President’s Address at Notre Dame

The video below shows an excerpt from the President’s speech at Notre Dame. A couple of thoughts occur to me in terms of his remarks:

  1. The President has laid out a case that we should not demonize and that we should disagree agreeably in this matter. At one level this all sounds fine. But the issue here is not about being nice, it is about whether a Catholic institution should honor someone who is vigorously and uncompromisingly pro-abortion with an honorary degree of Law.  Being nice is one thing, honoring what is not honorable is another. The President as a man, and as the President of the United States of America is honorable but his philosophy about the law is not. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians  whom he loved: “In hoc non  laudo” (in this I do not praise (you)).
  2. Therefore the issue before us is more about us, than the President. What are WE doing here? What are we NOT doing? Are there going to be corrective moves from Church authority that will prevent such honors being bestowed in the future?
  3. An analogy here: When a non-Catholic asks me if they can take Holy Communion I have to answer no. Perhaps this is not the “nicest answer” but it is the truest. Why can they not receive? Because communion means something. It means that I share communion with Jesus Christ. But it also means that I share communion with his Body the Church, that I accept what the Church teaches  in faith and morals and the truth that this really is the Body of Christ I am receiving. In the same way that communion actually means something and is not just an old ritual, bestowing an honorary Doctorate of Law means something. It means that we honor the recipient’s understanding of and interpretation of the Law. But we do NOT honor an interpretation of law that says it is legal to kill thousands of innocent people every day. We cannot honor an interpretation of law that  sanctions what has caused the death of tens of millions. It is not. Just as Holy Communion (which actually means something) must be withheld when such communion is lacking so should honors be withheld when when what is held cannot be honored. Again, this is no personal disrespect to the Office of President, nor to President Obama as a man. But we cannot honor his interpretation of the law here. And it is not some small point of law in question, it is a point of law that has led to the death of many millions.
  4. So, being nice and agreeable is fine, being truthful and maintaining integrity is better.
  5. Pray for our our President. He is clearly an articulate and intelligent man. What an ally he could be if he were converted on this matter. Pray too for our Church that we can use a moment like this to look more deeply and what we are doing and what it all means.

Mass for Shut-ins to be Canceled by WHUT?

PBS stations are debating the limits of one of public television’s basic commandments: Thou shalt not broadcast religious programming. The discussion, some station managers fear, could lead to a ban on broadcasts of local church services and other faith-oriented programs that have appeared on public stations for decades despite the prohibition.

The Public Broadcasting Service’s board is to vote next month on a committee’s recommendation to strip the affiliation of any station that carries ‘sectarian’ content. Losing its PBS relationship would mean that a station could no longer broadcast programs that the service distributes, from Sesame Street to ‘Frontline.’

The proposal is already having local ramifications. In anticipation of the vote next month, WHUT, the public station operated by Howard University in the District, has notified the Archdiocese of Washington that it will cancel ‘Mass for Shut-Ins,’ a Diocese-produced weekly program, if the PBS board adopts a strict interpretation. ‘Mass for Shut-Ins’ has been carried on WHUT since 1996, and continuously on a Washington TV station for nearly 60 years.

‘It’s kind of a shock to us,’ said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. ‘They’ve been great partners of ours for a long time. . . . The Mass is a very local programming that provides a community service. You’d think public television would be about engaging the community.’

…..A strict ban would leave stations such as WLAE in New Orleans with a dilemma: Stop airing its daily telecast of Catholic Mass or end its affiliation with PBS. The station, which is partly owned by a Catholic lay group, has been presenting the morning Mass since it went on the air in 1984.

‘We don’t want to lose our association with PBS, because they provide a lot of fine programs,’ said Ron Yager, the station’s vice president and general manager. ‘But at the same time, we need to serve our community. We’ve built an identity around this. People know us for this.’

Yager said his station has never received a complaint about the Mass telecast in the 25 years it has aired. ‘I’m really not totally sure of their reasoning for doing this,’ he said.

Lawson said her station has never had a complaint about its Mass broadcasts, either. But the program has sparked interest from other religious groups that would like the station to broadcast their church or mosque services, she said. ‘We just have to tell them that [‘Mass for Shut-Ins’] is a legacy program, and that we don’t have the wherewithal or inclination to do any more,’ she said….

KBYU in Provo, Utah, for example, is operated by Brigham Young University, which in turn is affiliated with the Mormon Church. The station airs much of the usual PBS fare — ‘Arthur,’ ‘Barney,’ ‘The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer’ — but also broadcasts two hours a day of ‘BYU Devotional,’ which includes lectures from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. KMBH, based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and licensed to an affiliate of the Diocese of Brownsville, carries Sunday Mass broadcasts, Bible study in Spanish, and a family issues program hosted by a priest. In 2007, the station drew national attention when it declined to air ‘Hand of God,’ a critically praised ‘Frontline’ documentary about clergy sexual abuse.

Jan McNamara, a PBS spokeswoman, declined specific comment, saying only, “We’re still gathering feedback from our members to see where they stand.”

What is Wrong with this Picture?

Did you ever think you’d read a headline like this: “Catholic Priest Arrested At Catholic College for Protesting Abortion” ?? The video below records the event.

Some will say that trespassing laws have to be enforced to prevent Notre Dame campus from being over-run by protesters. But if Notre Dame wanted to avoid protests and controversy maybe it should avoid doing things that are controversial. Also, in recent years it has often been said that Catholic Colleges can’t just be places where Catholic teaching is promoted since the “academic environment” demands an open discussion of issues with all sides of the issue aired openly. As is often the case such “lofty principles” are shown the door when the issue is abortion or some other facet of traditional Catholic moral teaching.

As for Father Weslin, he surely knew the consequences of his actions. Those who engage in civil disobedience are usually well trained as to what to expect. He was told he’d be arrested and so he was. But doesn’t it seem odd for a Catholic College to arrest a Catholic Priest for protesting abortion? What’s wrong with this picture?

The Miracle of Marriage

cep-nlg-wedding-05Today is the 50th Wedding Anniversary of my Parents, Charles and Nancy Pope. Both of them have passed away, my mother in 2005 and my Father in 2007. When I consider my parent’s marriage  I have come to know that I witnessed a miracle.

Their marriage was far from ideal in terms of the unrealistic notions of marriage the world dreams of. One of their children, Mary Ann my sister, was mentally ill and died tragically in 1991. My parents also had many personal struggles of their own and these placed great strains on their marriage. Years later my mother hinted that there were thoughts of divorce when they were both in their 40s but events and family duties intervened. (Praise the Lord). Yet over the years my parents grew to love one another quite intensely. They were seldom apart in their last 15 years. They traveled frequently and loved cruises. My Father had a conversion in 1989  (My mother had prayed years for that) and they went to daily Mass, almost never missed a day. My Father often said he had some Masses to make up for missed masses of his wayward years!

Shortly after my sister’s death in 1991, my mother, who was broken-hearted, suffered many set backs with her alcoholism.  She  struggled mightily to stay sober and most days she won, but there were stretches of great pain for her and all of us. Through it all my father stood steadfastly by her. He kept his eye on her strove never to leave her side when she got sore afflicted. He had struggled earlier in the marriage with alcohol and she had stood by him. Now it was his turn and he never gave up.

Sadly my mother lost her battle in 2005 and died as a result of her alcoholism. My Father  never really recovered. How can you live when half of you is gone? Within two years he was also dead. He died of a broken heart, literally and figuratively. Congestive heart failure and other complications along with renal failure was the medical cause but by now you know the truer cause.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I saw a miracle in my parents. God took two people and made them one. And it was not easy work, but God did it. In their latter years they showed a miraculous love, loyalty and unity. Grace can do that. My mother’s prayer and love brought my Father’s conversion back to the faith by God’s grace. My Father’s love and faith helped him stand by my mother and care for her in an illness that causes many to walk away.

Marriage isn’t always easy, but it is holy because God is its author. And God can take two people, two struggling and  imperfect people and make them one. I saw him do that with my parents. I saw a miracle. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad, Rest in peace with God.

What Do Catholics Think about President Obama at Notre Dame?

Well that depends on what Catholics you ask. Church going Catholics are more likely to oppose the President’s visit to Notre Dame but not by as much as you’d think. Catholics who do not attend Church regularly were more likely to support the visit. White, Church going Catholics were most likely to be non supportive of the President’s visit. All of this is depicted in a graphic summary by a Pew Survey of Catholics on this issue shown at the right. But no group of Catholics surveyed polled above 50% in disapproval of the visit.

So what is going on here and what does this say about Catholics? I am not a sociologist nor a statistician, just a biased observer. Of course I am biased. I am a Catholic priest who is strongly pro-life. Hence I am somewhat alarmed by how few Catholics actually are alarmed. But perhaps if I could venture a few observations about this poll and I will try to be fair.

  1. The poll asks about a visit and speech of the president. Some are angry just about that. But there is the further matter about the President receiving and honorary  Law degree. Thus I wonder if the poll numbers would be different if this question were asked: “Do you favor the conferring of an honorary degree?” I have heard some Catholics say that their disagreement is more about the honors than the speech. Others just don’t think he should come period. But it would have been interesting to see the results of my question.
  2. Politics complicates everything, even moral issues. It has been my experience (sadly) that many people (both right and left) are more passionate about their politics than their faith. Faith, and moral and ethical issues tend to be “tucked under” political views and worldview.  Thus, in vacuum over 60% of Church-going Catholics oppose legalized Abortion. But take it out of a vacuum and into the world of politics and the numbers swing a lot. If opposing abortion means one is  opposing a favored candidate or party many who oppose abortion theoretically do not do when it “rocks their world” somehow.  Conservatives too struggle with some of the moral issues and often do not wholeheartedly support the requests of recent Popes to oppose use of the death penalty nor did they wholeheartedly agree with the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq War. I am aware of the many arguments that declare that these are not dogmatically defined positions but my only point is that, when requested to oppose these things  disinclination due to political leanings was a strong factor.
  3. Race complicates this matter as well. Here too many who oppose abortion as an isolated issue are reticent to apply their opposition directly to a President who also represents a kind of racial healing in this land. Just as Abortion is now, racism was and to some extent remains another of the great moral struggles of our time. Thus, I suspect, even to generally anti-abortion Catholics, the President is a complicated figure. On the one hand he represents injustice by his support of abortion, on the other hand he is a sign of greater racial justice. I suspect it is not always easy for everyone to sort all this out.
  4. With all the complicating issues of race and politics therefore I am not sure what to make of these numbers. It remains true, (and you can check these numbers by using the link to the Pew Study above), that Church going Catholics are against legalized abortion by over 60% but only 39% oppose the visit of the President.  I think some heard the question not as a question about abortion but more this way: “Do you like or dislike President Barack Obama?”  Generally people like to report that they like people. Generally too the President remains a popular figure even to those who do not like some of his policies or decisions.

What do? It seems clear that the Church has not closed the deal with most Catholics on the pre-eminence of the Abortion issue. Even many Catholics who do oppose Abortion do not see it as trumping other things they also see as important. It is an important issue to them but context and abortion’s inter-relatedness to other matters sways how they register their opinion. Many are simply not as focused or adamant as the Church would like when it comes to this critical moral issue. Hence we have to work to close the deal more. We have to teach and encourage. When I say encourage I mean it as the word was originally intended. To encourage meant to summon a person to courage. Many will privately say they oppose abortion but when a pollster calls they do not always have the courage to stand firm when it appears they are opposing a popular President who is a symbol of racial healing and thus represents far more than himself or even his party.

In the end, as many Bishops have already indicated, Notre Dame has made a huge moral compromise here. I pray for our President every day and respect that he has authority from God to lead this land. But he is wrong on this issue of abortion and honoring him with a Law Degree sends the wrong message. As the Church we must remain unambiguous on this issue. We must respectfully engage our president on this matter but a law degree would suggest we accept his jurisprudence on this and find it honorable. We do not. Yet it remains true that more than half of even Church-going Catholics may disagree with what I have said. That is on us. We are once again reminded as a Church that there is work to do.

Remember, this is a blog. I have written to provoke a response and to initiate discussion.  I do not write to pontificate (even though my name is Pope 🙂  ) If you disagree or would like to clarify a point, if you prefer to distinguish or debate a point that is what the comments are for. If you want to agree and add a point, comment . Agree or disagree, and comment.  Please be civil and above all else, pray to end abortion in this Land. Pray for Church leaders and for civil authorities. Pray.

More on DC Opportunity Scholarship Programs

U.S. Senate Hearing
Two Archbishop Carroll students (one current; one recent graduate) spoke at a May 13 hearing held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Reform, which is chaired by Senator Joseph Lieberman. In compelling testimony, they talked about how the OSP has changed their lives and given them new opportunities.

President Obama Budget Proposal

That same afternoon, President Obama announced his budget proposal would end the Opportunity Scholarship Program by allowing funds only for students currently in the program and barring new children from entering the program, including younger siblings. This will hurt our city’s children and is likely to create abrupt enrollment losses in several schools, de-stabilizing them for the future. The archdiocese already provides significant financial support for children in the city, including the OSP students, but does not have the resources to replace what is being taken away from our city’s families.

Opportunity Scholarship Website Launched

The Archdiocese of Washington launched a new WEBSITE with facts about the OSP, profiles of recipients, updated news and links, and a page for action alerts. Please share this web address with your community and invite potential supporters to learn more about why it is so important to keep this educational lifeline for children.