Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moving Up The Spiritual Food Chain--Notre Dissapoints Cardinal DiNardo

Nothing like a little incense for a dramatic photo effect. This really is Cardinal DiNardo.

Notre Dame draws Texas fire from Cardinal DiNardo
Houston, Texas, Mar 28, 2009 / 04:46 pm (CNA).-

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, on Friday became the first American cardinal to publicly criticize the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to be this year's commencement speaker and to award him with an honorary law degree.

In his weekly "A Shepherd's Message" in the Texas Catholic Herald, Cardinal DiNardo expresses his disappointment with Notre Dame's decision.

Cardinal DiNardo begins his column by commenting on Pope Benedict's recent letter explaining his decision to lift the excommunications of the four bishops ordained by the schismatic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Praising the Pope's call for internal peace in the Church, the Cardinal says that "vigorous and heartfelt discussion, even debate, needs to be placed in the arms of charity for effectiveness." (So CNA why don't we just use a completely misleading headline. Cardinal DiNardo did not call down fire on Notre Dame.)

"In light of what I wrote above," the cardinal says in the final part of his column, "I want to venture a comment on the recently released statement of the University of Notre Dame; that statement noted that the President has accepted an invitation to give the Commencement Address this year as well as receive an Honorary Law Degree."

“I find the invitation very disappointing,” Cardinal DiNardo writes.

"Though I can understand the desire by a university to have the prestige of a commencement address by the President of the United States, the fundamental moral issue of the inestimable worth of the human person from conception to natural death is a principle that soaks all our lives as Catholics, and all our efforts at formation, especially education at Catholic places of higher learning."

According to Cardinal DiNardo, “the President has made clear by word and deed that he will promote abortion and will remove even those limited sanctions that control this act of violence against the human person. The Bishops of the United States published a document a few years ago asking all Catholic universities to avoid giving a platform or an award to those politicians or public figures who promote the taking of unborn human life. Even given the dignity of Office of the President, this offer is still providing a platform and an award for a public figure who has been candid on his pro-abortion views." (President Obama is not Catholic and is entitled to different views. I have never heard President Obama promote abortion. I have heard him uphold the constitutionality of choice concerning what is a legal act in this country---just as Cardinal DiNardo has experienced with Texas laws concerning the death penalty. I do not consider all death penalty advocates to be promoting executions. Some of them are actually upholding the laws of the State of Texas regarding the State's right to execute.)

"Particularly troubling, he continues, is the Honorary Law Degree since it recognizes that the person is a 'Teacher,' in this case of the Law. I think that this decision requires charitable but vigorous critique. (Barack Obama is a teacher of Constitutional law.)

Cardinal DiNardo was also joined by fellow Texas bishop Gregory Aymond, who also spoke about the scandal on Friday.

"In my opinion,” writes the Bishop of Austin, “it is very clear that in this case the University of Notre Dame does not live up to its Catholic identity in giving this award and their leadership needs our prayerful support.”

Counting Bishop Aymond and Cardinal DiNardo, four U.S. bishops have criticized Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama. This past Tuesday, Bishop John D'Arcy, the bishop of the diocese that Notre Dame is located in, announced that he would not be attending
Obama's commencement and suggested that the university was choosing “prestige over truth.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix spoke out against the invitation on Friday, saying that Notre Dame was committing “a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States.”


First off let me say that Cardinal DiNardo is my favorite Cardinal. He is usually nuanced and his take on tough issues is always done charitably. I frequently read what he has to say on any number of issues because his reasoning is sound and he can see both sides of an issue. Check out this interview to get a feel for how Cardinal DiNardo approaches things.

He is very outspoken on the death penalty and immigration. He is a staunch defender of the gift of Hispanic spirituality to American Roman Catholicism. He is very pastoral, and a frequent celebrant of the Sacrament of Confirmation for his Houston Archdiocese. I just really like the man. He is a true proponent of the seamless garment of life, so I guess I'm not too surprised that he spoke out concerning President Obama speaking at Notre Dame.

At least he did it charitably without condemning either Fr. Jenkins or Notre Dame. Although I still think his use of the term 'promoter' of abortion is inaccurate with regards to President Obama. It was refreshing not to read other appellates such as 'agent of Death', 'baby killer', or promoter of the 'culture of death'. Cardinal DiNardo is a change from some other Archbishops which instantly come to mind. He can disagree and be civil about it. I respect that.

It maybe that Cardinal DiNardo realizes if he wants to get serious legislation passed regarding immigration, it's a good idea not to completely condemn and alienate the President. Since the Church got exactly no where on this issue with President Bush and the Republicans, and the current administration is on record supporting reform, Cardinal DiNardo seems to have taken a higher road, than say Randall Terry or The Cardinal Newman Society whose supporters are not the least bit interested in immigration reform---or the whole notion of the seamless garment of life.

I also thought it was fascinating that Cardinal DiNardo brought the Notre Dame issue up in context of Benedict's letter apologizing to bishops for the mess created by his rescinding the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops. He used this letter of Benedict's to make some opportune points:

The motivation by the Holy See for an attempt at reconciliation with the four bishops and their followers was to embody the hard work of faith, hope and love, the constant preoccupation of the Church and the unity of all believers. It is not easy to break down obstinacy and narrowness on the part of some just as it is not easy to soften the arrogance and one-sidedness of others. Disunity and hostile disagreement do not serve the unity of faith or the credibility of believers. Various groups in the Church cannot bite and devour one another without destruction, a line that the pope draws from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 5:13-15.

I think that the Holy Father’s letter is timely advice for us all during the Season of Lent, a time of genuine interior purification and renewal. I sometimes receive letters from people who mar their otherwise intelligent or well-taken arguments by such nasty invectives that the whole argument or point of view is put in jeopardy. Vigorous and heartfelt discussion, even debate, needs to be placed in the arms of charity for effectiveness. My hope is that this will be the case for all of us in our own local Church.

I sincerely hope that certain Archbishops take this letter to heart. (and maybe some bloggers.)

In closing, I would like to recommend this video of a speech given by Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson while he was in the US last year. In it he lays out some pertinent points of how power is exercised in the Roman Catholic Church. One of the points is that bishops have their hands tied by having to uphold papal teachings no matter the cost. It seems to me that Cardinal DiNardo manages this tight rope far better than most other prelates. The speech is about an hour, so if you missed Mass today, it could be enlightening penance.


Fr. Peter Kennedy and the Parish community have concluded talks with the Archdiocese and have elected to turn the keys to the church over to the diocese. Fr. Kennedy's last Mass will be Easter Sunday. At that point the parish will move into another site and Fr. Kennedy will continue to offer Mass and the Sacraments. The congregation of St. Mary's considers themselves a Catholic community in exile.

Archbishop Bathersby was not a participant in the negotiations, only his 'representatives' showed. One wonders if turning over the building will be enough punishment for this congregation or if Archbishop Bathersby's absence indicates more sanctions are coming. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I'd like to think Cardinal DiNardo would have handled this differently, that there is still a place for dialogue and charity with in the Church, that a unifying hand can reach out to the left as well as the right. Or maybe I'm just a hopeless Christian idiot.


  1. it's Geoffery Robinson. Gene Robinson is the gay Episcopalian bishop up in NH.

    -brian in boston

  2. "Or maybe I'm just a hopeless Christian idiot." Well, you sure don't sound like a CATHOLIC one, even to a non-Catholic! If you do not honour the authority of the Pope then you are clearly playing at being a Catholic. LOL! Instead of whinging, just start your own church like the 30,000 other odd dissenters have done.

    How can you pretend that the Catholic Church is the means Jesus Christ established to transmit His message to the world when people like you, who claim to be Catholic, actively attack even your own leader, the Pope, the direct successor of the Apostle Peter to whom Christ was supposed to have given the authority to "bind and loose"? There's no need for non-Catholics to try to destroy your church when people like you are happily doing it from the inside :)