.- In a strong statement released today, the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, blamed Fr. John Jenkins C.S.C and the University of Notre Dame for betraying the true, original goal of Catholic higher education, not only by conferring a degree on President Barack Obama despite his anti-life record, but for attempting a disingenuous justification for the invitation during his commencement speech on Sunday.
Quoting Fr. Jenkins when he said that "I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world;" Archbishop Chaput says that "most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time."
"Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dameâs president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obamaâs Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing."
The Archbishop of Denver recalls in his statement that the debate over President Obamaâs appearance at Notre Dame "was never about whether he is a good or bad man. The president is clearly a sincere and able man."
"By his own words, religion has had a major influence in his life. We owe him the respect Scripture calls us to show all public officials. We have a duty to pray for his wisdom and for the success of his service to the common good -- insofar as it is guided by right moral reasoning."
Nevertheless, Archbishop Chaput adds, "we also have the duty to oppose him when heâs wrong on foundational issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and similar matters. And we also have the duty to avoid prostituting our Catholic identity by appeals to phony dialogue that mask an abdication of our moral witness."
"Notre Dame did not merely invite the president to speak at its commencement. It also conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nationâs history," he says.
According to Archbishop Chaput, in doing so, Notre Dame ignored the U.S. bishopsâ guidance in their 2004 statement, "Catholics in Political Life," ignored "the concerns of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Notre Dameâs 2009 Laetare Medal honoree â who, unlike the president, certainly did deserve her award, but finally declined it in frustration with the universityâs action. It ignored appeals from the universityâs local bishop, the president of the U.S. Catholic bishopsâ conference, more than 70 other bishops, many thousands of Notre Dame alumni and hundreds of thousands of other American Catholics."
"Even here in Colorado âChaput says, - Iâve heard from too many to count."
The Archbishop of Denver claims that "there was no excuse â none, except intellectual vanity â for the university to persist in its course."
"And Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it."
"These are hard words," he admits, "but theyâre deserved precisely because of Father Jenkinsâs own remarks on May 17: Until now, American Catholics have indeed had âa special expectation, a special hope for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world.â For many faithful Catholics â and not just a âsmall but vocal groupâ described with such inexcusable disdain and ignorance in journals like Time magazine -- that changed Sunday."
Archbishop Chaput finds in the May 17 events "some fitting irony."
"Almost exactly 25 years ago, Notre Dame provided the forum for Gov. Mario Cuomo to outline the âCatholicâ case for âpro-choiceâ public service."
"At the time, Cuomoâs speech was hailed in the media as a masterpiece of American Catholic legal and moral reasoning. In retrospect, itâs clearly adroit. Itâs also, just as clearly, an illogical and intellectually shabby exercise in the manufacture of excuses."
The archbishop also notes that "Father Jenkinsâ explanations, and President Obamaâs honorary degree, are a fitting national bookend to a quarter century of softening Catholic witness in Catholic higher education."
"Together," he adds in his statement, "theyâve given the next generation of Catholic leadership all the excuses they need to baptize their personal conveniences and ignore what it really demands to be âCatholicâ in the public square."
According to Chaput, the "heart of the matter" is that "Notre Dame is hardly alone in its institutional confusion."
"Notre Dameâs leadership has done a real disservice to the Church, and now seeks to ride out the criticism by treating it as an expression of fringe anger. But the damage remains, and Notre Dameâs critics are right."
The Archbishop of Denver says also that "the most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist â by their words, actions and financial support â that institutions claiming to be âCatholicâ actually live the faith with courage and consistency."
"If that happens, Notre Dameâs failure may yet do some unintended good," he concludes.
Read the Archbishopâs full statement: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2081