Archbishop Chaput Responds to Cardinal Cottier on Notre Dame Controversy
From Catholic News Agency:
... Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottier’s articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. It also overvalues the consonance of President Obama’s thinking with Catholic teaching.
There are several key points to remember here.
First, resistance to President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame had nothing to do with whether he is a good or bad man. He is obviously a gifted man. He has many good moral and political instincts, and an admirable devotion to his family. These things matter. But unfortunately, so does this: The President’s views on vital bioethical issues, including but not limited to abortion, differ sharply from Catholic teaching. This is why he has enjoyed the strong support of major “abortion rights” groups for many years. Much is made, in some religious circles, of the President’s sympathy for Catholic social teaching. But defense of the unborn child is a demand of social justice. There is no “social justice” if the youngest and weakest among us can be legally killed. Good programs for the poor are vital, but they can never excuse this fundamental violation of human rights.
Second, at a different moment and under different circumstances, the conflict at Notre Dame might have faded away if the university had simply asked the President to give a lecture or public address. But at a time when the American bishops as a body had already voiced strong concern about the new administration’s abortion policies, Notre Dame not only made the President the centerpiece of its graduation events, but also granted him an honorary doctorate of laws – this, despite his deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.
The real source of Catholic frustration with President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was his overt, negative public voting and speaking record on abortion and other problematic issues. By its actions, Notre Dame ignored and violated the guidance of America’s bishops in their 2004 document, “Catholics in Political Life.” In that text, the bishops urged Catholic institutions to refrain from honoring public officials who disagreed with Church teaching on grave matters.
Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics. It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness – triggered by Mr. Obama’s views -- which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood.
Third, the Cardinal wisely notes points of contact between President Obama’s frequently stated search for political “common ground” and the Catholic emphasis on pursing the “common good.” These goals – seeking common ground and pursuing the common good – can often coincide. But they are not the same thing. They can sharply diverge in practice. So-called “common ground” abortion policies may actually attack the common good because they imply a false unity; they create a ledge of shared public agreement too narrow and too weak to sustain the weight of a real moral consensus. The common good is never served by tolerance for killing the weak – beginning with the unborn.
Fourth, Cardinal Cottier rightly reminds his readers of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit required by citizenship in a pluralist democracy. But pluralism is never an end in itself. It is never an excuse for inaction. As President Obama himself acknowledged at Notre Dame, democracy depends for its health on people of conviction fighting hard in the public square for what they believe – peacefully, legally but vigorously and without apologies...