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.

4 Replies to “President’s Address at Notre Dame”

  1. I’m not sure that being nice and agreeable necessarily precludes being truthful and maintaining integrity. There is much in the president’s speech that is bothersome, but is it possible to look at it and see that what is wrong with the speech is precisely where the dialogue needs to happen?

    Is it possible to affirm what is good and simultaneously not affirm, even decry, what is not good?

    Chesterton once said “My country right or wrong is like my mother drunk or sober.” Still, because I love my mother, and because she is my mother, I can laud her for all that she is good, and still not budge an inch from the fact that I want her, call her, and insist on her being sober too?

    At least the President admits that between pro-life and pro-choice, at the most fundamental level, there is no possibility of compromise. Those who, like George Bush, think abortion is ok if the child is conceived by rape, with severe birth defect, or to save the life of the mother are insidious the pro-life position because they betray the truth of the pro-life position. A child is always infinite value; not “an infinite value unless it costs us a lot.” At that point, what exactly determines the “costs us a lot?”

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