Monday, May 18, 2009

Notre Dame des Douleurs

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It's over, at long last.

Maybe in more ways than one.

Sunday, President Obama journeyed to Notre Dame. He came, he saw, he divided, he conquered. And America's Catholic bishops sat helpless on the sidelines as the university named "Our Lady" bestowed high honors upon the country's most powerful proponent of key elements of the "culture of death."

When it all was over, death had emerged as just another good-faith solution to life's problems -- including the "problem" of life itself -- and 2,000 years of unchanged and uncompromising Catholic doctrine about the right to be born as the wellspring of all other rights had the patina of something held fast only by fanatics, fools or both.

Over and out.

Catholic academics like Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, are quick to employ half-hearted rhetorical nods to what the Catholic Church proclaims about the "culture of life." But it's more informative to watch what they actually do.

WHAT THEY DO is bestow honorary degrees upon uncompromising supporters of abortion, partial-birth abortion, government funding of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and government funding of embryonic stem-cell research. What they do is give those uncompromising proponents of the Expendable Human a bully pulpit to undercut the Catholic Church's clear teaching . . . on the church's dime.

What they do is throw protesters in jail for pointing out the obvious spiritual and intellectual treason these Catholic academics commit against their church and their God. Assuming, of course, we're still talking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph here.

What they do is teach Catholic young people -- and others in their spiritual and intellectual care -- to regard gospel, doctrine and tradition as the most regressive among a panoply of lifestyle choices and public-policy options.

While Catholic educators like Father Jenkins at Notre Dame prattle on about "academic freedom" and "open dialogue" with policymakers and the broader culture, what we invariably end up with at occasions such as Sunday's commencement is a monologue. And it ain't Jesus or one of His spokespersons doing the talking.

FRANKLY, it would be nice to see a little "open dialogue" and engagement with the popular culture. Unfortunately, I don't see Barack Obama accepting any invitations to a freewheeling debate sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. More unfortunately, I don't see Notre Dame sponsoring such a debate and inviting the president to take part, either.

There are two sides to this cultural divide and this abortion argument. A prominent fixture of one side got to make his case at Notre Dame's graduation.

The other side . . . largely is in jail. Notre Dame officials keep putting it there.

INSTEAD, this is what we got at Our Lady's university -- the Blessed Virgin Mary's namesake -- in the name of cultural engagement and open dialogue. Roll the videotape . . . or The Associated Press account, as the case may be:

On campus, Obama entered the arena to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 12,000. But as the president began his commencement address, at least three protesters interrupted it. One yelled, "Stop killing our children."

The graduates responded by chanting "Yes we can", the slogan that became synonymous with Obama's presidential campaign. Obama seemed unfazed, saying Americans must be able to deal with things that make them "uncomfortable."

THAT, MY FRIENDS, was a real-life metaphor. It was symbolic. And I'm half inclined to believe it wasn't an accident -- not in the cosmic scheme of things.

One of the uncouth and divisive protesters makes the unreasonable request to stop killing the most defenseless of our children. Then, as police drag him away, the graduating class of this Catholic university starts chanting "Yes, we can!"

"Yes, we can!" Kill our children.

"Yes, we can!" Thumb our noses at the church.

"Yes, we can!" Blow off the protests of a compromised and feckless episcopate . . . which in this instance happens to be absolutely right. (Ultimately gutless, but nevertheless right on the biology, theology and ecclesiology.)

"Yes, we can!" Eat the forbidden fruit.

"Yes, we can!" Be as gods!

Father Jenkins professes a commitment to dialogue. Unfortunately, the church of John Jenkins has nothing constructive to say.

To be more specific, the church of John Jenkins has had all the wrong things to say to its children. It has lost a couple of generations and now is going for the trifecta.

IN A WORLD choking on "Yes, we can," the church Notre Dame has come to represent is "about as useful as teats on a boar hog," as we used to say down on the bayou. It is time the ordinary responsible for what has become a lethal embarrassment to the Catholic Church do something useful himself and put Notre Dame out of our misery.

There is one Catholic truth. Notre Dame's leadership apparently doesn't see it that way. So, can we end the charade that one has anything to do with the other?

Yes, if Bishop John D'Arcy tells Notre Dame it no longer can call itself Catholic, the American church might take almost as big a hit as the Blighting Irish. But then again, the Catholic Church took that hit decades ago.

Catholicism took that hit when its leaders stopped leading . . . stopped teaching . . . stopped caring about raising Catholic children in the faith. The only thing left to do now is to start re-establishing that, yes, it does mean something to be Catholic.

Right now, the world thinks being Catholic means standing before the president of the United States and asking, in effect, "What is truth?" Let's not allow the Class of 2009's enthusiastic embrace of that sentiment be our Final Answer.

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