the common ground of shared values. Even after the partially bungled visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Pope Benedict, Vatican officials worked quickly to repair communication with her. Furthermore, in participating in the international honors accorded New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson in Rome last month for outlawing the death penalty (See Signs of the Times, 5/4), Pope Benedict did not flinch at appearing with a politician who does not agree fully with the church’s policy positions. When challenged about the governor’s imperfect pro-life credentials, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe responded on point, “We were able to help him understand our position on the death penalty.... One thing at a time.” Finally, last March the pro-choice French president Nicolas Sarkozy was made an honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope’s own cathedral.

Four steps are necessary for the U.S. church to escape the strengthening riptide of sectarian conflict and re-establish trust between universities and the hierarchy. First, the bishops’ discipline about speakers and awards at Catholic institutions should be narrowed to exclude from platforms and awards only those Catholics who explicitly oppose formal Catholic teaching. Second, in politics we must reaffirm the distinction between the authoritative teaching of moral principles and legitimate prudential differences in applying principles to public life. Third, all sides should return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI that in politics there are usually several ways to attain the same goals. Finally, church leaders must promote the primacy of charity among Catholics who advocate different political options. For as the council declared, “The bonds which unite the faithful are mightier than anything which divides them” (“Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” No. 92).

Comments

Anne Danielson | 11/29/2011 - 3:03pm
joan sheridan | 9/6/2009 - 6:32pm
I am a pro-life Democrat so in Massachusetts I usually have to blank the ballot. However the editors of "America" sound to me like a shrill for the Democratic Party
amjust sayin | 9/2/2009 - 1:41pm
nice spin... I have a fifth step.  if your school is all about enrollment and please the masses do not call yourself a Catholic School...
?pa???a | 6/21/2009 - 9:32am
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Robert Tobin | 6/15/2009 - 6:47pm
Thank you, Janice Johnson. Your eloquent defense of life is in total accord with my catholic and natural law beliefs. Social and human justice are not the property of any political party. ND has taken a public scandalous action which confounds all Catholics who are for the sanctity of life. I have met one evangelical christian who is convinced the CHURCH is pro-abortion based on its public actions. I myself wonder where the CHURCH is? Do Jesuits have a different view of public scandal than I was led to believe.
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Beverly | 5/24/2009 - 8:36pm
I wish there was a share button on the articles so the url could be sent to twitter
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Patrick | 5/22/2009 - 2:45pm
Once Notre Dame is stripped of its Catholic moniker, I hope America Magazine is next. Perhaps it was providential that a magazine like this would end up with a name like America, a place that has replaced true religion for liberalism and the god of mammon and spineless, faux compassion and dialogue.
Edwin Cooper | 5/21/2009 - 11:21pm
Dear America, As the human embryo is created at conception in the Image of God, does abortion amount to a miniature crucifixion? I have googled the keywords more than a couple times since before the Election and cannot find a discussion or article on the topic. Thank you
Richard | 5/21/2009 - 6:48pm
The citation from Gaudium et Spes at the end of this article is taken way out of context. "Anything which divides" the faithful is not meant to be read as including "political opinions", as this article puts it. Guadium et Spes no. 92, from which the editors take this citation, indicates that the dialogue allowed by the Church is "to unify under one Spirit all men of whatever NATION, RACE, OR CULTURE"... not those of whatever "political opinion". Furthermore, it is disingenuous to frame disagreement on abortion as a mere "political opinion". Gaudium et Spes itself identifies abortion as an "unspeakable crime" (51), listing it along with murder and genocide as being "opposed to life itself" (27). Such language about abortion far distances it so as to regard support or opposition of abortion as mere "political opinion". Guadium et Spes does aim to settle how dialogue is to take place. And it does so by distinguishing the individual from what notions that individual holds. Charity IS always to motivate dialogue, but charity is to be directed toward the individual, never to be confused with complicit acceptance or condoning of whatever erroneous positions the individual holds. Gaudium et Spes speaks of this charity in article no. 28: "This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions."
jorge imperial | 5/21/2009 - 2:01pm
I just received a subscription postcard from America yesterday. This morning I hesitated a minute before putting it in the garbage, since St Ignatius is one of my heroes. But reading this editorial, I think he would have liked me to put it in the garbage too.
Bonnie Sabin | 5/21/2009 - 12:10pm
Dear editors: An editorial in America (May 11) calls for Catholic universities and intellectuals to "defend the richer, subtly nuanced, broad-tent Catholic tradition." Indeed, I agree that the Church must be catholic, or universal. The editor also decries the "political partisanship" of pro-lifers who denounce Democrats but never criticize Republicans. I agree that we must never fall into the trap of Catholicism = Republicanism. Nevertheless, the editor leaves out a little "detail": abortion is solidly in the very platform of the Democratic party. A few pro-life Democrats try to buck a huge pro-abortion machine. THAT is why faithful Catholics find little hope from the Democrats; politicians who make war against the unborn child will not usher in peace or prosperity. Furthermore, abortion is neither "subtle" nor "nuanced;" it is barbaric and, I believe, one day will be unthinkable in a civilized society. I believe the day is coming when our major political parties must undergo huge transformation, or when other, new parties will emerge. One such third party is the American Revolution Party. Its platform is the Just Third Way, totally compatible with the univeresal social justice of the Catholic Church. Bonnie Sabin
John | 5/21/2009 - 8:15am
I hear what is being said here. To support the pro-life cause in America and not ally one's self with the Republican Party is very difficult. I know that rational dialogue is supposed to be what moves peoples forward, keeps us loving one another. It's just hard to be rational when children are being killed. So pardon me while I vote for someone like Ron Paul (pro-life, anti-war, small government) and give money to Catholic Relief Services, an organization that I trust to provide aid to those in need. I might be irrational. I might be a little partisan. I might be paying taxes for things I find morally reprehensible. Fine. I'll write my letters, protesting war and violence and pray that the next Republican president doesn't make me look like a fool. I'd keep going, but I'm not sure anyone is listening. I'm getting irrational and I can't see too well with the tears in my eyes.
Peter | 5/19/2009 - 12:38pm
Should the University of Notre Dame refuse to issue a degree - the "real" kind -to a graduating student who is pro-choice, used a condemn or the pill, or does not otherwise adhere to the doctrines of the church?
T. O'Rourke | 5/19/2009 - 12:02pm
Greetings, It is precisely because we share so much in common that we desire to see Him respected. Moreover, calling others sectarians because they observe what the Church actually teaches is to be a sectarian. One is observant or not. “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected.” t+
Dan Asta | 5/17/2009 - 11:16am
I fail to see why the Notre Dame invitation is even an issue. As long as Notre Dame accepts federal student funding, Pell grants, gov't subsidized loans, research money from the NEH and NS, as long as Notre Dame accepts non-Catholic students, Jewish students, Muslim students, atheists, etc., as long as Notre Dame doesn't discriminate when they hire faculty, then of course Notre Dame is not going to be an institution with a body of people who are totally in agreement with Catholic principles. The university itself can be as solidly Catholic as it intends, but how does it organize education among a group of students/faculty who may or may not be in agreement with the Catholic church? That's the fundamental question. Notre Dame is a Catholic educational institution situated among the best universities America has to offer. If the bishops want to make it a totally private religious university ala Bob Jones University, then you can stop accepting students and faculty who don't ascribe to Catholic teachings, stop accepting gov't money as well. You can give up accreditation too. But you can't be both 100% Catholic AND a school that does not insist on total agreement with Catholic teaching among faculty and students. Consider: the Bishops are saying ND should not honor someone who acts against Catholicism. What if a Physics student acts against, do they deserve to receive a Science medal? Or another student a poetry award? Will ND then not honor its own students and faculty who are not Catholic? Some might argue that the commencement speech is very different from an academic award, but since when can Catholics pick and choose the moment when to apply principles? If you can't honor ANYONE who acts against Catholic teaching, then you can't honor students and faculty as well. I daresay that many of the critics who inveigh against ND would also not be eligible for these honors, particularly a person at InsideCatholic.com.
Jim Gelvin | 5/16/2009 - 6:34pm
Thank you for this fine article. I hope the efforts of all who are devoted to protecting life will be as strenuous in their efforts to protest war and killing of innocent human beings in any form. Without a complete devotion to all life, protests appear ive and politically motivated in many cases. I refer to the powerful statement in Evangelium vitae which directs us to protect all life for God's sake, not a personal reason: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. 51 The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. "Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action".52 As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. Before the moral norm which prohibits the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being "there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ?poorest of the poor' on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal".
Jim | 5/16/2009 - 6:32pm
Thank you for this fine article. I hope the efforts of all who are devoted to protecting life will be as strenuous in their efforts to protest war and killing of innocent human beings in any form. Without a complete devotion to all life, protests appear ive and politically motivated in many cases. I refer to the powerful statement in Evangelium vitae which directs us to protect all life for God's sake, not a personal reason: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. 51 The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. "Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action".52 As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. Before the moral norm which prohibits the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being "there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ?poorest of the poor' on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal".
John Dooley | 5/16/2009 - 1:20pm
The last paragragh in the magazine version of the article "Sectarian Catholicism is missing. The quote cited would be cleared if in context.
gabriel marcella | 5/16/2009 - 11:17am
Thank you, Janice Johnson. Your eloquent defense of life deserves to be heard at the Notre Dame commencement.
Ricky Vines | 5/15/2009 - 11:58am
You recall the parable of the weeds and the wheat and argue that God lets the weeds thrive and so should we. There is a difference between God's patience with sinners and our resignation to whatever evil happens around us. Aren't we our brother's keeper? If we let women just go and murder their child by making things safe and legal, then what kind of keepers are we? Didn't the Lord identify with the least and said, "Whatever you do to them, you do to me?" So, should we just let the Lord we siphoned into bit and pieces or burned with chemicals?
ANN ODONOGHUE | 5/15/2009 - 5:31am
As someone who is best described as a feminist and agnostic, I think Janice Johnson has just said what I wanted to say on this issue. Even though I am not religious, I totally agree with her message. You shouldn't need religion to know that abortion is wrong. It just is.
CHARLES SPECHT | 5/14/2009 - 7:07pm
Reference the editorial, "Sectarian Catholicism": Quite simply-this is the best editorial you've ever published. Period.
mjwi07 | 5/14/2009 - 2:43am
While some may disagree with Mr. Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society supporting Catholic orthodoxy, and Catholic doctrine, there should be no mistaking Barrack H. Obama’s stand on everything related to abortion, from underage sex, to family planning. He is opposed to abstinence, and the most scientifically proven successful “natural family planning” method of birth control, favoring instead Planned Parenthood’s death factories, which grind out abortions like Detroit once rolled cars off the assembly lines. For Notre Dame University President Fr. Jenkins, it is not the Church’s doctrine that matters, but Obama matters. Forget for a moment that he is “pro-choice” whatever that means. In fact, he has fulfilled 10 of the 15 items dictated to him by his abortionist constituency within 100 days of having taken office (most without further discussion or debate, since his mind has been convicted for years), thereby, he has created for himself a legacy that will rank among Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Dze Dong , and Pol Pot in the shear magnitude of wasted human lives. Little does it matter to what party a Catholic belongs, since Jesus leads us. It matters greatly that Notre Dame’s president is perceived as taking greater stock in what Obama has to say, and what he does, than what our Savior said, or what He calls on us to do! There will be no salvation in Obama’s monologue at the commencement ceremony, only scandal. Unfortunately for Catholics, Obama revels in scandal, and gleefully will drive a wedge deeper into the schism within the Catholic Church in America that has public servants openly supporting the death on demand culture in lock-step with the president. To quote your article: “Pope Benedict XVI has modeled a different attitude toward higher education. In 2008, the pope himself was prevented from speaking at Rome’s La Sapienza University by the intense opposition of some doctrinaire scientists. The Vatican later released his speech, in which he argued that ‘freedom from ecclesiastical and political authorities’ is essential to the university’s ‘special role’ in society. He asked, ‘What does the pope have to do or say to a university?’ And he answered, ‘He certainly should not try to impose in an authoritarian manner his faith on others.’” Of course, I would like to remind you that while meeting with Catholic educators, at the Conference Hall of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 17, 2008, in his address His Holiness Benedict XVI also said (Para 17): “Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.” I should not have to remind you that he also has described the current state of affairs in the United States, where the value of life is cheapened by state and national legislative bodies continually as “tyranny.” While His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has twice reached out to President Obama and offered to build on the common ground of shared values, the president has returned this grace with thrice offering “pro-choice” candidates for ambassador to the Vatican. All have been rejected by the Vatican, thank God. Think for a moment about the fact that Obama and his partisans spent billions of tax dollars suing the tobacco industry to make the United States a healthier place, and to reduce the cost of medical care. These same partisans have a one-dimensional approach to the culture of life: Abortion on demand, for any reason, at any time, (including immediately after delivery, as we now know),
David Power | 5/13/2009 - 1:19pm
I think that one can clearly see some wonderful comments on here.The intelligence and sensitivity by American Catholics is really beautiful for me to see.There is also a lot of Ideology on here too, people who were baptised either Republican or Democrat.The title of Sectarianism is interesting as one could hardly describe the editors as anything but that.They are so EastCoast America that it hurts.Their self description as inclusive, forgiving, big-church Catholics, who will not know which of them belongs to the City of God until God himself separates the tares from the wheat is sickening.To invoke the name of St Augustine for the cause of Laxity is laughable .A saint who defended the identity of the Christian from all-comers and who was so scrupulous as not to offend the Lord can hardly be imagined welcoming the giving of an honour to a man essentially indifferent to Abortion.If the editors had a fraction of their imagined humility they would all be Saints.You dont build bridges by throwing stones and that is what this article boils down too.But the Holy Spirit is working a lot in your country and where once he found a home in the Society of Jesus today he finds it in people like Janice Johnson.
Janice Johnson | 5/12/2009 - 10:17pm
As a registered democrat who voted democratic in every election since 1960 except for the last one a social worker whose career spanned 5 decades (Catholic Charities and child protective services) and mother of mentally disabled children, I offer the following comments. After WWII, a philosopher characterized the behaviour of the German clergy as a "capitulation to the milieu"-a process of yielding to the social environment that led to the holocaust. Is this an apt description of many of our Catholic leaders in politics, academia, journalism and the church? When over 40 million unborn babies are destroyed, this is a holocaust. This is evil. To be Catholic one believes in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. This belief is not open to compromise or negotiation. As slavery is an evil and cannot be compromised, so too, are the life issues of abortion and euthanasia. We could not morally negotiate slavery with free staes and slave states and maintain a government of human equality, so too we cannot negotiate which child, which disabled person, which frail elderly person will be allowed to live or die, and maintain a moral country. To be Catholic is to be pro-life AND to actively promote the elimination of poverty and discrimination. Following the example of Christ, we serve all of our sisters and brothers, especially the most vulnerable. Tobe Catholic is to be both pro-life AND anti-racist. The fact that 37% of abortions in the U.S. are performed on African-American women is to my mind, a holocaust. Those Catholics who present the moral value of pro-life as being in conflict with other moral values are presenting a false either/or argument. There is no reason, in a country like ours with an abundance of wealth and resources that we cannot pursue pro-life policies along with policies aimed at eliminating poverty and discrimination. That would be Catholic Social Doctrine in action. As American Catholics, we are obliged to bring our moral values to bear on issues of morality in the public sphere , regardless of political affiliation. Each one of us will someday stand before God in judgment of our actions in regard to "the least of my brethren". We live in an era of widespread narcissism and nihilism which offers inducements of power, prestige, money and acceptance. How will we and our leaders justify to God our capitulation to our milieu?
ROB | 5/12/2009 - 2:10pm
Your prescriptions for the Bishops confuses several important issues in order to benefit those Democratic politicians whose party affiliation leads them to embrace anti-life policies. First, clearly Catholic moral teaching on abortion is based on natural law principles accessable without the aid of religious belief. Why then should non Catholics promoting the pro choice line be given a forum at Catholic institutions? Second, absent from the editorial is any identification of even one alternate among the "several ways" presumably available to end abortion. In fact other than total opposition there is no such way. Same goes for those elusive "political options". We all know by now there are none. I hate to say it but this editorial and others like it intends to marginalize the life cause in favor of a political party which is its fierce and unrelenting enemy.
Ricky Vines | 5/12/2009 - 12:55pm
The PREFECT OF THE SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURA, THE MOST REVEREND RAYMOND LEO BURKE, D.D., J.C.D., has commented about these issues confronting the Catholic Church in America. The text speaks for itself. Would you still adhere to your positions that is no longer aligned with that of the Church?
taad | 5/12/2009 - 7:29am
Reality check: If you are not being permitted to come to the table of the Lord, then all what has been written above are just words. Who has the right to deny anyone admission the Banquet of the Lord? Christ said: "There will come a time when they will say, blessed are the wombs that never bore and the breast that never nursed." He was not being political, just stating a fact. Abortion is evil, just stating a fact. It kills the thoughts of God Himself.
Father Matthew J. Albright | 5/11/2009 - 10:33pm
Dear Editor, The editorial titled “Sectarian Catholicism” in the May 11, 2009 edition of America was most intriguing. The basic premise of the piece is that “self appointed watchdogs of orthodoxy” have defined orthodoxy not as “adherence to the Church’s doctrine” but as “adherence to a particular political program” and that, in so doing, these “sectarians” “threaten the unity of the Catholic Church” by ignoring the “broad-tent,” “big-church” Catholic tradition. In fact, the Church’s tent embraces people of different intellectual and political persuasions but is also precisely defined to exclude the possibility of denying fundamental truths of faith, including the sanctity of human life. The particular event cited to exemplify the editorial’s argument is the opposition by Catholic laity and clergy to the invitation of President Obama by the University of Notre Dame to be the 2009 commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree. Nearly 60 U. S. bishops, tens of thousands of concerned ND alumni and other Catholic laity, and prominent Catholic American figures have all united in opposition to ND president Father John Jenkins’ invitation of President Obama. Such a unified voice can hardly be called sectarian. This action by ND’s president and board clearly violates the agreement between Catholic university presidents and the USCCB, which states that no Catholic university may give a platform to or honor a person who holds positions contrary to the teaching of the Church. The opposition of the bishops and laity to President Obama addressing ND’s graduates is not political or sectarian at all; rather, it is grounded in the truth of the sanctity of human life and the duty of Catholic institutions to be authentic and uphold the truth revealed by God. Defending orthodox faith is not political or sectarian. It is the mark of fidelity to Christ. The editorial calls abortion “evil” while at the same time defending ND’s decision to honor a man whose policies are definitively pro-abortion, an intellectual gymnastic feat similar to ND’s original plan to invite both President Obama and the pro-life devout Catholic Mary Ann Glendon in the hopes of appearing broad-minded. Such positions are not broad but duplicitous and disrespectful toward persons of authentic faith. One cannot help but wonder if ND and America Magazine have pitched a tent that is not big enough to include respect for human life. Catholic institutions are not political organizations and ought not participate in political maneuvering or agendas. Instead, as Pope Benedict said at Catholic University in April 2008, “…every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.” Catholic universities are called to preach the truth, whole and entire, in season and out of season, in all aspects of their mission. That means giving voice to and honoring only those who support the truth, especially the dignity of life. The congratulatory message of the Holy Father to a head of state should not be construed as support for President Obama’s policies. The Church clearly opposes the consistent anti-life agenda of this presidency, revealed in its policies allowing research on human persons in the embryonic stage and promoting abortion abroad with taxpayer dollars. While the president may in some limited way be able to improve life for Americans, he is a failure on the most fundamental life issues. What is at stake today is not the loss of a so-called broad vision of the faith but the lives of thousands of unborn children. What the Church in the United States desperately needs is strong episcopal leadership and unity among the laity around the fundamental truth of the sanctity of human life. This requires a resounding “yes” to the fullness of the truth revealed in Jesus Christ. Father Matthew J. Albright
Margaret Caldwell | 5/11/2009 - 7:23pm
Thanks you, reasonable and brave editors.
marybelle hardin | 5/11/2009 - 4:42pm
HOORAY!!!THANK YOU!!!I'm glad someone remembers the docs of Vatican II - and even wants us to USE them - talk about far-out idea! Constitution = who we are. The cold-hearted missing of marks has finally been called by its right name.I have been a professional lay minister in the Church for 30 years or so & have a quotation from Pope John XXIII( my greatly loved saint)displayed prominently. I don't remember any context for it, but it says it all to me,"To see everything.To turn a blind eye on much of it.To correct a little."I also applaud Archbishop Sheehan(apparently a good Irish boy)on his encouragement of patience, understanding and communication. God created us free and attempts at coercion are not in line with the Gospel. Thank you for wonderful weekly reading which has helped me for many years. Marybelle Hardin
Rev. James E. Connell | 5/11/2009 - 7:47am
How disappointed I was to read America’s editorial calling for the bishops of the Church in the U.S. to narrow their policy regarding speakers and awards at Catholic institutions (“Sectarian Catholicism,” 5/11). Indeed, at least in my part of the world, the decision of the University of Notre Dame to grant an honorary degree to President Barack Obama has been seen by some persons as evidence that the Church is en route to a substantial dilution of its commitment to the constant struggle against intrinsic evil which, in turn, alters the moral judgment of those persons. For the University to generate such an effect is scandal. Thus, I pray that the bishops hold strong to their stated policy. (Rev.) James E. Connell Sheboygan, Wis.
Edwin Cooper | 5/10/2009 - 6:31pm
This is a followup to the first responder on the long list of comments. I have read 68 letters of the Bishops who spoke out on the Notre Dame invitation. They spoke with moral clarity on the abortion issue. The President's position may be evolving with his suggestion of compromise. As an Episcopalian surgeon, I should not have a vote. But my suggestion is that the respectful and gracious solution would be to welcome President Obama and his commencement address next Sunday. But the Doctorate of Laws could be kept in reserve until the Freedom Of Choice Act is as dead as the Holy Innocents that were slated for termination Would have been! Dominus vobiscum, Edwin Cooper, MD
Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J. | 5/10/2009 - 4:58pm
I'm proud of America for its editorial on those who are so sure of what it means to be a Catholic and so certain of what is intrinsically evil. "For today’s sectarians, it is not adherence to the church’s doctrine on the evil of abortion that counts for orthodoxy, but adherence to a particular political program and fierce opposition to any proposal short of that program." I think this a particularly insightful sentence. The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus encourages its members to go to the frontiers, the more challenging issues facing us. America has done this. Could I humbly suggest that the Catholic Church envision structures and sub-structures that will make dialogue among liberals and conservatives, bishops, priests, religious orders of women and men, laity of different political stances, the Pope himself, easier, more rational and more loving? There seem to be many voices in the Catholic Church today, but where are the ears?
Rev. Peter M. Calabrese, CRSP | 5/10/2009 - 12:19pm
Perhaps America and the Fr Jenkins' of the world will use some Augustinian Big Tentism toward those of us who refuse to recognize the orthodoxy of their ilk: 1) the infallibility of the Land of Lakes Statement 2) the God given Manifest Destiny of the United States to evangelize the gospel of abortion and fund abortion and contraception both at home and abroad. 3) the singing of Hosanna to the new Messiah, President of the US Barack Obama, despite the fact that he is not only mildly pro-Choice ala President Carter, but has consistently appointed the most rabid pro-abortionist personnel available, moved immediately to disassemble the minimal protections the unborn have and plans to strip conscience protections from those who oppose his agenda. By the way, 70 bishops, part of the REAL Magisterium of the Church, not just "self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy" have pointed out the incongruence of Notre Dame's actions. Just what would and American President have to do for you to ask Notre Dame to refrain from their "tradition"? Would a pro-slavery President be given an honorary law degree? How about one who wanted to repeal spousal rape laws? Providence College refused to allow Tancredo to speak because they felt he did not meet Catholic doctrine on a much more open question how to handle illegal immigration? Are the good folks at Providence College also Circumcellions destroying the Church by sectarianism and slash and burn theology? When will America quit finding every excuse to shill for the Democratic Party and then accuse those who are pro-Life of being political, sectarian and divisive?
Beth Egbers | 5/10/2009 - 12:08pm
Instead of comparing apples to oranges or citing unrelated historical figures' individual actions, why don't we let the Catechism (which we all agree on, right?) decide the gravity and magnitude of abortion? See paras. 2270-2275, which include a statement that "the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the [unborn] child's rights." Obama, who, in his inaugural speech, included equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from the Declaration of Independence but excluded its reference to the "right to life," votes and acts 100% pro-abortion. In bestowing honors on him and giving him an unchallenged forum, Notre Dame and the supporters of its decision are on quicksand and are leading other Catholics astray. I wouldn’t have been able to explain such a position to Jesus while He was on the Cross, which I find a pretty helpful test.
Francis Pimentel-Pinto | 5/9/2009 - 9:42pm
It is obvious that the American Catholics who wish to humiliate the elected president of the United States do not believe in the transforming power of love. Furthermore,they are not bothered by the disastrous effects of their actions in the name of orthodoxy. Do they wish to revive the patronizing arrogance of the 'good old times'when Pope Nicholas V, on June 18th, 1452, issued the bull DUM DIVERSAS authorizing Alfonso V of Portugal to reduce, to mention but one example, any "Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers" to perpetual slavery?
PJOHNSON | 5/9/2009 - 3:07pm
GAUDIUM ET SPES "Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator. 28. RESPECT AND LOVE OUGHT TO BE EXTENDED ALSO TO THOSE WHO THINK OR ACT DIFFERENTLY THAN WE DO IN SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND EVEN RELIGIOUS MATTERS. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them. This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.[10] God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.[11] The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries,[12] and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: "You have heard that it was said: Thou shall love thy neighbour and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you" (Matt. 5:43-44).
Lorenzo Palafox, sJ | 5/8/2009 - 10:27pm
I sent the article to Bill and got the following as a comment from him. Lorenzo Palafox, sJ I respectfully disagree. Firstly, America magazine and its editors are, in my opinion, hopelessly confused. (That is the most charitable assessment I can make). For example, last week I read in America that Catholics in good conscience could base their vote for Obama by weighing torture tactics against abortion and concluding that the former outweighed the latter in importance. Upon reading this, I practically fell off my chair. To offer a direct analogy, that is akin to weighing parental spanking of their children to the Nazi Holocaust and concluding the former outweighed the latter. How do you reason with people who have no sense of morality? Secondly, as to the "four steps": 1. Who are we to tell the Bishops what to do on matters of morality? The Bishops have spoken, and ND has refused to comply. Arguably, it is intentional disobedience. The relevant inquiry is whether an institution that purports to be Catholic may continue to do so under these circumstances. Should a "Catholic" university award honors to a non-Catholic politician who (hypothetically) promulgates regulations, requiring the human sacrifice of the first born of every American family (on the basis that it's okay because the politician is "non-Catholic")? Isn't Obama, in fact, doing something similar? Why is it relevant to the moral issue whether or not the politician is Catholic? 2. This statement makes no sense whatsoever. (Again, I defer to charity). What are the "legitimate prudential differences" when it comes to promulgating abortion? If you're a Roman Catholic of faith, there are none. 3. The Second Vatican Council is always cited in support of the unorthodox views of some Catholics. It's as though these self-proclaimed experts know more about the "spirit of Vatican II" than Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XI, both of whom have on countless occasions expressed their teaching that abortion is a grave moral evil in all cases. By the way, both Popes have first-hand knowledge of the "spirit of Vatican II". 4. Didn't our Lord teach (paraphrasing), "Be you hot or cold, but if you're lukewarm, I'll vomit you out of my mouth". It is not charitable to smile and do nothing when others are being murdered in your sight. The pseudo experts are again misinterpreting the "spirit of Vatican II". Bill
Bruce Barker | 5/8/2009 - 7:56pm
I look forward to Fr. Jenkin's post-graduation report on how he rebuked power to its face, the way Blessed Teresa did a previous President. That should go a long way to removing the scandal of his decision.
Scott M | 5/8/2009 - 2:52pm
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. All of our sectarian brethren could stand to spend some quiet time with Matthew chap. 7. Leave my splinter be for a moment while you tend to your plank.
Patrick McGrath | 5/8/2009 - 2:38pm
When context is dismissed out of hand, one can turn anything into one's own. I wrote to Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, and simply stated, in my email to him, that I was against awarding President Barack Obama, with an honorary law degree. That I thought was the prudent thing to do.
Sue Brown | 5/8/2009 - 1:33pm
The church espouses a consistent pro-life position from conception to death. Many pro-life advocates conveniently overlook the other parts of the church's pro-life teachings: economic justice, helping the poor, not fighting unjust wars, and finally, abolishing the death penalty, in favor of a single portion of that teaching, abortion. It seems to me that those who object to the President's visit to Notre Dame might well spend a little time plucking the beam from their own eye before they rant about removing the mote from their brother's. I'm surprised we didn't hear from this same group about George W. Bush's appearance at Notre Dame. After all, the man was extremely proud of the fact that as Governor of Texas he had overseen the execution of more people than any other governor. This is pro-life how?
Timothy Short | 5/8/2009 - 11:20am
The Donatists, by the way, were a schismatic group that was condemned for political dissension in a religious council led by the otherwise secular Emperor of Rome, who then proceeded to send Roman troops to attack them in North Africa in an effort to enforce the decisions of the council. So I guess the current corollary is that President Obama should be recognized as a religious leader, as well as a secular one, and that if he is able to convince enough other religious leaders in the country that those who oppose his visit to Notre Dame are wrong, then he would be justified in having our position condemned in council and having us arrested in our homes by the US military? The Donatist schism, while critical of Roman government, was primarily a dispute within the Church. And it was a dispute where the established Church hierarchy, as represented by Bishop Augustine of Hippo, carried the day by referencing established Church doctrine. It is Notre Dame who has taken a position contrary to the teaching of the USCCB and the Church hierarchy in general by embracing an opponent of fundamental Church teaching. It is Notre Dame, who in this analogy, occupies the position of the Donatists. Abortion is then, in this modern analogy, the equivalent of the Donatist position that some sacraments ought to be voided based on the standing of the officials who celebrated them. And it is the Bishops and the other opponents of Notre Dame and the President who represent St. Augustine and the established Church on the side of the argument in favor of quelling the schism. Why is it that this article does not condemn Augustine for limiting the size of the tent by challenging the beliefs of the Donatists? As schismatics, were they not excluded from participating in the main body of the Church? If the dominant and governing principle is a big tent, then why not just let the Donatists be, instead of going to the trouble to challenge their position? We can agree, I am sure, that we wish the tent to be as big as possible. But the tent can not be so big that to be a resident within it has no meaning. The tent must be associated with a set of truths that are seen as eternal. Otherwise, it has no purpose.
Enrique Ramirez | 5/8/2009 - 8:02am
God revealed Himself as the Way, the Life, and the Truth. He sent His earthly head of His Church with Magisterium. A reading and rereading of your editorial has filled me with confusion and consternation of where your "Catholic" editoiral writer stands. Perhaps, I misread the editorial and it really is simply a political apology for the Democratic Party, because so many of its elected leaders are fallen away Catholics. Hitler tried to convince that certain people are not human beings. Obama holds Hitler's dictum.
Earl Robicheaux | 5/8/2009 - 7:39am
I am sorry, there is nothing nuanced about later term abortion, a policy that President Obama supports. But I guess this is a triviality that the Holy Sees is willing to overlook because of the Presidents position on income redistribution. However, I fail to see how the position of American Magazine reconciles with the Holy Fathers criticism of the US Catholic church and its increasing secularism...How many times will we deny Christ?.....There is nothing charitable about this editorial, if anything it speaks with more vitriol than with those the writer disagrees with, not an unusual trait of those on the left.
Robert T.Fanning , Jr. | 5/8/2009 - 1:21am
There is nothing open minded ,subjective or progressive about being an accomplice to premeditated murder. Have Obama explain the genocide of 17 million aborted black infants from Reverand Wrights pulpit not the sacred soil of Our Blessed Mothers University. P.S. Wasn't it the Jesuits that covered up "IHS" for Obama ? "Before the cock crows thrice you will deny me" R.T.Fanning, Jr. N.D. '73

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