March 31, 2009

Soft Appeasement in the Service of Evil

Justin Katz

As with the strained morality of modernism, what galls about rationalizations for the invitation of President Obama to be commencement speaker for and to receive an honorary degree from the Catholic Notre Dame University is the dishonesty of the rationalizations:

The Obama invitation, [Notre Dame President Rev. John] Jenkins emphasized, does not condone or endorse Obama's positions on stem cells or abortion but the visit is "a basis for further positive engagement."

As George Weigel subsequently points out in the linked article, "Commencement is not an occasion for debate." Obama will be receiving an honorary degree.

[Catholic law professor and Reagan lawyer Doug] Kmiec, who taught at Notre Dame for 20 years and supports the invitation to Obama, called it a sign of a mature university and further evidence that religion is firmly part of the public discourse.

This about a president who has pledged to disallow religiously founded morals from guiding public policy concerning science.

The invitation and subsequent justifications point to an intention to coo the masses to slumber because they don't comprehend the nuanced relationships between power and morality. And Father Jenkins's emphasis of Obama's race illustrates the soft racism whereby ethnicity trumps all, leaving the moral actor powerless in bonds of sensitivity.

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Perhaps Notre Dame is honoring someone who put a stop to the practice of official torture by a government, a practice condemned by the Catholic Church?

And if your criticisms of Obama's economic policies are accurate, then I suppose Notre Dame might also be honoring a president who is championing economic policies, like income redistribution, that the Church supports.

As for the science question, the president has not "pledged to disallow reliously founded morals from guiding public policy concerning science." He has pledged to allow scientists to reach scientific conclusions without interference from the political hacks in the White House pushing politico-theological positions. Anyone defending the last administration's corrupt handling of science (which you implicitly do) has a long and lonely road to travel.

And why not just admit that this criticism of the president is really about sex Justin? We all know that religious conservatives, above all else, are obsessed with sex: the consequences of straight sex and existence of gay sex. Religious concerns about the environment, war, torture, income inequality seldom pop up on the conseravtive radar. But sex? Well then, hold the presses!

Posted by: Pragmatist at March 31, 2009 12:14 PM

You should try to understand that straight laced, narrow uptight judgments do not constitute real religious practice.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 31, 2009 6:00 PM

"He has pledged to allow scientists to reach scientific conclusions without interference from the political hacks in the White House pushing politico-theological positions."

No, President Bush did nothing whatsoever to stop exactly what you describe. The difference is that President Obama has pledged tax payer dollars for this research, research that many people believe involves the destruction of human life and which, therefore, many people believe should not involve tax dollars.

As to Justin's original point, the Catholic Church has a certain set of tenets and values. Someone either agrees and acts all of them or they are not in conformance with the Catholic Church. The fact that someone may agree with certain of those tenets (but disagree on one of the biggest; i.e., life) is not sufficient ... should not be sufficient for a Catholic university to bestow an honorary degree on him.

Posted by: Monique at March 31, 2009 7:31 PM


I intend a considered response to you in the near future, but for the time being I thought this sentence, from a blurb in the Projo's Nation & World section today, to be interesting, in light of your mention of torture (emphasis added)

[The phrase "the war on terror"] is also now associated with a range of Bush administration policies such as harsh interrogation pracvtices that President Obama has pledged to abandon.

Would seem the reporter had reason not to use "has abandoned."

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 31, 2009 7:49 PM

I'm anxiously awaiting your "considered response". It will be your ground breaking first.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 31, 2009 10:01 PM

I'm glad to see Notre Dame realize that Ave Maria U. founder Tom Monaghan doesn't get to call the shots at every Catholic institution of higher learning in this country (who made Pizza Boy pope, anyway?) Hey, South Bend invited Reagan to speak even though he was divorced.
Kudos to the Dame (and also Jesuit institutions Monaghan loves to bash like Boston College, Georgetown and Holy Cross) for realizing there's more to being Catholic than opposing abortion and gay rights.

Posted by: rhody at April 1, 2009 12:52 AM


I am still waiting to read the first denounciation of the Bush administration's torture program from a Catholic right-winger on this blog or any other. Or, is the Church's condemnation of torture not among that "certain set of tenets and values" that you find convenient today to follow because it undermines your political support for the right? Indeed, you couldn't possibly jump on the anti-torture bandwagon, since that is an issue first raised by liberals against the Bush administration, right? Just admit it Monique; we all know it to be true. Torture is a "liberal" issue. So, you ignore it.

Posted by: Pragmatist at April 1, 2009 9:47 AM

I’d like to see a list of all people who were given honorary degrees by Notre Dame. But on the face of it, I don’t agree that a religious institution honoring Obama is indicative of loosening of moral tenets.

The Catholic Church was also publicly critical of the decision to go to Iraq. Does that mean they should not honor anyone who is publicly supportive of the effort?
I guess if Obama were the first politician to ever receive this honorary degree who did not agree with all the Church tenets, then I can see where one could say “why him, why now?”. But to call this indicative of a MORAL lapse in judgment is to use public policy as an indicator or moral righteousness. How is that different than those who assert George W. Bush lacks morals based on his policies? I do not agree with Obama’s policies. But I do not feel he is unworthy of honor on moral grounds.

I think this is exactly the type of divisive behavior that represents the worst elements of our culture. Reminded me of brouhaha by everyone (both sides) when Obama did something with Rick Warren because of things they disagreed on. This has become the culture of moral certitude where liberal Hollywood refuses to honor people for their work based on their political views and now Academic institutions will be held to the same standard.

Posted by: msteven at April 1, 2009 12:00 PM
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