In 2004, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops released a statement on Catholics in political life that directed, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” For Catholic Democrats, and especially those related to Notre Dame, rationalizing Pres. Obama’s invitation to speak and receive an honorary degree of laws at Notre Dame’s commencement requires suspending logic or ignoring this statement. That rationalization is more difficult in light of 29 bishops writing Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, condemning his decision to invite Obama. When the leaders of the flock object so strenuously to honoring Obama, it forces you to reconsider either your support of Obama as commencement speaker or your adherence to the Church.
One of the 25 bishops is Francis Cardinal George, the archbishop of Chicago. Cardinal George called the decision “an extreme embarassment” and stated, “whatever else is clear, it is clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation…”
Little did Cardinal George know that in speaking on this matter of the Church he exposed himself to a lecture by William M. Daley, Catholic former Sec. of Commerce and member of the Chicago Daleys. Daley wrote in the Tribune that “Cardinal George’s stand is an embarrassment to Chicago Catholics, and furthers the divide between the church, its members and the rest of America.” He also graced the Cardinal with an exposition on morality, the Church hierarchy, and the role of faith in politics. His argument amounted to the claim that the Church and its colleges should engage in endless dialog with a world that is otherwise permitted to do whatever it wants.
Never mind Daley’s tortured logic. As a member of Clinton’s cabinet, co-chairman of Obama’s presidential campaign, and member of Chicago’s ruling family, Daley is a premier Catholic Democrat. When faced with an irreconcilable tension between his preferred candidate and the incontrovertible teachings of his faith, Daley apparently choses the former. And he doesn’t choose politics over faith quietly: he finds the biggest megaphone he can to impugn the guardians of the faith.
But the fact is that American Catholics are divided over the difficult moral issues of stem-cell research and abortion. It’s important that students, and Catholics generally, be exposed to people with different ideas and ways of thinking. Indeed, it is particularly important for them to hear from President Obama, whom a majority of voters-including a majority of Catholic voters-have chosen to lead our country through difficult times.
In other words, he thinks Cardinal George should reconsider the basic tenets of the Catholic faith in light of popular opinion. In making this claim, Daley is stating that he believes that the Church hierarchy has no role in faith formation. Remember, Catholics believe that the bishops follow in a direct line from the Apostles, whom Jesus Christ entrusted with spreading the Gospel. In Daley’s world it is the people who voted Democratic who must spread the Party platform to the bishops. Does he represent the Democratic view of religion — that when its protectors interfere with the advancement of their politicians, they must be publicly defied and their words distorted? It seems like the more honest approach would be to consider their teachings more thoughtfully or else give up the pretense of commitment to the faith.
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