an open letter to President Barack Obama addressing the Notre Dame scandal and claiming that Obama has “made a mistake” on his support for legalized abortion. However, Fr. Cleary said that he is unable to rescind the invitation since Notre Dame is legally seperate from the Holy Cross order.
Opening his letter to Obama, Fr. Cleary explained the history of the University of Notre Dame and its founding by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, of which he is the Superior General. Fr. Cleary was also careful to note that he does not have authority over the decision -making of the university, a power which rests in the hands of its Board of Fellows and Board of Trustees. He did say, on the other hand, that he exercises personal authority over all Holy Cross priests, including Fr. John Jenkins, the university's president.
The Holy Cross Superior General then congratulated the President for being awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree and spent the next 13 pages of his letter addressing Obama’s support for abortion rights and posing the question, “How are we Catholics to participate in all levels of government without betraying our consciences?”
After complementing Obama's intellect and understanding of “the issues of our day,” Fr. Cleary then asked Obama not to “dismiss [Catholic] views too off-handedly, without giving them the serious attention and reflection they deserve.”
Already, said Fr. Cleary, many faithful Catholics “feel out of the mainstream” when it comes to our “nation’s direction and decision making.”
Brushing aside the idea that the Notre Dame outrage is “partisan politics,” Fr. Cleary said that he wants to “rejoice in [Obama’s] presence at Notre Dame,” but wonders how Catholics should “deal with [him], or any other government leader, who upholds what we believe to be the intrinsic evil of abortion.”
Fr. Cleary called on Obama to re-evaluate the “civil laws framing our United States cultural values” which see a human embryo growing as just “new tissue, a kind of cancerous, biological growth infecting a woman’s body and threatening a woman’s independent way of life.”
In a reference to slavery, Fr. Cleary said that the United States has a history of defining “parameters of human life when it suits our self interest” saying that slavery was a way of “denying that a black human being of African decent” was not fully human for the sake of “economic progress,” just like many argue an unwanted child could be for a struggling mother.
He also questioned how a Catholic should respond to a government and a president that are willing to support the Freedom of Choice Act, which would force faith-based hospitals to perform abortions, or deny health care workers their freedom to choose life. Obama’s logic would then make it “lawful to choose abortion but it [would] be a crime to choose life,” a postiion that Fr. Cleary believes would be a government “persecution of the Catholic Church.”
Pondering the possible passage of FOCA, he wondered if it would mean that Catholics should “flee to Canada in protest” or the desert as early Christians did to escape the “sinful society seemingly beyond conversion.”
The Pope’s visit to Africa, Fr. Cleary said, is another example of “Catholic bashing” and persecution of the Church by the “free press.” By focusing on a sound-byte by the Pope, instead of his entire “thoughtful and gracious answer” the “industrial news media complex” has shown it is more eager to “make news and money” than properly report and enforce the values. Cleary also said he feared that media owners have become the “new teaching hierarchy of the culture wars,” which the Catholic Church cannot compete with.
Drawing his letter to a close, the Holy Cross superior told President Obama that “[Catholics] want to be taken seriously. We insist on taking ourselves seriously, that is why there has been so much protest and turmoil in regard to your presence at Notre Dame.” He then offered a topic for Obama’s commencement speech: “how Catholics can be taken seriously for our faith convictions without being dismissed off-handedly and shunned.”
CNA was able to obtain the full letter Fr. Cleary sent to President Obama. To read the letter, please click here.