The following is an excerpt from Msgr. Harry J Byrne's blog Archangel. In his post Msgr. Byrne is speaking to the Notre Dame controversy, wondering how much damage this controversy could wreak on Catholic dialogue with the Obama administration and Americans in general. This part deals with questions posed by Archbishop John R Quinn. Archbishop Quinn asks some very pertinent questions. I wonder if he felt free to ask them precisely because he's retired.
Retired San Francisco Archbishop John R.Quinn has posed a number of significant questions to be reflected upon by the petitioners and those puzzled by the controversy. Quinn's questions, in summary, are these: If President Obama is forced out, will that diminish the number of abortions in our country? Will it further our pro-life efforts? Will it increase cooperation between the Catholic Church and the administration or will it create tensions and deepen hostility? Will it cause more people to join the pro-life effort? How will it impact on the image and mission of the Church? Might the banishment of the first African-American president from Catholic college campuses be seen as grossly insensitive to our nation's heritage of racial hatred? Will it be used to paint our bishops as supporters of only one political party? Will our Church be seen as not sincerely seeking dialogue but only acquiescence?
The obvious answers to these questions indicate the grave consequences of how this issue plays out. Until recently our bishops have restricted themselves to making judgments about policy, but not about political personages. That has changed. Some bishops have banned pro-choice candidates from Holy Communion; other bishops have told them not to approach the altar. This moves our bishops from confronting issues to confronting personalities. It is an historic move. It neglects the role of the personal conscience of candidates, most of whom are good people, but who erroneously give a priority to the freedom of women over the right to life of the unborn. It is a practice that is the basis of the charge that the Church puts a "don't vote" label on a pro-choice candidate by putting this public spiritual penalty on them without any inquiry process whatever. It is also contrary to our bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document that counsuls broad consideration of many issues, not a narrow focus on one. (The confrontation with personalities is not only historic, it's predominately happening only in the US, only to Democrats, and only over one issue. In the meantime certain clerics are bending over backwards to bring Republicans like Newt Gingrich into the fold--even with his history of adultery and three ex wives. I'm all for forgiveness for past sins, but not when it appears to be applied selectively.)
Despite radical differences on "pro-choice", NY's Cardinal Egan invited Obama, the then presidential-candidate, to speak at the 2008 Al Smith dinner. Cardinal O'Connor was a personal friend of pro-choice Mayor Ed Koch. He even wrote a book with him! Soon to be NY's archbishop, Timothy Dolan, has invited President Obama to his installation on April 15. Obama recently said it well: "We do not govern out of anger." We may well understand the outrage of the extremist anti- abortion people, but we Catholics cannot permit their anger to shape our relationships and the relationships of our Church. (Where's the outrage over this one? Where's the concern about the 'agent of Satan' bringing is malevolent energy into this ceremony? Surely this has to be considered an honor being extended to President Obama? Maybe Archbishop Dolan is only honoring the office and not the man.)
Fr. John Kavanaugh over on Americamagazine, writes:
But we Catholics, we Christians, are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate. We will be known as the group that can be outraged only by abortion and stem cell research— not torture, nor the yearly death of 15 million children under 5, nor the reckless launching of wars, nor other deadly sins. We will also present ourselves as oblivious to our fundamental Catholic teachings on the nature of conscience, the judgment of others’ interior lives, and the sin of slander. There is little or nothing of Christ in the rhetoric of hatred. But ample justification is claimed for the ugliest of acts, especially if it is against “Herod” or evil itself. Most puzzling in the James comment was its ending: “As Ayn Rand said, ‘When you compromise with evil, evil wins.’”
Ayn Rand. There we have it: Ayn Rand’s ramblings as a proof text. Not Benedict, not John Paul II, not the fathers of the church or the Gospels themselves, but Ayn Rand, anti-theist and pro-abortionist. (In the Objectivist of October 1968 she declared: “An embryo has no rights. Abortion is a moral right.”) Among her articulated principles are that money is the only scale of success, pride the only virtue and “I” the one word indicating the only God.
Father Kavanaugh then ends his article by wondering if the Cardinal Newman Society would call for the Notre Dame boycott if the speaker was Ayn Rand rather that Barack Obama. I too, have thought it kind of strange the Ayn Rand's name keeps popping up in discussions regarding President Obama and Notre Dame or in defending Catholic doctrine on abortion. Seems kind of a hypocritical grasp, but she is loved by conservative neocon Republicans, and I guess she wrote more than enough words that proof texting could come up with support for virtually any single position. Of course you can only do that by ignoring the over all context of her writing.
Msgr. Byrne's article asks some really important questions of all who have any claim on the Catholic Church. Can we really afford to let one single issue dominate the discussion in the Public Square and still retain any moral authority in any other arena? Is this one issue so important that it over shadows anything else Barack Obama has accomplished on any other of the important Catholic teachings? Since I have been unable to find any conservative site that has given President Obama any credit for anything he did or said in Europe, I am left to believe that abortion is the only issue which counts.
The last statistic I saw indicated that two Cardinals and 15 Bishops had written Fr. Jenkins asking for the invitation to be rescinded or castigating Notre Dame for their lack of orthodoxy. That leaves over 400 Bishops and Cardinals unaccounted for. I'm not sure what this says, except that we do seem to have a very vocal and very minor group of Bishops setting the agenda for American Catholicism. Are the other 400 quietly acquiescent in the face of the few, or do they have enough sense to see that the few are tearing this Church apart on political party lines. Perhaps they hope their deafening silence will actually send a different message? In any even this silence isn't exactly affirming their solidarity with their one issue vocal brethren. It seems to call it into question. Given all this silence, I don't suppose it's shocking that the only person who actually has dared to question this campaign is a 'retired' Archbishop.
If I was a professional pro life strategist, (paid Republican activist) I would be seriously considering dropping the Notre Dame campaign. The longer this goes on the more damage it will do to the supposed Catholic wall of intransigence on recriminalizing abortion, and give more credence to the Catholic pro lifers who understand the legal battle is a dead end and are working with the Obama administration to deal with the root causes. However, as one of those pro lifers who is in the progressive camp, I hope they keep it up. The faster the campaign to recriminalize abortion is discounted, the faster we can get down to dealing with strategies that actually do save lives. In this campaign President Obama does represent life, unlike his predecessor.