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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Notre Dame's Fr. Jenkins Interpretation of Catholics in Political Life

Notre Dame's President Fr. Jenkins issued a statement to the Board of Govenors explaining his "interpretation" of the USCCB's statement on Catholics in Political Life. 

Here is the important bit:

Two key sentences of the document have been frequently quoted regarding the invitation to President Obama:

"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."

Because the title of the document is "Catholics in Political Life", we understood this to refer to honoring Catholics whose actions are not in accord with our moral principles.  This interpretation was supported by canon lawyers we consulted, who advised us that, by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in "defiance" of it.  Moreover, fellow university presidents have told me that their bishops have told them that in fact it is only Catholic politicians who are referred to in this document.[emphasis added]

There is only one way to understand how Fr. Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, could display such a powerful failure of adult education. Humanae Vitae is the reason. We have more than a generation of Catholics who have grown up learning how to "interpret" statements of Catholic doctrine on Faith and Morals. This is just one more example of the "fruit" of dissent. 

No one could possiblly come to this conclusion by taking a plain view meaning of the text. Let's have a closer look at the statement in its immediate context (not just the title of the document):

  • We need to continue to teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders [EXPLICITLY CATHOLIC] to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Our teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected in our parishes and our educational, health care and human service ministries. 

  • We need to do more to persuade all people [NOT JUST CATHOLICS] that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials [EXPLICITLY NOT JUST CATHOLICS]. We welcome conversation initiated by political leaders [ALL, NOT JUST CATHOLICS] themselves.

  • Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission. As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates[CATHOLIC OR NOT]. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people [CATHOLIC] so that they can examine the positions of candidates [NOT JUST CATHOLICS] and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.

  • The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those [NOTE THAT THIS IS THE MOST BROAD CATEGORY USED, SO WE ARE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT "PUBLIC OFFICIALS" BUT ANYONE, CATHOLIC AND NON-CATHOLIC] 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. 

  • We commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials [AGAIN, BOTH CATHOLIC AND NON-CATHOLIC] who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.

  • A plain sense reading of the text reveals that Catholic communities and institutions should not give awards, honors or platforms to anyone who acts against fundamental moral principles, regardless of whether they are Catholic, non-Catholic, a public official, or poet, or scientists, etc. It is the defiant ACT that puts a person on the list, not their creed, profession, or political standing. 

    It would be absurd to allow a non-Catholic pro-abort the social approbation of an award, honor or platform, simply because he was not Catholic. Likewise, it would be absurd to allow a Catholic pro-abort scientist the social approbation, simply because he is not a Catholic in "political life."

    The idea that somehow "only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in 'defiance' of it," is astonishing in its open efforts at deceptive interpretation. 

    First, the issue is not acting in defiance of "Church teaching," but rather "our fundamental moral PRINCIPLES." Fr. Jenkins should know that these principles stem NOT from the authority of the Magisterium of the Church, but from the universially accessible body of Truth known as the Natural Law. The Church acts as guardian and public conscience regarding these principles, they are not True by virtue of the Church's authority, they are True by virtue of universial moral reasoning. 

    Second, even without the USCCB's statement, there is the long standing morally applicable issue of SCANDAL (CC 2284-87). So even if the USCCB's statement is precisely as Fr. Jenkins would lead us to believe, he still has the problem of scandal to get over in his selection of the most radical pro-abortion President in Amercia's history to give an award, honor, and platform. 

    There are other huge holes in his argument that I will leave aside. But the reality is that the Canon Lawyers consulted should be made known as too should be the other Catholic University Presidents who affirmed this wild interpretation. 

    A commencement and honorary doctorate is not a dialogue forum, it is an award, honor and platform, forum. Invite Obama to come to a conference on the Legal Protection of the Unborn to have a "dialogue" he won't come. 

    However he will come to get his Catholic Golden Ring so he can bear it forth to all the unsuspecting Catholics who will now think his ideas about the unborn have been ratified by the University where "Catholics go to Think."

    What a profound shame. 

    Lord have Mercy on Fr. Jenkins.