Bishop of Colorado Springs on the Notre Dame scandal...
May 15, 2009 A letter to Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, CSC
Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, S.T.D.
If we consider the many threats to our faith and the practice of religion that come from outside the Catholic Church (e.g., the increasing civil legislation that seeks to redefine marriage; the proposed rescinding of health care workers’ right of conscience; the mounting efforts to make contraception and abortion-on-demand ever more available — even to the very young), it is particularly disturbing to witness the scandalous turmoil within the Catholic Church over the invitation from the president of the University of Notre Dame to President Barack Obama to speak at this spring’s commencement and be awarded an honorary degree.
Several months ago, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, announced that he had invited President Obama — the most radical and ardent pro-abortion president ever elected — not only to speak at the university’s commencement exercises, but also — incredibly — to receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree.
The invitation was given and its acceptance announced without any prior consultation with the local bishop, John D’Arcy. Bishop D’Arcy immediately responded by telling Father Jenkins that his invitation flew directly in the face of the 2004 teaching of the American bishops, Catholics in Political Life, which stated that "the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor whose 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." Bishop D’Arcy asked Father Jenkins to rescind his invitation. Father Jenkins replied that he would not do so.
The uproar over this whole affair is not unexpected. Many bishops, as well as students and alumni of Notre Dame, and countless Catholics throughout the country, have made their outrage known. The sad fact is that it was a majority of people who claim to be Catholics who helped elect President Obama. But this does not excuse Father Jenkins’ disobedience toward his own bishop, as well as the United States bishops as a whole. I do not suggest that Father Jenkins’ invitation was done out of malice, but his continued intransigence is not befitting a Catholic priest.
Last month I wrote to Father Jenkins with my own plea that he cancel the president’s appearance at Notre Dame. I did not make the letter public at that time, but, having received a number of questions from the faithful of our diocese, I have decided to do so now. My letter follows:
April 11, 2009
Rev. John L. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame
300 Main Building
South Bend, IN 46556
Dear Father Jenkins,
I join my voice to those of many of my brother bishops and those of hundreds of thousands of lay faithful to ask that you rescind your invitation to President Obama to speak at the Notre Dame commencement and receive an honorary degree. As you know, the priests and brothers of Holy Cross have long been associated with this diocese. In the years of my service here, I have found them to be among the very finest of our clergy. This unfortunate decision of yours now reflects negatively on these good men.
I have read your apologia in defense of your action. It is not convincing. Your attempt to justify your invitation by appealing to the title of the 2004 publication of the USCCB is little more than an exercise in legalism. We Catholics must be about the business of standing unambiguously and always on the side of life. Regardless of the title of the document, Notre Dame, arguably the premier Catholic university in the United States, has sent a message to countless Catholics that you will not take this stance. I am convinced that this will prove to be most unfortunate for the university and for the faith of many, many Catholics. And your invitation to the president speaks far more loudly than your disclaimer that you disagree with him on the life issues.
Even though you have made it very clear that you will not withdraw your invitation to the president, my conscience demands that I express my profound disappointment.
May Our Lady, patroness of the university and Mother of the church, seek the graces needed for you to reverse the action you have taken.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan
Bishop of Colorado Springs
source: The Colorado Catholic Herald