Sunday, July 5, 2009

Should the Pope be fired?

It was heresy when the University of Notre Dame invited pro-abortion President Barack Obama to speak at its 2009 commencement a few weeks ago. To bestow such an honor on a (non-Catholic) public figure was an insult to pious Catholics everywhere and was an act of blatant disobedience to Church teaching. The controversy spawned a movement seeking the ouster of Father John Jenkins as University President. Alumni groups banded together to cease donations to Notre Dame. The intended recipient of the Laetare Medal (the highest honor the University bestows) snubbed and publicly embarrassed Notre Dame by declining to accept the award because of the Obama invitation. Thousands of articles were written, harshly condemning Notre Dame for its faithlessness, for selling out, for abandoning its Catholic tradition. Numerous American bishops joined the chorus of criticism and fed into the feeding frenzy.

Notre Dame and Father Jenkins weren't entirely without allies, but it can't have been easy to stand behind the original decision to have Obama speak. I'm sure there were moments when Fr. Jenkins was a very lonely priest.

So it was with great interest that I read today that during his trip to Europe for the G-8 summit, President Obama will take some time out of his busy schedule to drop by the Vatican and pay a visit on Pope Benedict. That's right, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church is inviting pro-abortion Barack Obama over to his pad for a photo-op and a little one-on-one visit. I know His Holiness probably won't give Obama an honorary degree, but I'd still have to rate a private audience with the Pope as an extremely high honor.

[Insert sound of crickets chirping here]

So, is the Pope now a heretic too? Will the critics call the Holy Father's Catholicism into question? Will there be a campaign calling for his ouster, accompanied by a donation boycott?

I didn't think so.

You can e-mail your apologies directly to Father Jenkins at


John said...

Thanks OC Domer, a lot of the Irish faithful needed to hear this!

JohnF said...


Anonymous said...

Since Pope John Paul II met with the only other pro-abortion U.S. President of the past 30 years (Bill Clinton) and Notre Dame didn't see fit to invite him to speak at commecement or grant him an honorary degree, the inconsistency here is with Fr. Jenkins' actions, not the Pope's.

iwejrte said...

Clinton came and addressed the student body at the University of Notre Dame during his campaign in 1992. Please refer to the Kevin Coyne book "Domers" for more, and do some research next time, or plan on Monk Malloy knocking down your door. Thanks,

Saint Louis U. '05

Anonymous said...

Once again, did Clinton speak at commencement and did he receive an honorary degree? Research will show that the answer to both is still no.

Anonymous said...


I must agree with the previous poster. The fact that CANDIDATE Bill Clinton spoke to the Notre Dame students is nothing more than a red herring. In fact, Monk Malloy had EIGHT chances to have PRESIDENT Bill Clinton deliver the commencement address and to give PRESIDENT Bill Clinton an honorary degree, but if memory serves correctly neither happened. Thus, while "Domers" is certainly a good read, its contents would not be relevant in any effort to parallel the actions of Father Jenkins and the Pope.

Anonymous said...

You compare apples and oranges. The Pope is a head of state; Obama is as well. A different game is being played here. Father Jenkins let himself and ND be used. We will have to see how plays out, but I doubt if Obama will come out of this seeming larger than life.

Anonymous said...

President Clinton was invited to speak at commencement in 1993; however, he declined the invitation. Let's not split hairs on the reason being that he spoke during his candidacy. The fact remains that Monk Malloy did extend an invitation to a pro-abortion president. The only difference is that Obama accepted his invitation and Clinton declined.

Bill said...

What is the source for the assertion that Fr. Malloy invited President Clinton? If true, what difference would it make? F

Peter said...

Sophistry abounds with you dear sir , perhaps you did not read Dr. Osterle's primer on logic. It was mandatory for Catholic collegians at one time.I did not expect posters to have much knowledge of him but I was under the impression that ND still used his book. He was after all an ND man.

OC Domer said...

Folks, all the talk of Monk Malloy & Bill Clinton is B.S. I don't recall anyone this spring objecting to the Obama invitation by arguing that Fr. Jenkins should follow the Malloy/Clinton precedent.

Rather, ND was lambasted for its "failure" to adhere to Church "doctrine" of not bestowing honors upon pro-abortion politicians. Now that the Pope himself has seen fit to bestow a significant honor on Obama, I believe the righteousness of the criticism of the University over the invitation is called into serious question.

Granger Irish said...

It all depends on what happens during the visit. His pro abortion stance was not challenged on his visit to Notre Dame by Father Jenkins. Will the Pope bring it up? If so, that brings the visit into a different light. If not, then I also think the Pope is wrong for meeting with him. See there? There is consistency in some people's way of thinking.

PS: I am against abortion (sorry democrats/liberals) and war and defense buildup (sorry republicans and conservatives). I am for consistency in beliefs (sorry pidgeon holers).

BigE said...

This is apples and oranges. ND honored BHO with a degree. This was not a forum to discuss issues. The Pope, as leader of the Catholic church, meets with many heads of state in dialogue, especially the United States. The Pope, as JPII did, will strongly state the churches position on abortion and other issues. Remember, prior to becoming Pope, he was considered JPII's watchdog, guarding the faith from liberal influences within the church.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think an ex Hitler youth member should have been Pope anyway.
Jenkins was wrong in giving Obama the degree, and while we all need forgiveness having such an individual as head of the Church was a bad move.
Both gentlemen have some credibility issues.

OC Domer said...

Anonymous - I was about to delete your comment, but I think I'll leave it up as a monument to bad argument.

I don't know you, but I'd have to bet you're liberal and/or a Democrat. It's always the liberals who are first to play the "Hitler" card when they can't win an argument. That's what passes for dialogue today: If someone disagrees with you, call them a Nazi and attack them (or their kids) personally rather than using facts and logic to support your position. And do it anonymously!


wsmitheGH said...

Amen to that! Very good take!

Notre Dame Football Weekends at!

Anonymous said...

Regarding my comment on the Popes' past that is a matter of public record.

Indeed I am politically conservative.

The sensitivity I think comes about because of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. But even that was not formalized until 1870.

By the way ,that doctrine was not without controversey among Catholics at the time.

I do agree that left wingers often use the Hitler analogy, but having someone from that background as Pope was in my mind ill advised.

I am sure I am not alone, in that belief.

Anonymous said...

As Christians, discussions of actions {mine or others} of various Popes or ND Presidents are eclipsed in comparison , with our perspectives on Jesus.
Rev. John P Meier of our theology department {formerly of Catholic University}has written a 4 volume series, A MARGINAL JEW, which discusses, Jesus in a historical and religious context.
I have read most of volume 1 and some of volume 2.
Rather than try to characterize his writing I would suggest googling John Meier.
Thoughtful, compelling, riveting and informative are just some adjectives I would use.
ND is lucky to have him.

Fr. Andrew said...

OC Domer- I am a long time blog-roll reader who admires your passion for Our Lady. I'm surprised you didn't do a bit more google-sleuthing to uncover the clear difference that is taking place.

First off: the issue with the President at Notre Dame was not his presence but Notre Dame's honoring him with a Doctorate in Law. See Bishop D'Arcy's (Bishop of South Bend/Fort Wayne) lucid statement clarifying his and others' concern. Particular mention is made of the honorary degree: "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.” — “Catholics in Political Life,” USCCB."

The Pope's reception of President Obama was a substantially different occasion than a commencement address. This is, obstensibly, a state visit between the head of the United States and the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Additionally, we now know that there was an engagement between His Holiness and the President on their substantially different views, though cordial, no doubt. This exchange included the gift of Dignitatis Personae, a document from 2008 beginning: "The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death."

I apologize for typos. I'm jet lagged from a trip to Rome, coincidentally. Though I was not honored to meet the Pope. God Bless you and Our Lady keep you.

OC Domer said...

Fr. Andrew,

I'm so glad you enjoy the blog. Thank you for your service to the Church and to your flock in Aberdeen.

Three points in response to your comment:

1. I think the document "Catholics in Political Life" applies to, well, Catholics. It was issued as a response to so-called Catholics who very publicly supported abortion policies and laws while still attending mass and receiving Holy Communion. Folks like John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Rudy Giuliani, etc... President Obama is not a Catholic and so, in Fr. Jenkins' interpretation, with which I concur, the document does not speak to his situation. Obama is not a Catholic in political life.

2. Many have latched onto the granting of the honorary degree as the aspect that is offensive to them. I think this is a red herring and a distinction without a difference. If the University's historical practice was to not award such a degree to the commencement speaker, I am very skeptical that that Notre Dame's critics would have been silent in the face of an invitation to speak without the granting of an honorary degree. As noted in your comment, the statement on Catholics in Political Life admonishes against "awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." If no degree were conferred I fully expect that the University would instead have been lambasted for providing Obama with a "platform" or an "honor" in any case. Which is why I point out in my original post that the Pope, by meeting with Obama, provided the President with both a platform and a great honor.

3. If the Pope can meet with the President in his capacity as head of state rather than as a Catholic priest, why can't Fr. Jenkins extend the invitation to the President as the head of a University rather than as a Catholic priest?

I hope you keep visiting OC Domer. I spent some time in South Dakota while I was in the Air Force, although I was stationed in North Dakota. We liked going to S.D. because the weather was so much milder there.

Yours in Notre Dame,

OC Domer

Fr. Andrew said...

OC Domer-

I'm in the midst of summer faith camps, so pardon the gap.

1. Bishop D'Arcy disagrees that the statement on Catholics in the Political Life applies only to Catholic Politicians. I refer to my previously linked article from Bishop D'Arcy including his first point: "The meaning of the sentence in the USCCB document relative to Catholic institutions is clear. It places the responsibility on those institutions, and indeed, on the Catholic community itself. "

Bishop D'Arcy also points out that, as the Bishops are the authors of the statement it is theirs to interpret.

2. Regarding the "red herring" of the honorary Doctorate of Law I think it is precisely the point of contention for classical and orthodox Catholic sensibilities. In the Classical and Catholic vision, law is the application of the virtue of Justice- to render to each man his due. Abortion is a grave injustice and therefore a politician who legislates abortion is hurting the rule of law.

While I'm sure some pundits would have barked if some other honorary or even no honorary degree were given, it would be different in the eyes of the Bishops, most importantly Bishop D'Arcy.

3. Your attempt to make the distinction between the Pope and Father Jenkins fails.

His Holiness is meeting with private discussion and not giving the President a chance to address a large group of Catholics in a commending fashion (thus the nature of a commencement address). As you rightly state, Pope Benedict is trying to establish and build connections that are favorable to the Universal Church with one political leader.

Father Jenkins and the University of Notre Dame are a Catholic Institution of higher learning. Despite the efforts of the "Land O Lakes Conference" and others, all Catholic institutions are bound to the full Gospel requirements at all times. If Father Jenkins had met with President Obama in a setting of dialogue- a closed door meeting with a brief press "grin and grip" at the beginning/end, it would be a comparable setting. Instead, the President was given an opportunity to monologue to the student body in an official capacity.

I'm most interested in your thoughtful response to point one, Bishop D'Arcy's own interpretation of the USCCB 2004 statement. Thanks for the reasoned discussion. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.