Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph has pointed out that Notre Dame's president said he chose to honor President Obama and let him speak to promote dialogue, but that Obama said in his speech that he and the Church have “irreconcilable” differences on abortion. This admission, the bishop said, “shut the door on dialogue.”
Regarding this latter idea, Bishop Finn expressed that the Church can and in fact does cooperate with the government, but that this cannot mean it will ever move away from its values and ideals, making any negotiation regarding the Church’s tolerance of abortion impossible.
“As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration,” Bishop Finn said.
Areas where the Church can work with an administration that protects abortion involve the “many associated elements that have to do with taking care of women in distress, offering alternatives to abortion,” he told Jack Smith, editor of his diocese's newspaper.
Bishop Finn added, “We have to work together, discuss and study how best we can provide for the needs of women and families. How can we reduce the number of abortions? These are elements for dialogue.”
“But the rightness or wrongness of abortion – this is an intrinsic evil,” the bishop stressed.
“The direct taking of an innocent life can never be negotiated. ... Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, 'May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?' and I think the answer is no.”
He also pointed to the importance of being acutely aware of the nature of abortion and not allowing oneself to lower his or her guard in an alleged environment of cooperation.
The reality of abortion is that “we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a 'wait and see' approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas.”
Although some Americans think that the current administration is willing to do something about protecting life and family, Finn disagreed, saying, “I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.”
Later, when he was asked about the dozens of U.S. bishops’ who protested the honoring of President Obama and his speaking at Notre Dame's Commencement, the Kansas City-St. Joseph bishop examined Fr. Jenkins' statement that this showed “a tendency to demonize each other.”
Bishop Finn said that the protest over Obama being honored and speaking demonstrated that the invitation was of a “hurtful nature,” and that the bishops realize that the president has promised to make and has already made “very destructive decisions” on issues concerned with protecting life.
“This is serious business; it is about life and death,” Finn alerted.
“If in speaking out on these things, we are characterized as being angry or condemnatory – then so be it. Such actions are worthy of condemnation.
One major effect that the bishops are worried about is the potential confusion of people “concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy,” he explained.
When asked about President Obama’s speech, he addressed the contradiction of Father Jenkins’ hope for cooperation and President Obama's invitation of “joining hands in common effort” with the rest of his speech, where he cataloged the departing views on abortion as “irreconcilable”:
“I think the message of the day was this – that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue. And then the President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.”
Then he added: “The perception unfortunately was that this was a completely acceptable position of his and, because he is a bright and talented man, this trumps the destructive decisions that he’s making day after day.”
Finally, when asked if President Obama’s “call to work together in reducing unintended pregnancies” was a possible way of finding common ground, Bishop Finn said:
“I fear that the specific way that the [U.S.] President frames this in terms of 'reducing unintended pregnancies' is through the promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services. The President has supported the Prevention First Act bill that’s going forward. This is not about abstinence education. This is about promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check. If Catholics don’t see a problem with this then I don’t think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love.”