Monday, September 07, 2009

Prof. Freddoso's Introduction to What Happened to Notre Dame? - Part 2: Why the Catholic Faithful WERE Scandalized

In the previous installment of my review of Prof. Charles Rice's new book What Happened to Notre Dame?, I covered the first portion of Prof. Alfred Freddoso's Introduction to the book, in which Prof. Freddoso discussed the reasons he was NOT scandalized by the university's decision to honor the pro-abortion President Obama.

In this installment, I will discuss Prof. Freddoso's explanation of why the Catholic faithful - at least those who were unfamiliar with the troubling trends at Our Lady's University that Prof. Freddoso so ably summarized - WERE scandalized by the honors Notre Dame bestowed upon one so out of step with the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life.

And part of what so scandalized the faithful is what the university's action announced to the world:
... what the action said is that while abortion and the mentality it cultivates are bad, they are not really all that bad - not bad enough, at least, to prevent one of the most reliable political promoters of abortion in the history of American politics from being honored by Our Lady's university... no one doubts that if the President's beliefs and actions had violated some important tenet of the left-wing political orthodoxy adhered to by most of the faculty members of the university, he would never have been invited or honored.
(emphasis in original)

Prof. Freddoso notes another key aspect that the controversy brought to the fore:
If you are an American Catholic, then the more central Catholic belief and practice are to your life, the more likely you were to be upset by Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama... the more centered your life in on Jesus Christ and what Vatican II calls your "baptismal call to holiness," the more likely you were to disapprove of the university's decision . You would also be more likely to think of yourself as 'countercultural' in many ways or, to put a more positive slant on it, as part of what Pope John Paul II dubbed the "culture of life" ...
Notre Dame's "thinking Catholic" vision, however, is clearly at odds with this way of thinking:
The problem was that the university, still stuck in a "pre-JP2" mindset, was wholly out of touch with the new wave of serious Catholics, including a bunch of surprisingly outspoken bishops.
The roots of Notre Dame's "pre-JP2" mindset stem from what Prof. Freddoso refers to as "the four I's": impatience, infidelity, ingratiation, and impenitence.
But the really crucial factor was the infidelity, which effectively took the form of a gamble - made in the early 1970s in the wake of Vatican II and in the aftermath of the dissenting reaction to Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae - that some form of 'liberal' or 'progressive' Catholicism, freed from (or, to put it more neutrally, disengaged from) the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the past, would emerge as the 'serious' Catholicism of the future... the attitude of dissent from and disdain for the Vatican played a significant foundational role in shaping hiring policies, tenure decisions, key administrative appointments, curricular reform, and admissions strategies for the next thirty years.
Also crucial among "the four I's" in explaining Notre Dame's falling away has been the university's efforts
... to keep up with the Joneses amid what might fairly be called a culture of ingratiation. Policies were sometimes adopted for no other reason than that "this is the way they do it at Princeton (or Duke or Stanford or Vanderbilt, etc.)... The thought seems to have been that if only we imitate the others, they will accept us as a peer - and the hidden rider was always "despite our Catholicism"...
And while all this was going on, the trends within the Church itself were moving in the opposite direction ... John Paul II's "new springtime" had the true "serious" Catholics moving back toward fidelity to the Church's teaching authority and away from ingratiation with the culture, embracing, instead, a more countercultural mentality. As between the two competing visions, Prof. Freddoso notes which is bearing more fruit:
... as I looked around on May 17 at the crowd of mostly young students and young families who were in attendance at the alternative commencement rally on the south quad, I wondered aloud just who "yesterday's Catholics" were in 2009. Whose vision of the Church is leading to a dead end? And whose vision was instead inspiring young people to dedicate their lives to the Kingdom of God in opposition to the surrounding culture? Whose vision was turning out to be sterile and bourgeois? And whose vision was instead turning out to be fruitful? ... These are the young Catholics that the university has lost touch with...

Coming up next:
Prof. Freddoso's Introduction to What Happened to Notre Dame? - Part 3: What Now?

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Prof. Freddoso's Introduction to What Happened to Notre Dame? - Part 1: "Why I Was Not Scandalized"

What Happened to Notre Dame?

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