Most Rev. Bishop W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph hit the nail on the head in his answer to Jack Smith of the Catholic Key Blog on the question of dialogue.
“Can we negotiate with intrinsic evil?”
JS:Without identifying any person or group, Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins in his introduction of the President warned against a tendency to “demonize each other”. Were the bishops who spoke in opposition to an honorary doctorate of law for President Obama “demonizing” him or Notre Dame?
BF: I think the bishops (and many others) were pointing out the hurtful nature of the invitation. As I reread Fr. Jenkins’ remarks I found it fell into three parts. In the first part Fr. Jenkins himself uses a whole series of very, very hard words. He uses the words – division, pride, contempt, demonize, anger, distort, hateful, condemn, hostility. And one might wonder whether he uses these words as a kind of a caricature of the 60 to 70 bishops who have spoken out against his invitation.
The center part is all about dialogue. He uses the word dialogue, I think, six times. And he quotes it from Pope Benedict, and he quotes it from Ex Corde Ecclesiae and he quotes from the Second Vatican Council.
And in the third part, he expresses his admiration for the President. So this seems to be the way he sets up the President’s talk for him – to speak in a very negative way about anyone who appears to be contrary to the decision they made, and then to stress the primacy of dialogue, and then offer his admiration of the President. Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, “May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?” and I think the answer is no.
JS: The President also spoke against reducing those with differing views to caricature. Is that what these bishops have done with regard to the President’s actions on life?
BF: The bishops realize the very destructive decisions that President Obama promised to make concerning the life issues, and now has been making in connection with abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. This is serious business; it is about life and death. If in speaking out on these things, we are characterized as being angry or condemnatory – then so be it. Such actions are worthy of condemnation.
This is part of the scandal of Notre Dame’s invitation to the President – that it has the potential of confusing people concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy.
Bishop Finn is too kind to come out and say what other pundits have suggested…that confusing Catholics, and driving them away from church teaching was perhaps the plan all along:
George Weigel at NRO said:
In order to secure the political advantage Obama had gained among Catholic voters last November, the president of the United States decided that he would define what it means to be a real Catholic in 21st-century America — not the bishop of Fort Wayne–South Bend, who in sorrow declined to attend Notre Dame’s commencement; not the 80-some bishops who publicly criticized Notre Dame’s decision to invite the president to receive an honorary degree; not the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which explicitly and unambiguously instructed Catholic institutions not to do what Notre Dame did. He, President Obama, would settle the decades-long intra-Catholic culture war in favor of one faction — the faction that had supported his candidacy and that had spent the first months of his administration defending his policies.
and Paul Mirengoff of Powerline said the other day:
In fairness to Obama, these interests are considerable. Obama hopes to drive a wedge between the leaders of the Catholic Church and rank-and-file Catholics in order to substantially reduce Church leaders and their teachings as a moral force in the United States. Such a reduction, in turn, will remove a barrier to Obama’s left-wing agenda, especially his left-wing social agenda, just as the steep decline in the authority of Catholic Church paved the way the leftist agenda in certain European countries.
and Laura Ingraham opined to Bill O’Reilly, yesterday, that Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was politically motivated.
More from the interview:
JS: Was there an overriding message to the commencement proceedings that came through strongest?
BF: I think the message of the day was this – that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue. And then the President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.
And then, amazingly, everybody gave him a standing ovation. The perception unfortunately was that this was a completely acceptable position of his and, because he is a bright and talented man, this trumps the destructive decisions that he’s making day after day.
You can almost hear the frustration in his voice.