Building a Catholicism That Can Win Again - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Building a Catholicism That Can Win Again

Patrick O’Hannigan has a fine piece up on the main site defending Mary Ann Glendon’s decision to decline a Laetare Medal from Notre Dame the same day the Catholic school is awarding an honorary degree to President Obama. O’Hannigan defends her from the more substantive criticism of the Bush administration from the perspective of Catholic doctrine. But Glendon has also been criticized for “opting out of engagement with the larger political culture,” denying “the moral legitimacy of the president of the United States,” and being too angry to beat Obama politically.

Well. I’m actually a conservative Methodist, not a Catholic. But it seems to me that one can make a legitimate argument that Catholic institutions should not award high honors to people who support what the Church understands to be an intrinsic moral evil. To do so creates confusion as to whether the Church really believes what it claims to believe about abortion. Maintaining this witness without regard to station, office, or opinion polls is not the same as pretending Obama isn’t really the president because his birth certificate supposedly says he was born on Mars.

Having said that, this objection to Glendon’s non-appearance at Notre Dame has a certain heads-I-win, tails-you-lose quality to it. Meaning Glendon no disrepect, I’m willing to bet that if I walked into a bar — even in D.C. — and asked people who Mary Ann Glendon is, I’d get very few correct answers. Yet if she decided to use a college commencement ceremony to pick a fight with the president of the United States about abortion, it might be a bigger story. I’m further willing to bet that the tone of this coverage would not emphasize how nice it is that religious conservatives are fair-minded and engaged with the larger political culture.

So if Glendon actually did decide to argue abortion with Obama on graduation day and it created a minor controversy, would the people now criticizing her praise her for seizing “this rare chance to articulate her principles directly to Obama?” Or would they worry about how swing voters will react to a leading conservative lecturing our democratically elected president about divisive issues during what is supposed to be a happy occasion?

There is definitely more than one way to look at Glendon’s choice, even outside a “Catholic frame of reference.” But we get into all kinds of problems when our frame of reference for everything becomes: Is this good for the Republicans?

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