Friday, March 27, 2009

Notre Dame Blasted By Bishop Olmsted Of Phoenix

Bishop Thomas Olmsted is not quite as riled up about human rights issues in his own diocese.

I keep using CNA articles because CNA is owned by some of the very same people who donate to and sit on the board of the Cardinal Newman Society. I'm sure Bishop Olmsted made every effort to see that CNA got a copy of his email to Notre Dame. Nothing like knowing you are going to get some big time publicity.

Bishop of Phoenix accuses Notre Dame president of disobeying U.S. bishops

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 26, 2009 / 04:49 pm (CNA).-

The outcry over the invitation of President Obama to deliver the Notre Dame’s commencement address and receive an honorary law degree has now drawn Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix into the fray. In a strongly worded email to Fr. John Jenkins obtained by CNA, Bishop Olmsted accuses the university’s president of committing "a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States."

"I am saddened and heavy of heart about your decision to invite President Obama to speak at Notre Dame University and even to receive an honorary degree," began Bishop Olmsted.
But the prelate went further, charging that Fr. John Jenkins, the university’s president, has committed "a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United States" by inviting Obama to the May 17 Commencement.

The grounds for the bishop’s charge are found in a 2004 statement from the U.S. bishops which calls on the Catholic community and Catholic institutions not to "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." (What if President Obama is not acting in defiance of Catholic teaching, but taking a different strategy in combating abortion?)

The Bishop of Phoenix also said that Fr. Jenkins could not have invited President Obama out of ignorance. "No one could not know of the public stands and actions of the president on key issues opposed to the most vulnerable human beings," he said in his email.

After quoting Pope John Paul II to say that all other human rights are meaningless if the right to life is not respected, Bishop Olmsted said he hoped that Fr. Jenkins would realize he has made an error. (But JPII also understood it was incumbent to respect the needs of the mother as well as the needs of the unborn, as the unborn are totally dependent on the needs of the mother.)

"I pray that you come to see the grave mistake of your decision, and the way that it undercuts the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel of Life in our day." (No it doesn't.)

The University of Notre Dame and Fr. Jenkins have also come under fire from Bishop John D’Arcy, in whose diocese they are located.

Bishop D’Arcy said on Tuesday that he will not be attending the commencement ceremony and suggested that Notre Dame "has chosen prestige over truth."

An online petition calling for Fr. Jenkins to cancel the invitation to President Obama had reached over 170,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.


I wonder how many other bishops who have no ecclesial authority in Notre Dame's diocese will weigh in. This is not an opinion which Bishop Olmsted has given, this is a direct condemnation of Fr. Jenkins. Where was Olmsted when President Bush was giving commencement addresses?

I just did a Google search and in 2007 when President Bush spoke at St Vincent's College in Pennsylvania not one bishop said one peep. President Bush, the all time leader in prison executions, who allowed for limited use of stem cells, authorised the use of torture, initiated devastating raids on illegal immigrants while doing little or nothing against their employers, whose economic policies have obliterated most Americans savings and homes, who gave us the Iraq morass, the ineptitude of Katrina, and Supreme Court choices which have done exactly squat with Roe V Wade, that president, and the college which invited him to speak, are left utterly alone.

Why is this I wonder? Why is Barack Obama a baby killing agent of death, while George Bush sails blissfully along, apparently under our bishop's moral radar? Is a pro choice politician really that much worse than President Bush's record? Or maybe it's really a political party thing.

There is absolutely no way this insanity would have occurred thirty years ago. None. That it is happening today is nothing short of embarrassing for American Catholicism. In my opinion our political battles surrounding abortion have made the American Catholic Church a cancerous node in the global Catholic union. The vast majority of abortions are the result of other social problems which President Obama is willing to address. That doesn't make him a baby killer.

I am really tired of abortion politics, but what I am most tired of is the notion that the only solution to the abortion issue is the criminalization of abortion. This strategy does not stop abortion. Providing women with the resources to raise their children stops abortion. Insisting males take responsibility for their sexual activity impacts abortion, something President Obama has been quite willing to repeatedly and forcefully state. Something I personally have never heard stated in a sermon.

I wish some bishop would explain to me and others like me, why it's gravely sinful to operate from the understanding that abortion law in this country isn't going to change, and that other strategies must be pursued. Why must we choose a patently losing strategy in order to be fully Catholic? It seems to me it would be sinful to continue to pour money and time into a failed strategy at the expense of any other strategy. Strategies which actually do save lives.

I suspect this doesn't happen because the Notre Dame controversy isn't about abortion. It's about sabotaging President Obama for the crime of being a victorious democrat. It's about fomenting Catholic Republicans to keep flexing their muscle to keep the donations coming, to keep Republican activists in charge of Catholic opinion. That our bishops either encourage this or sit in total silence is very curious. This is especially curious given the tone of this monologue coming from the right.

In any event, we have another mini Catholic election happening over Notre Dame. The Cardinal Newman Society has their hundred seventy thousand votes and counting, and God only knows how many votes have been generated in support of Notre Dame. There are a ton of initiatives and email campaigns now under way. This link will take you to We Support Notre, sponsored by Notre Dame alumni. Please lend your support. Yes We Can etc etc etc.

I think it's fitting that Notre Dame is the center of this controversy. In many ways Notre Dame is the center of American Catholicism. Just as moderate Catholic Americans took back this country by helping to elect Obama, it may be time for moderate and liberal Catholics to take back our Church. It's been hijacked by Republican operatives for far too long.

And speaking of hijacking, check this link. It gives a very spirited take on Bishop Olmsted and his attitudes towards immigration and Maricopa County Sherrif Joe Arpaio. Sherrif Joe is famous for his tent city, chain gangs, pink tee shirts, and monster immigration sweeps. His latest high profile inmate was Charles Barkley NBA Hall of Famer. Needless to say, Mr. Barkley did not have to wear black and white stripes, pink tee shirts, or work a chain gang.


  1. Very insightful Colleen! And you're right, everyone can see that this is nothing BUT politically motivated. It seems that now all these conservatives are doing is whining and crying about Preisdent Obama's invitation. But up to this point no concrete action has been taken, probably, because they realize they really can't enforce any (at least any lawful, CREDIBLE, action).

    I know Cardinal George, Burke, Chaput, and all the rest would just LOVE to EXCOMMUNICATE Fr. Jenkins and any others who support the President being at Notre Dame. But they can't, because it's not a grounds for excommunication or chastisement. Time will only tell if the Bishops will remain content and accept this relaity or whether they will try, somehow, to create provocation and "grounds" for punishing those invovled with this monumental and much needed decision within the Catholic sphere.

    But yes, this must be the innauguration of the movemment to let the Bishop now that just because they're in power that they don't control the thinking of the People of God! We can take back our Church! And this moment is just the glimmer of showing how it can be done!

  2. And now I read that the USCCB says that Catholics cannot practice Reiki!!

  3. This is actually more of a good thing. Each and every time these bishops express their "outrage", the put one more nail in their own personal coffins.

    Noncatholics I know are now commenting about what is going on in the catholic church. This is a first. In the past, the catholic church was "ignored", considered to be irrelevant. Just one more fanatical and irrelevant branch of christianity.

    Not so now. The comments are all very similar. Something to the tune of "what kind of idiots do you have leading your church". To which I must reply, it is not my church any more. They are flabbergasted when I tell them about the election.

    The bishops are continuing to do the work of the Holy Spirit, although, they dont see that the work that is being created is the demise of the RCC as it currently exists ... from the inside.

  4. Phillip, the beauty of God is, that we do not have to take back the church, it is being given back to us, day by day.

    The Holy Spirit is creating the process, inspiring each of us, so that at the right time, we do what is ours to do, being part of the grand scheme that is unfolding. (ie Fr Jenkins)

    The Holy Spirit is also using these bishops, using their greed, their lust for power, their hate, all of their negative qualities as well.

    Have you ever studied Akido? Fascinating martial art. The key tenets of Akido are unfolding here. Turning the opponents actions against them by simply getting out of the way, giving them a gentle nudge as they go by, and watching them slam full force into the concrete wall behind you. That is how I see the Holy Spirit acting here.

    I know we are supposed to be compassionate, but my humanity does experience a degree of satisfaction when I see the CRASH! and hear the BAM!

    People in the US are stating to notice and pay attention to the bishops activities. The public backlash is already unfolding.

  5. Great post!

    Seeing that picture transported me back to a visit to Phoenix during a particularly hot spell, even by AZ standards in 2003.

    I was driving down the road and it had to be 115 degrees. And then I saw the "chain gang" working away, much as depicted here.

    What Gospel message is seen there?


  6. These bishops are rotten with pride and steeped in theological ignorance.

  7. Annonymous, that's about as short and distinct as you can make it. I would only add one other thing, they seem much quicker to go the splinter in another bishop's eye while ignoring the beam in their own.

    Perhaps they could all use spiritual cataract surgery.