Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Choosing Prestige Over Truth

Recently it was confirmed that President Obama has accepted an invitation to speak at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony this spring. Understandably, this has elicited a stream of criticism of the University President's decision to invite a public figure whose views and policy positions stand in direct opposition to some of the core tenants of the Catholic faith. He has responded to the criticism by claiming that President Obama's visit to the school could be one of the first steps in his conversion of heart. Yet, there is nothing on the itinerary like a debate or round table discussion on life and death issues. Instead, the President will have a national soapbox from which to speak at one of the, supposed, pinnacles of Catholic Education. Then the school will further confuse American Catholics by awarding President Obama an honorary degree, then he will leave on Air Force One.

I don't know about you, but this seriously bothers me. I am in deep agreement with the Bishop of South Bend, who has been quoted as saying that Notre Dame University must seriously consider whether it is choosing prestige over truth in their decision to honor President Obama in such a way. Life Site News provides greater detail on this developing story, as well as information about how you can make your opinion known on this matter here. I know we have a Builder Husband who is a Notre Dame grad, what it is the buzz on the inside, B-Mama?


Right Said Red said...

And one of our Builders is a Notre Dame grad! I'm awaiting your thoughts...

I signed the petition, as I find this whole situation horrible. It is particularly upsetting after the President's recent anti-life moves (stem cells, abortion funding in poor countries, AND the the repeal of the health care freedom of conscience act). Upsetting indeed!

JesusThroughMary said...

I think the honorary degree is much worse than the invitation to speak. I could almost see one making an argument that having the President of the United States speak at commencement is an honor regardless of his moral or political views, that he's doing the school an honor and not vice versa. After all, they invite every President regardless of party or creed. I wouldn't buy it, but it's arguable.

Awarding an honorary degree to a man who is so clearly opposed to even the most basic teachings in natural law, much less of the Church, is unconscionable. The state of Catholic education is abominable from K through Ph.D., overwhelmed by modernist educational philosophy and relativism masked as academic freedom, but I thought Notre Dame had been recovering its Catholic identity in recent years. They have shown otherwise. Pray for Fr. Jenkins that, on this day when Mary said yes to giving her Son life, he may have the courage to stand up for those whose mothers lack the courage of our Mother.

Juris Mater said...

While I was studying at ND Law School, and my husband also worked for the university for a year, we constantly caught wind of a supposed "tension" in ND's identity between seeking prestige and staying true to the Catholic mission. What I think the administration at ND sometimes fails to realize, though, is that it is the University's faithfulness to its Catholic identity that has kept it prestigious. In the law school, for the most part, the most qualified and prestigious professors turned down offers to teach at top 10 law schools in order to remain at the best solidly Catholic law school to help further its Catholic mission. Same with the students. Many, many of the best students, at the tops of our law classes, chose ND over top 10 schools in order to study the law illuminated by the truths of the Catholic faith and ethics. The only thing excellent about ND is its Catholicism... otherwise it's just one among 50 or so top national universities. By continuing to sell out its Catholic identity, ND will sink in the rankings. It will lose its foothold even in terms of secular prestige. Moves like this are very short-sighted and difficult to understand. If Obama was just mainstream liberal and not Catholic, inviting him to speak at commencement and giving him an honorary degree would be debatable. But he's wasted no time in proving himself to be radically opposed to fundamental truths about God and the human person, and, what's more, he's dragging our whole country along with him and imposing evil on all of us. I hope the best for Notre Dame... that this incredibly controversial decision will end up making the University reflect deeply and soberly on where it plans to go in the future. Forsaking Catholicism will also mean forsaking prestige.

AWOL Mommy said...

JM, sorry for not mentioning you as the grad, I have no idea how that slipped my mind. And you are way more firey than Mr. B-Mama, so, yes, right on. Your point is so well articulated. Are you a graduate of a prestigious law school or something?

JesusThroughMary said...

Apparently not so prestigious anymore, since they have abandoned the source of their prestige.

At least the University President has. What was the state of the Faith in student life when you were out there, JM? Did you see many professors at Mass or participating in the Faith?

Alex said...

My grandfather was an art professor at Notre Dame for 30 years (from 1953 to mid-80s). He was immensely proud of ND but became very disillusioned by the hiring practices of the University during his time on the faculty; it was not just that ND began to hire non-Catholic professors, but that they began hiring professors who were agnostics, and even atheists, and teaching their students according to those perspectives. With the decision to award Obama an honorary degree, my grandfather is surely rolling over in his grave.

I think that your reading of the situation is very perceptive, JM, and it makes me so sad to think that the Golden Dome could be blemished by ND's recent short-sighted moves. Like JesusThroughMary, I thought that the University was working to recover its Catholic identity.

Anonymous said...

I'm an alumna, angry & heartbroken by this. One of the contexts that no on seems to have been paying attention to is that for several years Fr. Jenkins has been harping on Catholic identity & raised the sticky issue of hiring more Catholic faculty, since the univ. had become on dependent on the students to retain a Catholic culture--and plenty of those students arrive not-too-well catechized.

Somehow I don't think this fiasco is going to help with efforts to recruit faithful Catholic faculty, or encourage faithful Catholic alumni like me to send the kids there. So I'm forced to conclude that either Fr. Jenkins has completely lost touch with what Catholic identity is, or he's just stupid and has been out-manoevered by those on campus who's like to see the identity continue to slide left. The alumni/PR magazine "Notre Dame Magazine" contains nothing that would alarm the Democratic Party leadership, believe me.

Personally, I think Jenkins got out-smarted on this one, which is inexcusable. But no matter what happens at graduation, I think he's going to be replaced within 18 mo. The ND charter says the pres. must be a CSC priest, but the order isn't exactly overrun with qualified candidates; after Jenkins' successor, they may have to allow a lay leader. I think the next 2 presidents of ND are going to be the folks who have the most to say about ND's Catholic identity; Jenkins is a lame duck on this issue no matter what.

At the moment I'm pregnant, which seems to add insult to injury.

Erin said...

I am also an alumn of NDLS, and have been monitoring the blogs/email threads/phone calls for the last few days. The Alumni base is "livid" about this, to use a word from one my alumn family members.

To answer a question posed above, one of the things that gives me hope about ND is the faith of the student body and the faith of the faculty (at least at the law school, I know the university-wide faculty is debatably different that the law professors). Some 30+ masses are said on campus every day. 100+ every sunday. And people (college students!) go to these masses! People (college students!) stand in line for confession every single day at the Basilica. During the daily mass at the Basilica there was always a line of backpack and northface-wearing college kids usually 10-15 deep waiting for confession. Amazing. There is adoration every day and bible studies, fellowship meetings, etc every night. The sacraments are abound at Notre Dame, and while there will be no news stories, press releases, blog posts or email threads about the prevelence of the sacraments, it does count for (a big) something. Our little 15-seat chapel at the law school regularly overflowed with 25-30 people (including lots of babies :)) for daily mass. Law professors are seen at daily mass, celebrating feast days and openly discussing their Catholic faith and identity. Masses for Holy days of obligation are packed. Jesus is still present at Notre Dame despite the folly of her mortal leaders.

I am upset about the Obama invitation. My husband and I are currently drafting our letter to Fr. Jenkins and I encourage everyone else to right a letter the old fashioned way. I am most upset BECAUSE ND is still special and is still a place where the sacraments and faith abound.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your comments on this dreadful issue. My son is a freshman at ND. I was very worried about the Catholic identity issue in sending him there and wondered whether there would be enough opportunity for strengthening his Catholic faith. I was very encouraged when we went to freshman orientation, and very pleasantly surprised by Fr Jenkins.

"Jesus is still present at Notre Dame despite the folly of her mortal leaders." This is what has sustained my belief in the goodness of ND and that it is the best place for our son. With Jesus physically present in every dormitory on campus, they can't go too far afield.

Kathy in TN