- Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus, U. of Notre Dame
I graduated from the U. of Notre Dame in 2004, and I liked it so much that I stuck around for 2 years of grad school in Theology. I loved my college experience, and being back at ND brings emotions out of me that no other place on earth can. I love the Masses, the quarter dogs, and the vicious sprinklers.
But there are a few things about Notre Dame that have made me sad:
1. Our football program of late. Yikes. Better this year, right? Please, Charlie?
2. The weather. Give us our sun back, Michigan!
3. ND inviting President Obama to speak at commencement.
Now, let me be very clear. Yes, I was saddened that ND invited an aggressively pro-choice politician to such a public platform. But I was even more saddened by the backlash that I knew would result from the Catholic community. ND is a part of me, and the insults against ND are tough to brush off these days.
Probably the most vociferous group in speaking out against the so-called "Notre Dame scandal" has been the Cardinal Newman Society, a group dedicated to renewing Catholic higher education in the U.S. Now, a few years ago the CNS released a study on the Catholic identity of some major colleges and universities; and it was fairly well done. And ND was such an anomaly to them that they dedicated an entire chapter just to the Catholicism of Notre Dame. (Read it here.) Basically, what the CNS said was that Notre Dame is the most academically prestigious of any Catholic school, and the most Catholic of any academically prestitious school.
And that's the dichotomy that ND is forced to face; nearly every day, someone at the University is making a decision that can either be true to Catholic doctrine or further ND's academic prestige, but not both. And contrary to popular belief, the latter option isn't always chosen.
In this singular situation, Notre Dame chose prestige over Catholic identity. But couldn't we have said the same when ND invited President Bush to speak at commencement in 2001? The man who was Governor of Texas (which executes 3x more humans than any other state), declared a war that was criticized by Pope John Paul II, and constantly acted against Church teaching on immigration reform certainly wasn't a "Catholic" speaker. Granted, abortion is one of the only moral teachings of the Church that is unequivocal; abortion is never ok. But nevertheless, where was the massive petition against Bush's anti-Catholic stances?
And even more poignantly, if we're looking to invite only public figures that are perfectly aligned with Catholic teaching, who'll be speaking at commencement from now on? Only practicing Catholics in good standing with the Church? Only priests, bishops and Stephen Colbert (I could deal with that!)? But seriously, ND would sacrifice quite a bit if they were ever to go to those lengths; maybe that's a sacrifice some would expect of ND, but I personally wouldn't.
I will never defend President Obama's actions against the pro-life cause, and I don't necessarily believe that Notre Dame should have invited him so soon after his inauguration. But I'm hopeful that Obama can deliver some Catholic action on immigration, health care and social services and that this invitation can open a dialogue on other issues, such as abortion and marriage.
Tangent 1: When did it become the "Catholic" thing to publicly criticize our nation's leader? And when did the Republican Party become the Catholic party? The Democratic Party clearly supports abortion, embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage, but isn't every other plank in their platform mostly Catholic? (Just FYI, I'm neither Rep nor Dem - they both drive me crazy.)
Tangent 2: Wouldn't it be great if we could all agree on a common moral basis (i.e. don't kill babies, etc.) and let the politicians actually make political decisions? Since when did suits in Washington form the moral framework of our country?
Tangent 3: Finally, there's no way that ND (or any other school) will ever uninvite the President of the United States from any event. I understand the efforts of the petitioners, but if you're a University, you just don't do that.
Lemme know what you're thinkin'!
P.S. The new DMB single, "Funny The Way It Is" is out. Awe. Some.